Years ago I heard someone speaking about the “Beauty of the Lord” And I thought that sounded rather soft and sentimental. After all, you don’t speak of the beauty of a man!
Then I read the Psalmist’s wish, “One thing have I asked 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 inquire in his Temple.” (Ps.27:4) And I realised we had devalued the word “beauty” and weakened the sense of awe associated with it.
God is the God of Beauty and “he has made everything beautiful in its time.”(Eccl.3:11) Just as wherever real truth is found it is from God, so wherever real beauty is found it is from God.
Have you ever been overawed by the beauty of some scenery, or a sunset or a work of art? Well, if the beautiful object doesn’t become an end in itself then such an experience can be an act of worship. Just begin to imagine what God the Creator must be like. Close your eyes for a moment and recall the most beautiful thing you have seen, think of the Divine Artist who created it and meditate on these words. “Out of Zion, the perfection of Beauty, God Shines forth.” “Honour and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” “Your eyes will see the King in his Beauty.” (Ps.50:2 96:6; Isa.33:17)
As Esaias Tegner, the Swedish poet, put it:
“Oh, if so much of beauty doth reveal
Itself in every vein of life and nature,
How beautiful must be the source itself,
The Ever-Bright One.”
Listen to an old writer: “God’s manifest delight in beauty. Beauty is essentially inwrought into God’s works: every little flower, every blade of grass, every fitful shape, every variant twig, exemplifies it. Beauty is God’s taste, God’s art, God’s manner of workmanship. … Beauty is part of our human perfection also. Unbeautiful things are defective things. Beauty is not intended to minister to a mere idle sentiment. It is a minister to our moral nature. It is the deeper, more pervading sense of God; it is the religious sentiment of the soul.”
So Christians should be for beauty. They should be for beauty in art and working for the conservation of beauty in the world. We should be achieving beauty in the church and in worship. This doesn’t necessarily mean extravagance and complicated ceremonies. But surely our church buildings and our worship should to some extent reflect our sense of awe as we worship the God of Beauty.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction