A couple of years ago, I was preparing for a mission trip to the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina, and it came time to head up for the trip orientation. With it being my first time, I did not want to go alone, so I convinced a good friend of mine to head up to the reservation with me.s Well, we decided it would be fun to take a little detour and go through Clemson, catch some lunch with a couple of our students, then we could shoot to Cherokee using the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The time to go came, we jump in the car, the conversation is going on, and we make it to Clemson. We go to lunch, jump back in the car, and head to the mountains. It wasn't long until we hit the Parkway, and almost immediately conversation stops, and we begin to look upon the beauty of the mountains.
You know what I'm talking about. The trees, the streams running down, every once and a while an animal, and it even seems like the winding roads have a beauty about them up in the mountains.
It was truly gazing upon the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We can all think of something in our mind that we thought was beautiful, so we just sat there and gazed. However, have we ever been like David, in Psalm 27, where we just sit and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord? Let's look at what David says,
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
David says he has one thing that he asks one thing, the only thing he wants to do is to sit and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord in the house of the Lord. So, we have to ask the question. How is the Lord beautiful? How does his house, the one that David desires to dwell in, show us the beauty of the Lord?
1. We See the Beauty of the Lord as He Dwells With His People
First, he sees the beauty of the Lord in his dwelling. See the Lord dwelt in the temple, in his house. This temple, during the time of David, was not very elaborate. In fact, it was just a tent.
We see this tent elsewhere in the Bible, specifically; one occurrence is the Exodus narrative. We all probably know the story pretty well, but if you do not let me give you the run-down.
You can split Exodus into three major sections: chapters 1-18, 19-24, and 25-40. Three four-letter words can summarize these sections: bush, hill, and tent. In vs. 1-18, the Lord is the God of the bush, where he promises to deliver his people. In vs. 19-24, the Lord is the God of the hill, where he speaks from the smoking mountain and tells his people how to live. Finally, in vs. 25-40, the Lord is the God of the tent where he dwells with his people.
God says in Exodus 25, "And they shall make for me a sanctuary and I shall dwell in their midst." The climax of the entire Exodus narrative is that the Lord dwells with his people. He cannot get close enough to them; he has to be among them! It is easy to stop and say that the crossing of the Red Sea is the climax, or maybe even the rock spewing water, but the real climax, the most important thing to the Lord, is God being in the midst of his people.
In Exodus 25, the Lord comes down and makes himself known to his people. God desires to be close to them. He must be among them. This is flushed out even more for us in the New Testament. In John 1, the apostle says, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God . . . and the word became flesh and dwelt among us."
To draw more emphasis, he goes on, "And the word became flesh and pitched his tent among us." This becomes even more personal for the believer as Jesus speaks in John 23, "And if anyone loves me, we will come to him, and we will make our home with him." We see the beauty of the Lord in his dwelling with his people.
And our God, he is just not the God of the flaming bush or the smoking mountain. He is the God of the tent who wants nothing more than to dwell in the midst of his people. He can't get close enough. He must be with them.
And this means something to us because we know he is near. Because he dwells with his people, we can know for certain that no matter the situation, he is with us. Even when it seems like he is absent, he is there, and he is not silent. As believers, our God makes his home with us, and that is beautiful.
2. We See the Beauty of the Lord as He Reveals Himself to His People
We have to place ourselves in the shoes of David for a minute, and we have to look around the temple of God, the house of God. We have to remember what is present in that tent.
In the house of God, we find two tablets, and on those two tablets, we see God's commanding word, his covenant will for his people. God has revealed his will to his people. He has shown us, and told us; his covenant law tells us how to live. See there is something beautiful about God, YHVH, revealing his will to his people.
When we look at the Exodus narrative, we see the ten commandments, where God establishes them for his people. He says, "I have delivered you, I have made you my people, and now this is how I want you to live." We know it! There is no confusion. God reveals himself and his call to obedience.
That does not happen in other religions, but we have a God who beautifully reveals himself and his will to us. Even if sometimes we do not like it. There is something to be said about knowing exactly where you stand. There is something beautiful about knowing the truth and knowing exactly what we are supposed to do and be.
This is the beauty of God's revelation. He is our God, a God who speaks to us. And he does so clearly. Many times we fail, and many times we do not like it, but it is all for our good. It is all to mold us and make us more like Christ, and it is beautiful.
3. We See the Beauty of the Lord as He Nourishes His People
Looking into the temple, we see a table and on the table, we see the show-bread. This bread is not there for God to eat, but it is there to show us something about God. It is there to remind his people that the Lord sustains his people.
In Exodus 17, we see God providing and sustaining his people as he drops manna from Heaven. David dwells on this, and he remembers the beauty of the Lord is unlike anything that he has ever seen before. God in his nourishment, his sustaining his people, is unlike anything that any unbeliever around him, and around us, has ever witnessed.
Moreover, I think this is what is on David's mind as he writes, "And you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." (Ps. 23:5)
This is not God grabbing a Big Mac in the drive-thru at McDonald's. This is God preparing a table, a feast, before us. Therefore, we can sit and eat. We can enjoy the meal, and we can do this even in the presence of our enemies. We learn something from this, if the Lord can sustain us there, is there anywhere that he can't nourish and sustain you?
Believer, you do not have to hold up or carry the Lord; he holds you up and carries you. The Lord is beautiful in his nourishment.
4. We See the Beauty of the Lord as He Provides Atonement for His People
In the temple, there was a bronze altar as soon as you walk in, and this was the altar that the priest would spread the blood of the sacrifices—which was the Old Testament sacrifice system, but this was not a system set up for God's people to bribe their way to forgiveness. No, the sacrifices we see in the Old Testament are an act of faith, using the gifts of God's provision.
Looking at Leviticus helps. God says, about sacrifices, "I have given it to you, to place on the altar to make an atonement for souls." Here God is proclaiming that this is a gift for you, a gift of grace, to have fellowship with the Lord.
What is beautiful about this? Well, it shows us that God is the one that deals with our guilt. God is the one that deals with my sins. My life is paid for with the life of a substitute.
This brings Jesus quickly to our minds. He is our substitute. We are forgiven, proclaimed not guilty in the sight of God because our life has been paid with another. God is the only Judge who took his judgment upon himself.
When something is so familiar to our mind, we quickly pass it over, but we must be like David. We must dwell on the atoning work of Christ because God has dealt with our sins. We have an advocate, a substitute, taking our place so that we can have fellowship with our beautiful Lord.
This is a part of the beauty of the Lord, in his atonement. He takes us filthy sinners and makes us clean.
I love the old hymn, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” as it beautifully sings about the forgiveness of sins,
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains; And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day; And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away. Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away; And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
The mountains and the winding roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway are breathtaking. It is impossible to make that drive and not gaze upon the beauty of creation. But the Lord is more beautiful than we could ever imagine, and we should be like David, longing to gaze upon him for all eternity.
May God open our eyes even more to his beauty, as he dwells with us, reveals himself to us, nourishes and sustains us, and deals with our sin and guilt.
Matthew D. Adams is the Director of Youth and Family Ministries at First Presbyterian Church, PCA in Dillon, SC. He is currently a Master’s of Divinity student at Erskine Theological Seminary in Columbia, SC. He lives in a small town by the name of Hamer, SC and is married to Beth. Follow him on twitter @Matt_Adams90.
Article used with permission. Originally appeared at Servants of Grace, "The Beauty of the Lord"