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Saturday, April 22, 2017
Introducing God's Divine Beauty
2 Chronicles 20:21 "And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever." (KJV)
Today's post features an attribute of God that one almost never hears about today: Divine beauty. The verse above urges the reader to praise the beauty of God's holiness. The underlined word in the original Hebrew speaks of splendor, majesty and grandeur. Whenever this same verse is rendered in other English translations, such words as majesty and splendor are viewed as synonymous with "beauty". The Psalms speak the most often about God's Divine beauty. Psalm 27:4 for example reads: "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple."
Attempting to describe God's Divine beauty
God's beauty is that quality of God that makes Him worthy of every extreme positive estimation of value, admiration and desire. One author, J. Pohle, notes the following about God's beauty:
"Reason tells us that God must be beautiful, for He contains within His essence the elements of beauty (perfection, harmonious proportion and splendor), the attribute which necessarily results from this must be His. Now God is infinite perfection. His infinitely numerous good qualities (not parts) coalesce in His Divine essence into a most intensive unity. Finally, He is all light and pure clarity, consequently - He must be beautiful."
God's Divine beauty captures the deepest part of us that longs for the three traditional elusive values known in the history of philosophical thought: the good, the true and the beautiful. God is Good, as asserted for example in Psalm 136. God is true - meaning, He is the standard by which all other standards are measured. As the truth, Jesus Christ embodies truth and reveals God as God in the purity of His true humanity.
Beauty as a virtue is the most elusive quality - since so many assume that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, to call something beautiful requires there to be a standard by which we assert beauty. Just as objective morality - right and wrong, true and false, good and bad, require the existence of God who possess the Divine character and qualities that are the standard of moral values and duties; so it is with beauty. If God did not exist, there would be no way to ascribe qualities like beauty, ugliness, proportionality and the like. Beauty, by its very essence is an immaterial feature and which can only be possible if there exists an ultimate, immaterial being that we know as God.
Old and New Testament texts that speak about God's beauty and Christ's beauty
Whenever we scan the Old and New Testament scriptures on the subject of God's Divine beauty, we find a wealth of material. As already mentioned, synonyms such as "majesty", "splendor", "glorious", "excellency" and of course the term "Beauty" highlight this quality of God. In the Old Testament we can look to the following texts that describe God's Divine beauty: 2 Chronicles 20:21; Job 40:9-10; Ps 8:1,9; Ps 27:4; 29:1-2; 36:7; 45:2-4; 145:5,10-12; Isaiah 24:14; Isaiah 26:10; Isaiah 35:2; Zechariah 9:16-17.
The majesty and glory of God are featured in the above Old Testament texts to point us to the beauty of God. When we come to the New Testament, we find the beauty of God focusing not just on all three Persons of the Trinity which together are the One God of Biblical revelation, but particularly the second Person - the Lord Jesus Christ.
New Testament texts such as John 1:14; Colossians 1:15; 2:9 and Hebrews 1:3 highlight beauty as seen in Christ's human and Divine natures. Two things we know about any beautiful thing is how it can take various features to co-exist without being chaotic and take unity of attributes without becoming monotonous and featureless. Christ is One in Person with two natures. He is at once perfect variety without chaos with respect to His humanity and deity; and yet, He is perfect unity without becoming monotonous concerning His Person. Christ is the clearest and most robust revelation of beauty in both the senses of what we mean when we say God is beautiful as well as the beauty of what it means to be human.
God's Divine beauty demands a response
Perhaps more than any other quality, beauty, whether creaturely or Divine, is characterized by the response it evokes in the one experiencing it. When we see a sunrise, listen to a symphony, watch a wedding, see a wonderfully prepared dish of food, see our spouse, watch our children or grandchildren or visit the Grand-Canyon, all of these various things are beautiful. They evoke wonder, elevation of emotion, a sense of completeness, an extending of one's focus beyond oneself to whatever object of beauty we are seeing. God, in infinitely, more wonderful ways, evokes such responses.
Many writers have noted that our being made in God's image (see Genesis 1:26-27) not only has us possessing mind, emotions and will as part of our personhood (features which roughly define God's Personhood), but also the innate capacity to respond to the beautiful. God Himself responds to infinite beauty as the Triune Persons behold one-another in Perfect unity and diversity. Is it no wonder that older writers refer to the goal of Christian salvation as beholding God's beauty (see Isaiah 33:17 and 1 John 3:1-3).
In today's post I aimed to introduce us to God's Divine beauty. My prayer is that as a result of this post, we can all say without hesitation that God is beautiful!
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