Friday, October 26, 2007

The Beauty of God

I'm preparing a study to be taught on Sunday evenings. It's entitled "The Face of God: The Psalm's Revelation of God." It's a study on the attributes of God. I chose to do this study from the Psalms because I don't think God is a subject for scientific study, but rather a person to be known. The Psalms reveal who God is for people in the midst of the ups and downs of daily life. God has revealed many things about himself from the Psalms, not to satisfy human curiosity, but to give joyful hope in the midst of various trials.

I was very excited as I organized the outline for this study because I couldn't help but see God in a fresh way. My introductory point is derived from Psalm 27. I chose this Psalm to begin the study because in it I think we find the most obvious reason to want to know God more deeply. In Psalm 27 we find an attribute of God that I don't find in books about the attributes of God - namely, God is beautiful.

What attracts us to objects of affection? What makes any object worthy of ordering our lives around? Obviously, it's beauty or value. For instance, what makes drugs worthy of pursuit? Why would people give up all they own, all their relationships, their dignity, their hope for a better tomorrow, their health and even their lives for a bag of weed or powder or crystals? It's obvious. They find those drugs beautiful. They find those drugs more beautiful than any other object in the world - so valuable their very lives are laid on the altar of those substances. And occasionally such a valuable god demands the ultimate sacrifice from its worshipers.

Perhaps you find that difficult to comprehend. Maybe you can't appreciate the power of drugs over people because you don't find them beautiful. Then again, maybe you don't know the drugs in the intimate way a junkie does. Therefore, you don't find drugs valuable enough to order your life around. If you knew drugs intimately, you might find them highly valuable. In fact, it's almost guaranteed you would. So you're better off never knowing drugs in an intimate way. Stay away from them.

Maybe now you can see the similarities between drugs and God. Perhaps you don't find God worthy of ordering your life around. Maybe you can't understand why others are so radically God-centered in their affections and decisions. Have you ever considered that maybe you don't know him intimately enough yet? Maybe you don't find God beautiful because you don't know him. Psalm 27 promises us that God is worth knowing, and more than that, worth prioritizing life around. Consider the words of David, "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" (Ps. 27:4).

David found God so beautiful that he was willing to seek after him. To meditate on the beauty of God was the one thing David wanted out of life. God wants Christians to seek his face. "You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, Lord, do I seek.'" (Ps. 27:8). What would make us want to seek the face of God? He's beautiful. We like to look upon, and ponder beautiful things. And the more deeply we know God, the more beautiful we will find him.

I love music. All kinds of music catch my ear. When some don't find the music I like beautiful, I don't fault the music. I fault the ones listening. They just don't fully comprehend the skill, the artistic ability, the labor that goes into good music. If they took the time to listen, I'm sure they would come away with a sense of beauty. The same is true with God. If someone doesn't find God beautiful, I don't fault God. I fault the person's sense of beauty. If he truly knew God, he would find him beautiful.

What is the practical side of studying the attributes of God? In other words, why bother? How will it change our lives? That question is often asked by pragmatic American Christians always looking for some scheme to make life better. I won't answer the question (though it has a good answer). I will ask the right question instead. Why do people visit Niagra Falls? How does that enhance their lives? Why do people go to museums? How does that benefit them? Why do millions gather around a field of grass, or a court of hardwood, or an oval asphalt track every week? How do sports better someone's life? None of these things provide practical benefit. Yet people can't stay away from them. Why? People are drawn to beauty and glory.

Why is it that Christians can give their lives over to the most petty, worldly pursuits without assessing the benefit, yet cannot just want to know God without assessing the benefit for life in this world? It's because even Christians do not know God rightly. Not yet. So we stand in constant need of deeper knowledge of God. In the end, our thoughts of God will determine our thoughts about everything else. That's why it's important to study the attributes of God.

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