Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ultimate Beauty:The Holy Trinity

Psalm 29:2 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

God's glory in comparison to a city sky-line
Years ago I used to live about 30 minutes outside of Tulsa.  I can recall working different jobs in that area.  Sometimes I would be working a job at night and have to drive in or out of that city.  The skyline of course shimmered, with the lights of the skyscrapers and bridges glistening like diamonds on a black cloth.  In the past I've driven near other big cities as well, marveling at what man can do in the realm of architecture and cityscapes, lighting and effects. 

But then I changed jobs and began working in the early morning hours, running errands almost every week into Tulsa.  Often in my duties I would drive into the city in the early morning hours.  Psalm 19:1 speaks of how "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth His handiwork."  As the sun of God's creation began to change the sky from the dawn of deep brown and orange into the gradual hues of the brillant sapphire, the sun's rays would hit the main skyscrapers.  At dawn those skyscrapers of metal and glass would be transformed into columns of flame and light.  As I drove, the glories of man were eclipsed by the glory of God shown through that morning sky. 

As in the dawning hours, I learned to look at the dusk of sunset in a whole new way.  At times, when driving near a city, my eye is no longer so much impressed with the lights of the city as the varying hues of the sunset overhead.  No city of this world can illuminate the soul, only the eye.  It takes the glory of God, refracted through the Person and work of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit to stir up genuine faith that will glory in the beauty of His holiness.

God's Holiness is the sum total of all His beauty
What is beauty? In art classes that I have taken, we would often define beauty by the standards of symmetry and perfect proportion.  If an object or a person pleased the eye and conveyed a sense of harmony and balance, we regarded it as "beautiful".  Certainly in one respect that is true.  However the scripture's definition of beauty goes one step further.  In the King James Bible, English Standard Version and New Living Translations, the above text at the head of today's blog reads about worshipping God in the "beauty" (KJV) or "splendor" (ESV, NLT) of His holiness.1

For something to be regarded "beautiful" in the Jewish mind meant that whenever the appropriate affections were kindled in my heart in a way that befit the object or person upon whom I was admiring, I would conclude them to be "beautiful". 

Staring at the sun can be either harmful or beautiful, depending upon what is included or excluded
God's holiness in respect to the Christian's relationship to grace is like peering at the Sun through a veil of clouds.  Take away the clouds and the sun will blind me.  God's holiness is regarded by the human heart untouched by grace as being painful and undesireable to look at.  However when grace comes to me and I believe, now I see that holiness transformed into a glorious sunrise - comprised of various hues of color and majesty.   

Seeing the Triune God as both the source and object of Eternal beauty
To worship God in the beauty of His holiness involves my heart already tuned into finding it a thrill and fulfillment in God Himself.  As the Supreme source of Beauty, God in His exquisite beauty of holiness must be by nature One God and by identity the Trinity.  In thinking on what Christians of the past have written about the Ultimate beauty of the Triune God, comparing the Trinity at times to the things of nature, I thought of an illustration.2  Though the illustration below is limited and imperfect, I hope it can convey why it is the authors of scripture point us to the Triune God as Ultimate Beauty in His holiness. 

When we speak of beauty, say a rose, we have to have three essential elements: The root, the stem/petal and the scent.  Take away the root, you do away with the plant itself.  God the Father is the root relationship within the life of God.  From the root at the same time is begotten forth the stem and petal system.  The stem/petal system is what makes the life of the plant visible.  Ruin the petals and stem, you do away with the visible qualities of that Rose.  God the Son is He who makes visible and plain the otherwise unseen Father. (John 14:7) He is the Eternal Object of the Father's unending life, since the Son Himself has the identical unending life. (John 5:26) Then of course what would a Rose be without the scent? Is it not the scent of the Rose that alerts us to its presence and beauty?  I turn around because of the scent proceeding from the petals and stem tied into the root.  All three are interlinked.  The Holy Spirit is the Third member of the Trinity Who draws, convinces and woos the heart to conclude that salvation is needed and that Christ alone can save. (John 16:13-16)

I hope that with some of these thoughts the Lord has shown you just how Ultimately Beautiful and worthy the Triune God is of worship and adoration. 

1 In page 207 of "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament" (TWOT), the Hebrew word translated "beauty" or "splendor" is defined as referring to "God's goodness" (Leviticus 23:40; Psalm 111:3; Isaiah 35:2); the beauty of a wife (Proverbs 31:25) and the splendor of a king in his majesty. (Psalm 21:5). Further study reveals that this same word can also speak of the splendor or beauty of cities like Jerusalem. (Isaiah 5:14, Lamentations 1:16) As I looked at these passages, I discovered that often this word translated "beauty" or "splendor" evoked certain affections or emotion in a person. 

2 The Christian writers of which I speak include: Tertullian, Augustine and Jonathan Edwards.  The early church fathers Tertullian (2nd century) and Augustine (4th century) often drew parallelels between the Trinity and things such as plants and various aspects of people.  I know the limitations in such illustrations and use them on a limited basis - due to the fact that the Triune God is in a class by Himself, incapable of ultimate comparison and Worthy of our adoration and worship and love.  Jonathan Edward's (16 century American theologian and preacher) writings on the Trinity have really helped me understand better the significance of the Trinity to understanding the Bible and living the Christian life.  I think of these three particular writers, since all three wrote significant pieces on the Trinity.  In the words of one writer (can't think of their name off hand), I stand as a dwarf on the shoulders of giants in order to admire the lofty heights of the glory of God. 

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