One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek …. to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him …
I remember the first time I saw the Northern Lights. Actually the only time I’ve ever seen the Northern Lights in person. Growing up in Texas and living most of my adult life in the tropics doesn’t lend itself to seeing such things. But living in Canada many years ago, I stepped out of the house late, late one cold spring night trying to figure out why it wasn’t darker? And then I looked up. From one end of the the sky to the other, heavenly fire lit up the night. So bright…and the colors! I knew what I was seeing, Texan though I was, but if I had not read about them previously, I would have been concerned about the end of the world, or the Second Coming, or some other apocalyptic event.
Simply mind blowing. It captured my gaze for a long time.
gaze – (n.): a steady intent look.
An indelible memory of my youth is hiking to the top of Emory Peak, the highest point of Big Bend National Park in West Texas. Most people don’t think of deserts as beautiful. But the stark mountains in the harsh, dry environment makes for unmistakable beauty all its own. My buddies and I tried to make an annual trek to the top.
And each year we gazed at the panoramic scene in awe.
gaze – (v.): to look steadily and intently, especially in admiration, surprise, or thought
What captures your gaze? Some are transfixed with the beauty of a person, or a sports car, or an architectural marvel. In Psalm 27:4, David expresses his ultimate desire: “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to seek Him…” For David, it would have been a tragedy to gaze upon the beauty of creation, but miss the beauty of its source.
Elsewhere he says, “The heavens declare the glory of God…” (Pslam 19:1) The heavens, the glory of the stars….
These days most people don’t know the glory of the stars in our light-polluted, air-polluted modern world. But at the very least grab a few images from the Hubble space telescope buried as you are in your star-obscured suburban enclave…and gaze in awe of the glory of the stars….and more importantly the glory of the Creator they point to. Modern sensibilities attempt to downplay the idea of a Creator behind the wonder we see, leaving it to the result of chance collisions of subatomic particles in the distant past. The enemy is always at work attempting to darken our understanding of the Creator’s glory in whatever way he can.
But back to David. The tragedy would be to gaze upon the creation and miss the Creator. As beautiful as the creation is, it is not the end; it’s a signpost, pointing to the source. And here’s the key point: Will not the Source of the very concept of beauty be infinitely more beautiful than the creation itself?
Jonathan Edwards understood this better than most who have ever lived:
God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.
God…the fountain of all that is good and beautiful whether a beautiful sunset or the embrace of a friend.
So I ask you again, what arrests your gaze? There are all kinds of hideous distortions of beauty in our world. And technology has given us access to a firehose of garbage to obliterate the beauty of the Lord from our furthest thoughts. But for your soul to be satisfied, you must tear your gaze away from the world’s refuse, the world’s trinkets and refocus on the source of beauty himself. You must look past creation’s beauty to the beauty of the Creator.
One thing I ask….above all else….show me your beauty, O Lord.