Beholding the beauty of the Lord
Beholding the beauty of the Lord
I was talking with my roommate the other night about what David meant when he said in Psalms 27:4 that he wanted to “behold the beauty of the Lord” all the days of his life. Now if you’re anything like me, the first time you heard that you probably instantly thought about David wanting to spend his days staring at a bright and shining being, full of color and light, that somehow is outwardly more beautiful than the best sunset or most amazing sandy beach scene you have ever seen. I think there is a limited perspective in many circles in the body of Christ today that this was all David was longing for, and thus we should wholly seek after the somewhat mystical, mind-boggling experiences, dreams, and visions from God that would blow us away like John or Ezekiel saw. While I believe God wants to pour out dreams and visions before He returns (according to the prophet Joel in Joel 2) and that we should definitely ask for them, this was not directly what David was asking for. David was longing for something different. Don’t get me wrong - I am sure the external appearance of our God is absolutely stunning. But David was longing for something so much more than just to see God’s external beauty with his eyes.
Moses had the same heart cry of David. In Exodus 33, Moses was meeting face to face with God in the tent he had erected (Exodus 33:11), and with boldness in his heart because he had found grace in the eyes of the Lord, said to Him “please, show me your glory!” (Exodus 33:18). This cry again was more than just a longing to see the external facets of the God who clothes Himself in light as a garment (Psalms 104:2). He longed to know the Lord in the same way that David did.
Beholding is not some mystical experience in which we see some bright and shining light and end up facedown on the floor, unable to move and in awe for days. That’s not what David and Moses were after. They were after something greater than a one-time experience. They were after forever satisfying the hunger to know God. They wanted something that would feed and sustain them for eternity. They were after the knowledge of God. They weren’t just content to know about Him or even only what He looked like - they wanted to know Him - His personality, His emotions, His heart, His desires, and His passions.
God’s glory and beauty is more than just a bright and shining light that makes men say “whoa!” and stand in utter amazement and awe. God’s glory and God’s beauty are His emotions, His internal makeup, His character, and how He acts and thinks at His core.
When Moses asked to see God’s glory, how did the Lord respond? He said He would “proclaim the name of the Lord” before him. In Exodus 34:6-7, God declared His nature and character - in other words, His glory and beauty - to Moses. God’s name is His eternal, unchanging nature.
“And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.””
(Exodus 34:6-7 NKJV)
These were the things David longed to understand about God. He understood that as He fed Himself on the knowledge of God, he would be satisfied all His days. It was God’s emotions and heart that he became preoccupied with. It’s why the Lord called David a man after His own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22)
Paul also spoke to the Corinthians about the same reality of beholding God’s glory in 2 Corinthians 3:18:
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
(2 Cor 3:18 NKJV)
Paul isn’t saying that one day we will all have the same external appearance as Jesus. God’s glory is much more than something external. Paul says we are beholding the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, and we are being transformed from an unloving, unforgiving, wretched human being to a perfect loving, merciful, and meek human, just as Jesus is, by the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Amazing!
As I mentioned earlier, there are many circles in the body of Christ today where an “experience” or “encounter” alone is valued above encounter with the Word of God. When I sit in the prayer room here in Kansas City or when I sit alone in my bedroom praying, I want something greater than an experience or encounter separate from the Word. Paul says that the knowledge of the glory of God has been given to us in Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6). I want to understand God’s character, desires, emotions, and heart through the main way He has revealed Himself - in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe my heart will be the most exhilarated by “beholding” Jesus through the Word. While I do still want dreams, visions, prophetic experiences, and spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1), I want to encounter the Living Word through the written Word. By leaving the Word out of the equation, we are wishfully hoping our car engine will start without spark plugs. Whether you’re in a prayer room or in your bedroom, open the Word and begin to dialog with the Lord! Don’t sit there with your eyes closed waiting for the Lord to hit you with some massive revelation or open vision. Stop trying to get your heart started without the spark of the Word!
Our heart cannot move and grow in love for God without a regular life of meditation on the Word and on the person of Jesus. He reveals God perfectly. It’s only in knowing and understanding Him that our desire and ache for the infinite will truly be filled.