I woke up this morning with a phrase in my heart: the beauty of holiness. Then I opened up my Bible to the Psalm of the day (Psalm 29). “Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness.”
Ultimately, I feel I have very little understanding of this. What I do know is this: the Greeks worshipped the holiness of beauty, whereas the Jews found beauty in holiness. The Greeks found beauty as something to prize and adorn. But how do we define beauty? Is beauty objective?
I can’t fathom that beauty would be objective. Actually, I assume that it is not. In the Greek form of beauty, we aren’t going to be able to define what beautiful truly is. I like brunettes, but does that mean that blondes are not beautiful? Obviously it would be absurd to say that. But why would it be absurd? In the Greek mindset, beauty is skin deep. Beauty is the ultimate, and never the penultimate. The absolute end to humanity is to strive to be beautiful. Whatever that means, that is one of our primary objectives in life. If we are naturally beautiful, then we have been blessed by the gods.
There is another way to look at it. The Hebrews saw it that there is beauty in holiness. The phrase is actually, “the beauty of holiness.” Beauty does not come from appearance, but from substance. A sunset is not beautiful because of the colors, nor the blend of those colors. A sunset is beautiful because of what it is: a reflection of the Divine glory (Psalm 19:1). Peter tells wives to not adorn themselves like the pagans do. You don’t need all of that make-up and jewelry. Put on the beauty of holiness. What does that beauty look like?
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of old who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear,” 1 Peter 3:3-6. (Essentially, don’t derive your beauty from Hollywood, but from Christ Jesus.)
Dear brethren, this is not a text for women only, but for us who are the Bride of Christ as well. It is as much for we men to gain learning of how we ought to obey Christ as it is for wives to obey their husbands. I’m not going to get into that now (if you want to see my opinion of the text, click here), and I’ll instead focus upon what it says for we who are Christ’s Bride. What is the ‘beauty of our inner self?’ Peter defines it as a gentle and quiet spirit. But gentleness and quietness don’t mean timidity, shyness, or weakness. You can be gentle and yet be strong. You can be quiet and yet make powerful statement.
This is the beauty of holiness. In the Old Testament, Divine holiness and beauty are encountered in the sanctuary. But now there is no Temple built with human hands – we are living stones built up together for God. We are the Temple. God dwells in us. The Divine holiness and beauty are not found by going to a sanctuary, but rather found in the day to day interactions between the saints. When we behold one another’s faces, we are beholding the very image and glory of God. In my life, and in my character, and in my conduct, I display Christ. When I don’t, it is known by all who see me. This is part of what it means to be community. I need the brethren to tell me in love when I am in fault.
“Worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness.” Isn’t what is truly being asked here is to worship Him in spirit and truth? We cannot do this in our own strength and ability, but instead through the truth of our relationship unto Him and unto those other believers He has placed around us. We worship in the Spirit that God has sealed us with. Our worship is not our own, but ultimately stimulated by Him. As John puts it, “He has loved us first…”
While I sought to understand the phrase, “the beauty of holiness,” I am actually coming to the idea that maybe what I need to understand is beauty. Beauty itself is not something external, but rather internal. The scandal of beauty is that we don’t “see” it, but intuit it. Some of the women that I know that are not physically attractive are some of the most beautiful women after you get to know them and their heart. I noticed in high school that the more I got to know the girls I was crushing on, the more attractive they became (sometimes the opposite was true lol).
To some, our beauty is actually an affront. The character that we live from is something to despise. Gentleness and quietness are things that the world sees as weak and foolish. They don’t see the strength in weakness. They don’t see the statement in quietness. They don’t see the authority in gentleness. They don’t see the beauty of holiness.
We ought to be of a different caliber. Our hearts and lives covet the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We don’t desire the strength of the world, but rather the adoration of our Husband. Christ Jesus is the one we are submissive to. Because He had the servant heart displayed manifestly unto the world, we too display that servant heart. It is grotesque when the Body will then take a servant’s heart and use it as a term meaning that we are to abuse our brethren.
The beauty of holiness is the beauty of God with us. It is Christ in us – the hope of glory.