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For Glory and For Beauty

by Tim O'Hearn

People will say, truly, that ours is a God of glory. He is worthy of honor. Even the prophets depict his glorious majesty. See, for instance, Habakkuk 3 or Revelation 4. When God commanded the Jewish people to make garments for the High Priest, he even wanted them to reflect his glory.

And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. … And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. (Ex 28:2, 40)

Yes, these garments were for glory, but in both verses God mentions both glory and beauty. It seems that God is concerned with glory, but also with beauty.

Imagine, if you will, a world of grey. No color variations anywhere. It is almost impossible even to move, because everything is the same, and you are afraid you will step on something (or nothing), or kick the walls or the furniture. If you can find a person, at least you don’t have to worry about your looks. Nor would people pick a mate based on looks. Everything and everyone is the same. It sounds like a good plot for a science fiction story, but not for real life. We like variation, and we like beauty. And apparently God likes for us to have beauty.

While God paired glory and beauty in the priestly garments, that is not the only such reference in scripture. Actually, six more passages combine the thoughts of glory and beauty.

One of those passages is actually a contrast. “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.” (Ps 29:2) Most of the time, however, glory and beauty are combined. “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Isa 13:19) The Jewish habit of expressing one thing in two different ways equates glory with beauty in this and other passages.

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

Each of us has his own concept of what is beautiful. One person likes Picasso, another Monet, and yet another Winslow Homer. Are you a devotee of Vivaldi, or Beethoven, or Metallica? There are differences in what we consider beautiful, but everybody has a concept of beauty. It seems, from all the passages that mention beauty, that God gave us this concept, and did so for our own good.

It is nice to imagine that God gave us beauty just for the sake of our appreciation, to think that God just wants us to be happy. That may indeed be part of it. But there is another part of the concept of beauty. We think of flowers or mountains or clouds in the sky as beautiful; but we also could include justice and righteousness and mercy. Part of our innate appreciation of the beautiful is our appreciation of right and wrong. Evil is wrong because, in part, it offends our sense of beauty. It is not by accident that RLS made Dr. Jekyll respectable and Mr. Hyde hideous.

Glory and beauty. Righteousness and justice. God gave us a sense of each. And how beautiful it is that he did so.