Saturday, September 10, 2005

Beauty of holiness

What does the phrase 'Beauty of Holiness' mean?

1st Chronicles 16:29
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

Psalm 29:2
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

Psalm 96:9
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
A lifestyle of prayer, either individually or corporately, is primarily maintained by a focus on God's beauty, splendor and holiness with the resulting worship it inspires. This is what captures our hearts and minds; taking the spark of love in our hearts, fanning it, adding fuel and transforming it to a passionate bonfire. In these three passages, David exhorts us in the secret to having a heart after God.

In Song of Songs 5, the friends ask the bride 'Why is your beloved better than anyone else?' The bride's response is a wonderful 6 verse discourse on the beauty of her groom. This description captures the friends' hearts and they then ask 'Which way did he go that we may look for him too?'

Both Isaiah and Revelation depict scenes from around the throne with glorious, beautiful splendor radiating from a holy God and worship going on continuously. We can, and should, join in what is already going on around the throne. We'll be doing it for eternity. There's no need to wait until then to start.

With this focus on gazing on God's beauty, I'm not trying to imply that issued oriented prayer is not good or appropriate. We are told that we have not because we ask not. We are told to ask and keep on asking, knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to us. It's just that I believe it should be secondary. In the disciple's prayer, Jesus taught us to start with 'hallowed by thy name' before moving to 'give us this day.'

In 2 Chronicles 20:21, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army saying 'Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.'

God then set up ambushes for the enemy before the army got there. When the army arrived at the place of battle, everyone was already dead. It is worshiping God in the beauty of his holiness that prepares us for the battle and releases God's resources ahead of us.

The phrase 'splendor of his holiness' is the NIV translation. Other translations have 'beauty of holiness' without the personal pronoun 'his'. The NIV translators made an interpretive decision here that I think is OK. But I have a problem with it because I don't think it's an exclusive interpretation. By this I mean other interpretations can be made that I think are also equally valid. Specifically, I think it's acceptable to understand this holiness to be the holiness he clothes us with. In other words 'In holiness, worship the Lord.'

Moses face shone after being in God's presence, before His radiance. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that as we come before God and gaze on his beauty with open hearts, we are transformed from glory to glory. The word for transformed is where we get our word metamorphosis used to describe the change of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Our spiritual "chemical makeup" is changed through an ongoing exposure to God's beauty. As we gaze upon God's beauty in the written word, and as we let the living word reveal God's beauty to our inner man, our minds are changed to understand God's good, acceptable and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

Thomas Dubay in Evidential Power of Beauty speaks about a person's capacity to appreciate the beauty of Beethoven or Shakespeare being something one grows into. Just because someone doesn't have the capacity to comprehend the beauty of Shakespeare doesn't indicate a lack in the Bard's writing, rather it's an indication of immaturity on the part of the recipient. In the same way one progresses from 'Dick and Jane' to 'Midsummer night's dream' by reading increasingly complex material, so do we progress from glory to glory by repeated gazing on God's beauty.

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