The Beauty of God’s Place

If God is beautiful it follows that his dwelling place, which is filled with his presence, will also be beautiful. The Scriptures affirm that the dwelling place of God is indeed a location filled with beauty. We see this specifically in the language regarding his heavenly dwelling, the tabernacle, the temple, and Mount Zion.

“Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation” (Is 63:15). “Then the cloud covered the tent and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex 40:34, cf. Ex 40:35, Lev 9:6, 23, Num 14:10). “The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (1 Kgs 8:11, cf. 2 Chron 5:14, 7:1-3, Ezek 43:5). “Oh Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” (Ps 26:8). “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (Ps 96:6, cf. Ps 27:4, Is 60:7). “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth” (Ps 50:2).

In choosing to create and dwell with his creatures God has graciously given mankind a glimpse of his beauty. The chosen dwelling of God is the place where his beauty will most clearly emanate. This helps us understand why heaven is often described as a place of brilliance where even perfect beings are incapable of an unhindered vision of God (Is 6:1-8). It helps us understand why strolling into the holy of holies would result in immediate death (Lev 16:2).

It also helps us grasp why the tabernacle, temple, and the new earth are places of such jubilance and worship. The place where God chooses to manifest his beauty will inevitably be a place of great joy and celebration. It is in this context that we can understand the psalmists longing to go to the temple (Ps 27:4, 42:1-11). The beauty of God has a magnetic quality drawing and awing people.[1] God designed us to be riveted by this beauty.

 Implications   

  • Beauty is tied directly to the presence of God and his chosen dwelling place. The presence or absence of God is therefore the distinguishing factor between beauty and its opposite.[2]
  • Since God determines his dwelling place he also determines what he will beautify. In other words, God alone determines where his beauty will reside and where it will not. Beauty from this perspective is the lone prerogative of God.
  • The main ingredient in beauty is God himself. The fact that his presence beautifies his chosen dwelling place further reinforces that beauty simply cannot be understood apart from God. The presence of God and beauty are inextricably linked and therefore any definition of beauty void of God is mistaken.

 


[1] Ibid, 24. Navone says that beauty has “a subtle power of attracting or calling to us. The Greeks recognized this when they named the beautiful to kalon, from the verb kaleo, meaning to call or beckon. True beauty is the attractiveness of what is truly good for us.”

[2] This point is established quite emphatically when the glory of the Lord is said to leave the temple in the book of Ezekiel (10:18-19, 11:22-23). The glory and beauty of God can and does depart from a place if God chooses to leave (cf. 1 Sam 4:21—the Hebrew word Ichabod literally means the “glory has departed”).

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