“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.” (Psalm 27:4 ESV)
Of the seven natural wonders in the world, the Grand Canyon may be the most awe-inspiring. If you have the opportunity to stand at one of the canyon rims and gaze upon its beauty, you will see a majesty so much bigger than yourself – a majesty that captures the soul’s admiration.
We were created with a desire to admire greatness. We long to see something or someone greater than ourselves. We want to be “wowed”. We part with chunks of money to witness great performances. We travel long distances to behold breathtaking sights.
But there is a majesty that makes all else pale in comparison. God is incomparable in beauty and infinitely greater than the very best in the created world. The beauty of His majesty makes even the Grand Canyon look small. He alone finally satisfies the soul’s quest to admire greatness.
We are speaking here of God’s holiness in majestic transcendence. His beauty is separate from and infinitely higher than anything else. It is this majestic holiness that Isaiah saw in the vision of Isaiah 6. He saw the Lord “sitting upon a throne” in absolute sovereignty. He saw the Lord “high and lifted up” in exalted transcendence. He saw the Lord’s robe had “filled the temple” for there was no room for any other – He is unique and solitary in His grandeur. God is in a class by Himself.
Isaiah beheld the six-winged seraphim calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Though sinless beings, these angelic creatures were covering themselves with their wings in humble worship as they gazed upon the awesome holiness of the Creator God. His majesty was overwhelming. The house shook and was filled with smoke.
The sheer force of this display of God’s majestic beauty drove Isaiah to contemplate his own unworthiness: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”(Isaiah 6:5 ESV) As he trembled before the sight, Isaiah was approached by one of the seraphim who touched Isaiah’s mouth and said, “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
For us as Christians, the majestic beauty of the Lord is something we can gaze upon, not in fear, but in love and admiration. This is because our guilt is taken away and our sin is atoned for. Even though we are still aware of our sinfulness and even though we would fall in humble worship as the seraphim did at the sight of God’s overwhelming holiness, we may boldly approach the throne of God through our Savior, Jesus Christ.
In fact, the beauty of the Lord that we behold is found in God the Son. In his gospel, John makes the connection between Isaiah’s vision and the Lord Jesus when he says that Isaiah saw His glory and spoke of Him (John 12:40). Thus we behold the majestic beauty of God in Christ. And we admire this beauty today primarily through His Word and works.
Sam Storms says this is what God desires of us (The Grandeur of God, p. 150):
“In His works and Word He has manifested Himself that we as His creatures might stand in awe, beholding the symmetry of His attributes, the harmony of His deeds, the glory of His goodness, the overwhelming and unfathomable grandeur of His greatness: in a word, His beauty. So often we turn to God only when in need. He is all too frequently for us no more than an instrument or tool subservient to our desires and put to use to achieve some selfish design. Of course, God is our source, our salvation, our sustenance. But He is first and fundamentally to be seen as altogether beautiful in Himself, worthy of all praise, glory, and honor were we never ourselves to profit from His goodness.”
If admiring the majestic beauty of our Lord is first and foremost in our lives, then all else gets a different perspective. When we gaze upon the greatness of the Grand Canyon, we suddenly feel very small for a brief time. When we set our sight upon the beauty of the Lord, how much more so will the things of this life be put into their proper place. Suddenly, sin appears much less desirable. Problems become much less insurmountable. Seeking satisfaction in the greatness of other things is much less enjoyable.
How can this be? Because we have been created to admire greatness. And as regenerated people, we have been given new spiritual eyes to see the incomparable greatness and majesty of God.
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)
So let our singular pursuit be that of David’s in Psalm 27 where he longed “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.”