Monday, January 08, 2007

The Beauty of Holiness

A couple of times recently, during my morning Bible reading, I have encountered the phrase, "the beauty of holiness." For example:

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

Psalm 96:9, "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth."

And then there is the familiar passage from Psalm 27:4, "One thing I have desired of the Lord, 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."

The Hebrew word for beauty is hadarah, and refers to the fine clothes worn at festive occasions ~ worship festivals. David is referring here to the glory of the tabernacle (later the temple). Where God is, there is ineffable beauty. In Psalm 27 and Psalm 90 (v.17, "And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us"), another Hebrew word is used, no'am, which refers to the brightness or glory of Jehovah. Thus, God is beautiful because holiness is beautiful, and God is perfect in holiness, so much so that He shines to the point of being dangerous for humans to look upon. (e.g., Exodus 33:20). But the danger aside, how keen is our desire to look upon God. Moses said, "Please, show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18). In Christ, however, such danger is past.

But why is holiness beautiful? The most obvious reason is its contrast with evil. Sin is ugly, deforming the image of God. The way of the wicked is hard (Proverbs 13:15). Lines of despair are engraved on their faces. Not so the communion of the saints. Our worship is beautiful, full of beautiful people. Not cosmetically beautiful, but spiritually lovely. For the Christian is marked by joy, and joy beams from God's people like light from the sun, and our spiritual worship is an earthly reflection of the beauty of God's holiness. Are we mindful of this when we come to worship? Are we aware of the beauty of God, the beauty of holiness, and the beauty of worship? If not, we should be, as it would transform our experience of the Sabbath and the communion of the saints.


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