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 gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4). For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. (Psalm 96:4-6).
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8).
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. Taken to it’s logical conclusion, however, and the word beauty becomes meaningless. It’s a word which totally depends on what individuals prefer. It’s not occurred to us that beauty might just have an objective foundation. Beauty might, most fundamentally, be found in God.
In fact, that’s exactly what the Scriptures teach us. Goodness and beauty aren’t ideas that cultures agree upon, merely. These are concepts rooted in the person of God. God is beautiful. Therefore, whatever looks, acts, and seems most like him is what is truly beautiful. The psalmists knew this. In their songs, they sing and shout about how great and beautiful God is. In Psalm 27, David describes the beauty of the Lord as the singular preoccupation of his life. He’s saying, “If I could do any one thing, all I’d want to do is gaze at your beauty.”
Maybe that sounds soft to you, but it hardly is. These words are uttered in a psalm where David was pleading with God for help. The beauty of God wasn’t some abstract, flaccid, weak idea. At least not to David. To him, God’s beauty was reason for confident and peace. He knew that the goal of his life was to stare in wonder at the beauty of God. The idea of doing so was so powerful that it brought him deep, profound peace.
Psalm 96 echoes the theme. “...strength and beauty are in his sanctuary,” sings the author. Why? Because God’s beauty is connected to all his other perfections. The beauty of God is what we see when all his manifold perfections are on display. When the power, grace, justice, and peace of God all collide together, then there’s only one word appropriate to describe it: beauty.
So what does this matter to us, practically? It means that to preoccupy our mind with the beauty of God can change us. Paul says as much to the Philippian believers. He admonishes them to think on what is good, true, and beautiful. In the midst of hardship (especially then) we can think about God’s beauty and our whole perspective changes.
Are things hard today? Are you exhausted, tired, and hurting? Wherever you are on the spectrum of experience, this is what the Scriptures teach: to think on God’s beauty is to change. It is to lift your eyes from the dingy, ugly, day-to-day pain that marks the life and gaze into heaven. Then, having such a gaze, to repaint the heaven you see back onto your own experience.
This is what Jesus did. His life was hard. But being in constant communion with God did two things: it gave him perseverance in hardship, and it gave him power to change it. In Christ, we see the power of preoccupation with the beauty of God. And we see something deeper still—we see beauty incarnate.