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The Beauty of Holiness

September 26, 2016 by Larry Lazarus 0 comments

Posted in: Bible Reflection

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).

“The splendor (or, beauty, KJV) of holiness,” is a remarkable phrase. These are not words that many people – even many Christians – tend to put together. More common today is the sentiment, “God is not concerned about your happiness, but your holiness.”

But the phrase, “beauty of holiness” throws a serious wrench into that sort of thinking. To be fair, there is a sense in which God does pursue our holiness over and above our short-term comfort and ease. Hebrews 12:4-11 teaches that plainly. If that is all that is meant by the “God is not concerned about your happiness…” saying, then all is well and good!

But I think in the mind of a new Christian or non-Christian, the idea that God is not concerned about our happiness, but our holiness, probably puts the thought into their minds that the two are in opposition, even incompatible. It furthers the (very unbiblical!) notion that God is a gloomy, downcast ogre who takes pleasure in the stifling of our pleasure.

On the contrary, God’s summons to worship Him in “the splendor of holiness” brings very sweet, happy thoughts to mind. And this quote from Jonathan Edwards has stirred me to think about this wonderful, satisfying, pleasurable invitation:

We drink in strange notions of holiness from our childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour, and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely. ’Tis the highest beauty and amiableness, vastly above all other beauties. ’Tis a divine beauty, makes the soul heavenly and far purer than anything here on earth. . . . ’Tis of a sweet, pleasant, charming, lovely, amiable, delightful, serene, calm, and still nature. ’Tis almost too high a beauty for any creatures to be adorned with; it makes the soul a little, sweet, and delightful image of the blessed Jehovah.

Oh, how may angels stand, with pleased, delighted, and charmed eyes, and look and look, with smiles of pleasure upon their lips, upon that soul that is holy; how may they hover over such a soul, to delight to behold such loveliness! . . . What a sweet calmness, what a calm ecstasy, doth it bring to the soul! How doth it make the soul love itself; how doth it make the pure invisible world love it; yea, how doth God love it and delight in it; how do even the whole creation, the sun, the fields, and trees love a humble holiness; how doth all the world congratulate, embrace, and sing to a sanctified soul! . . . It makes the soul like a delightful field or garden planted by God . . . where the sun is Jesus Christ; the blessed beams and calm breeze, the Holy Spirit; the sweet and delightful flowers, and the pleasant shrill music of the little birds, are the Christian graces.

Or like the little white flower: pure, unspotted, and undefiled, low and humble, pleasing and harmless; receiving the beams, the pleasant beams of the serene sun, gently moved and a little shaken by a sweet breeze, rejoicing as it were in a calm rapture, diffusing around [a] most delightful fragrancy, standing most peacefully and lovingly in the midst of the other like flowers round about. (Jonathan Edwards, The “Miscellanies”, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 13, [Yale University Press, 1994], 163–64)

So, as the writer of Hebrews says, “Strive for…the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). And in your striving, remember that you are striving for a beautiful, pleasant, liberating way of life.

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