The Beauty of the Lord
By Grace Jones
Last night I went outside to put some recycling in the bin. It was cold. The coldest night we’ve had here in Australia this year. It had been a dull day, raining on and off, the whole world just muted grey as we continue to buckle down and self-isolate. But by night, the clouds had lifted. The air was pure, the sky was clear. And as I took out the trash, I looked up and saw a host of stars. Hundreds of them above me, shining in a jet black sky. Most nights I don’t see stars at all. But on this night, they were everywhere. They seemed to envelop me. And I wept. First just one full tear, then dozens of them falling down my face. I shivered and cried into the night, overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the beauty of God. Was he not the one who had hung each of these in its place? Didn’t some of these little dots in the sky represent entire galaxies lightyears away? Was not the painter of this sky infinitely more beautiful and breathtaking than the sky itself?
2020 has been marked by staying home, staying inside, keeping things very insular, very inward looking. But when I saw that night sky, and felt the coolness of the night, and marvelled at the magnitude of the universe, I couldn’t help but be overcome by the wonder of the one who made it all. It was so refreshing to stop looking inward for a moment, and to look out, and up. The Lord is not just the Lord of my little house on our little street in this little corner of the country. He is the Lord of the whole world. And the Lord of our entire galaxy. And the Lord of all galaxies throughout the cosmos. We should be in awe of him. How could we not be?
That moment out by my garbage bin looking up at the sky reminded me of David’s words in Psalm 8. Was it a night sky like this that inspired his thoughts?
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens…
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
I can only imagine the spectacular sight of a clear, pollution-free night sky in the wilderness thousands of years ago. It must have been incredible. No wonder David marvelled that the author of such heavenly bodies was even aware of the small frames of people.
It is remarkable to know that the God who predates and is greater than the universe is not only aware of us finite humans, but also cares deeply for us. What’s so incredible is that God’s action in creating the world, in breathing it to life in all its spectacular and diverse beauty, isn’t the most breathtaking thing God has done.
The most breathtaking thing God has done is care for us and love us so extravagantly and completely that, while we were still his enemies, he allowed Jesus to die for us (see Romans 5:8). While we were still using the breath he gave us to curse him, Jesus laid down his life for us and breathed his last. While we had darkened our minds to him, denied him his authority, even denied his very existence (despite evidence of his glory and majesty being declared all throughout the world by creation itself), he came to us in the flesh, and submitted himself to death, even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8). All for our sake, that we might be reconciled to him.
You see, it’s one thing to marvel at the beauty of a night sky. It’s another to behold the breathtaking beauty of the gospel. Gazing deeply into the Bible, beholding its wisdom and truth and its incredible story of the creator laying down his life for the created- that surely ought to move us, to make us weep, to make us sing for joy. There is no sight more wonderful to behold than God himself. And the life, death and resurrection of Jesus shows us plainly and unmistakably the love and power and mercy and beauty and magnificence of our great God.
It is no wonder that, even with his world crumbling around him, and his enemies before him, the one thing David longed for was God himself. He desired to be in the presence of the Lord and behold his beauty. See what he writes in Psalm 27:4 (NIV)
“One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.”
His longing here is actually a longing for the gospel. The only way that we can ‘dwell in the house of the Lord’ is by being holy, as the Lord is holy. And the only way we can be made holy is by being cleansed from the dirtiness of our sin. And the only way we can be made clean is by accepting the sacrificial death of Jesus, who died on our behalf, opening up the way for our sins to be forgiven and for us to becleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). David’s longing is a longing for the gospel. His desire is to live with the Lord, and to gaze upon his beauty. We can only live with the Lord through the power of the saving message of the gospel. And, as spectacular as a night filled with stars is, we only see the true beauty of the Lord when we behold the wonder of the gospel.
Allow your heart to be moved when you see the beauty of creation. It testifies to the beauty of the Lord (see Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:20). It proclaims to us something of who he is. Sometimes we can get caught up just in the glory of the beautiful sight we are beholding. And there really are wonderful things in creation to be captured by. But do not let your eyes and your awe remain focussed only on the beauty of creation itself. Look further. Look to Jesus and the wonder of the gospel. Look to the gospel, and gaze there upon the beauty of the Lord. For while the night sky or a glorious sunrise reveal to us something of the beauty, majesty, power, wonder and glory of God, the true extent of God’s matchless power, endless majesty and glory, and breathtaking beauty are revealed to us in the gospel. Gaze at the cross and behold.