I’ve been reading Exodus and lately, I’m trudging through God’s detailed instructions to Moses on how to build the tabernacle – the place where He would come and dwell with His people. Usually, I skim through these descriptions
Mhm- a cubit of acacia and an...ephod?... Yes, I’m perfectly familiar with these terms.
But this time around, I’m hung up on the luxurious detail God wants poured into this tent. I mean, the instructions for the tabernacle go beyond the sort of respectful Sunday best that I’m familiar with. Way beyond. This thing is LAVISH. It is decked out. Versailles-level extravagance.
Make the head priest robes of gold, blue, purple and scarlet…
How about some yarn pomegranates dangling from the edges?
You know what, throw some gold bells on there too.
Make him a breastplate and just bedazzle the thing with every precious gem you can get your hands on.
A bit more.
Now go ahead and dip everything in gold.
The tabernacle was -- to use the original Hebrew here-- pimptastic.
And at first, I was a little put off and confused. God doesn’t need all of that. Appearances don’t matter. Isn’t this bordering on idolatry…or, in the least, materialism? It just seems like a waste of time and effort for mere…beauty. Sure, I like beauty – but it seems a little un-Godlike for Him to be into interior design.
But sprinkled throughout these descriptions, the phrase “for glory and for beauty” keeps showing up.
Beauty and glory seem to go hand in hand. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed it.
This is my second time reading through the Bible. The first time, I saw the same story repeated – God doesn’t give up on His kids. We break, he fixes. We run, He chases… This second time, I’m seeing a similar theme… God draws near.
God draws close - intentionally and sacrificially- to be with us. And it seems that wherever and whenever He does, He brings beauty. He chooses to dwell in beauty. First, in the Garden of Eden, where the language used in the creation story is the same as the language used in temple building.
So, the very first temple was a garden filled with "every tree that is pleasant to the sight."
Then the tabernacle, with it’s Gatsby-level bling.
Then, in our very hearts as we work as co-creators in His story, bearers of His gifts, worshippers in wonder.
And I actually really love this intentional beautification of His – maybe because it seems so frivolous. A bonus. A celebration. (#wordof2018!) Because, just as the glittering tabernacle could very well have been your run-of-the-mill goatskin tent, He could have created a strictly functional world.
Black and white.
But no no no. We’ve got color. Flowers. Peacocks. Coral reef. Foliage. Aurora Borealis. Harmonies.
(I can't help but think of this SNL skit)
And isn’t that the way of our great and gracious God? He didn’t need to but he does. He could give us functionality but he lavishes beauty. He could give us robes but He gives us gems. He doesn’t just save us from death- He redeems and purposes us. He didn’t just say “be good”- He said “be mine.” He goes further. He draws nearer.
For beauty and for glory.
But wait. Bear with me .
I actually think it’s more than just the bonus- the abundance of His spirit.
I think He’s intentional about beauty because beauty is a stand-in - a peek - a representation - a poor man's imitation of His glory.
Let's see if I can explain this.
Remember in A Wrinkle in Time, when the kids are trapped on that random planet and cared for by Aunt Beast? She’s a Chewbacca-like creature with tentacles and no eyes. She explains her sightlessness to Meg:
We do not know what things look like. We know what things are like. It must be a very limiting thing, this seeing.
I’m starting to think that someday, when God makes all things new and dwells with us once and for all, we will realize how limited our seeing is. We’ll realize that the feelings of delight and wonder and smallness that we remember feeling back in the days when we merely SAW sunsets and meteors or HEARD symphonies and loon calls or TASTED garlic or FELT our baby’s skin…those feelings were just our souls remembering where they came from. A déjà vu from when we walked with Glory in a Garden.
We’ll realize how beauty was really just a one-dimensional peek at GLORY. We’ll finally know what things ARE like.
But in the meantime, I'm working to celebrate it all. As the hymn says:
For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind's delight, for the mystic harmony, linking sense to sound and sight; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.