The Value Of Beauty

For the last five years, my wife and I have spent a week every summer on a houseboat at Lake Powell in southern Utah. The “lake” comprises the Colorado River which runs into a dam at the Utah-Arizona border—just before it leads into the Grand Canyon. The backed-up river fills in the crevices of the Glen Canyon, offering almost 2000 miles of breathtaking shoreline.

The views around the lake are utterly amazing. At any point along our route, the canyon walls can rise above us for hundreds of feet.

But my favorite part of the week occurs every morning around 6:30. My friends Bobby, Jill, and I jump into their ski boat and water ski while the sun comes up. Skiing on water as smooth as glass while the sun reflects off the fiery canyon walls often inspires me to yell at the top of my lungs in praise to God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,” David wrote in Psalm 19:1, affirming something all of us intuitively know: Beauty inspires worship.

To what extent does beauty inspire worship? Is it limited to scenic vistas or can it apply to objects and edifices constructed by human hands?

Please join me as we explore this subject in our daily conversation.

TODAY’S READING

1 Kings 7:1-51
Acts 7:30-50
Psalm 128:1-6
Proverbs 16:31-33

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Kings 7:1-51. The opening words of this chapter reveal a crack in the foundation of Solomon’s rule. While he spent 7 years building the temple, he spent 13 years (almost twice as long) constructing his palace. In the Hebrew text, “his palace” is mentioned twice in verse 1, accentuating the difference between God’s house and Solomon’s house. By the time he completed the construction, Solomon’s house dwarfed God’s house.

Acts 7:30-50. This reading leads us to the end of Stephen’s sermon, which is the longest sermon in the book of Acts, longer even than Peter’s or Paul’s.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

The last couple of days in our reading, I’ve been struck by the extravagance in the construction not only of Solomon’s palace, but also of the temple. Solomon spared no expense in decorating God’s house with the finest materials and hiring the most gifted artisans. Such extravagance would surely offend the sensibilities of most people in our generation.

This begs the question, “Was Solomon justified in his extravagance?”

Yes.

Solomon constructed a temple that exhibited a sense of beauty befitting the God of the universe. Although I’m definitely a “function over form” kind of person, I admit that the value of beauty all too often gets overlooked in our society.

All beauty—whether naturally formed or humanly created—begins with God. And when we imbibe of its magnificence, it points us to the Creator.

Interestingly enough, Stephen reminded the Sanhedrin in his sermon in Acts 7 that “the Most High does not live in houses made by men” (verse 48). These specimens of beauty were never intended to serve as the focus of our worship, but to point us to the infinite God who transcends the heavens and the earth.

So the next time you see something beautiful, let it draw your attention to the One who has graciously shared it with you.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How do you define beauty?
  3. What objects of beauty inspire you to worship God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Value Of Beauty

  1. Deb

    In my imagination I can’t see the beauty of the temple or Solomon’s palace, all I see is “gaudiness”. Maybe some day I will.
    To me, beauty is in the little yellow bird that has been pecking on my window the last few mornings, the deer that looks up when I make a noise, or the differance in the color green between the top of the leaves on a tree compared to the underside of the leaf when the wind blows. Those are a couple of the objects where I see the beauty of God.

    • I understand how it seems like gaudiness to you, Deb. Beauty is beauty, whether or not it occurs naturally or it is “created” by human hands. I didn’t grow up attending ornate churches, but when I enter them, they give me a sense of transcendence that isn’t evident at the school where our church worships.

      At the same time, I still opt for function over form–although I must admit that my functional mindset doesn’t lend itself to a worshipful environment.

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