Hidden Beauty

—R. M. Hawkes, Ruling Elder

According to Scripture, the temple of Solomon was a place of rich beauty. The interior was decorated with carvings of palm trees and flowers, lined with wood paneling, adorned with precious stones, and overlaid from floor to ceiling with gold (1 Kg 6 and 2 Ch 3). The cost would have been beyond measure. Despite the huge investment in this awe-inspiring hall, the people of Israel never saw it. It had no windows. Only a few priests would enter twice a day to keep that golden room full of lamp light and pleasing aromas. It was a home meant, not for men, but for God.

The temple is, in one way, a picture of God’s true home, namely our heart. Like the temple, the human heart is, by original design, a place suited to the Great King, a place of unique, inspiring beauty: “for we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16). We retain some sense of our internal beauty even in its debased state. This sense creates in us a deep longing to be seen and valued. In our fallenness, our need to be known conflicts with our desire to hide from divine judgment. So, we seek the approbation and acknowledgement of other people.

Because we are aware that we are tarnished internally, we try to clothe ourselves with a replacement external beauty like the temple priests: “For Aaron's sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty” (Ex 28:30). We long to win the approval of others, whether for our physical appearance, our friendliness, our accomplishments, our knowledge, or our wealth. We are creatures designed to be glorified and praised. The tragedy of our lives is that we continually look for approval in the wrong place, seeking praise from men instead of from God (Gal 1:10).

The Gospel tells us that we can shed all the trappings of external beauty with which we have sought to bury our beautiful but defiled heart. A re-creation of the temple of our heart can right now return it to its proper state. Even better than that, our heart’s true resident will return in all his glory to the shining home he has made for himself: “He dwells with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:17). Natal life springs up in us to welcome him home. We see our past efforts to beautify ourselves as rightly repugnant: “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is 64:6).

A fundamental struggle of the Christian life is to stand on God’s proclamation that we are, in Christ, again beautiful to him: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Our restored beauty is not the cause, but the effect of God’s love for us. Sin may assault me, but it cannot find a home in my true heart. There is a new resident there whose light overcomes the darkness: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).