Saturday, May 4, 2019

Beauty Is In the Eye of God

When our Pastor’s wife asked me to speak at our ladies’ banquet on the topic of “Beauty,” I must confess that the first thing that popped into my mind was not particularly spiritual. It was an episode of Twilight Zone from the sixties called “Eye of the Beholder,” told from the viewpoint of a young woman who had just undergone extensive plastic surgery in an attempt to look “normal.”

The bandages had not yet been removed, and her time alone in the darkness brought to mind vivid and painful memories of being mocked, bullied and humiliated because of her appearance, and even of having children run away from her in terror once they saw her face.

At long last the surgeon unwraps the bandages, as if he is peeling through the layers of an onion, while explaining that this would have to be their last attempt, for none of her previous ten surgeries had been in the least successful,. It would be dangerous and futile to try any further. If this last surgery didn’t work, she would have no choice but to be sent away from mainstream society, to live in a small colony with a few other unfortunates who looked like her.

As the last layer is shed, the doctor shakes his head, turning away with a shudder of revulsion. The nurse cries out in horror before composing herself and handing the patient a mirror. Tears stream down the patient’s cheeks, but to our surprise, the image in the mirror is what we would consider beautiful – symmetrical and well-proportioned features, large eyes, classic nose, full lips, and smooth, flawless complexion.

In shock we see that it is everyone else who is “ugly,” with grotesque, misshapen, asymmetrical faces, pig-like snouts, and scales instead of skin. Truly beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and our definition of beauty is highly influenced by cultural norms. In the sixties, when Twiggy was the star of fashion models, the ideal of beauty was epitomized by the familiar saying, “You can’t be too rich or too thin.”

But across the globe, in Mauritania and other African nations, young girls were (and sadly, in some cases, still are) being force fed a high-calorie diet to fatten them up before marriage, as obesity was considered a sign of wealth, maturity, high social standing, and female attractiveness.

There are many Biblical references to physical human beauty, but Scripture does not define it. Rachel (Genesis 29:17), King David while he was still a young shepherd (1 Samuel 16:12), Bathsheba whom he later desired (2 Samuel 11:2), his son Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25), Queen Vashti (Esther 1:11), and her successor Queen Esther (Esther 2:7) were all called beautiful, but their looks are not described in detail.

We do know that David was “ruddy,” or rosy-cheeked, and Absalom had long, thick hair and was free of any blemish (2 Samuel 14:25-26). Even gray hair is considered beautiful on the head of an old man (Proverbs 20:29), perhaps because it represents the wisdom of experience, which is more beautiful than gold or jewels.

Proverbs 8: 10 Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
11 For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.

Today the passages in Song of Solomon in which the Bridegroom extols the physical virtues of His beloved, and vice versa, seem almost comical to us. Describing teeth as a flock of sheep, hair as a flock of goats, or temples like pieces of pomegranate (4:1-3) is not prime material for a Valentine or love letter of today.

Was Jesus, the holy Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), physically attractive? The prophet Isaiah said that He had no beauty that we should desire Him, yet this was in the context of His excruciating death on thecross, in which His body was bruised, beaten, bloodied and marred beyond recognition. 

Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

But in the account of Jesus teaching in the temple as an adolescent, we are told that He continued to grow in stature and in favor with God and with man (Luke 2:52), suggesting that He was physically attractive.  As He was the perfect, sinless Son of God (Matthew 14:33; 16:16) and the physical representation of the Father (John 10:30; 14:7-9), I believe that Jesus was beautiful in His earthly form.

Scripture says that the Lord is beautiful (Psalm 27:4; Hosea 14: 4-8; Zechariah 9: 16-17), and that the branch of the Lord, namely Jesus Christ the Messiah, is beautiful and glorious (Isaiah 4:2). Revelation tells us that He is glorious in power and in majesty, seated on His throne like a precious jewel radiating brilliant rainbows of shining light! (Revelation 4:2-3).

God created the universe, and it was very good (Genesis 1,2). We can only imagine its pristine beauty before it fell under the curse of sin (Genesis 3), yet even now we can see God’s creativity, glory, power and majesty in the beauty of His creation, whether in the colors of a sunrise, the vastness of a starry night, or the microscopic detail of a leaf or even of the cells and atoms themselves (Psalm 19:1).

The adjective “beautiful” is used to describe the priestly garments of Aaron (Exodus 28:2, 40), the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 3:6; Ezra 7:27; Psalm 96:6; Isaiah 60:13) the nation of Israel (2 Samuel 1:19; Isaiah 52:1), Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:12) and Mount Zion (Psalm 48:2; 50:2). The name of one of the gates of Solomon’s temple, where Peter healed a lame man, was also Beautiful (Acts 3:2,6,10). These have in common the quality of being set apart, sanctified, or made holy for God’s service (Romans 15:16).

Accordingly, as Scripture confirms, the holiness of the Lord is beautiful, and we must worship Him in the beauty of His holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29, 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalm 29:2; 96:9). We cannot be holy on our own, for all have sinned and come short of His glory (Romans 3:23). We can receive the holiness of Jesus Christ only once we are saved by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven.

As we shall see next week, only then will we see beauty as God sees it, and be beautiful in His sight!

© 2019 Laurie Collett



Susan said...

A beautiful post! I used to enjoy The Twilight Zone when I was a child. They came up with very creative stories. I think Jesus is physically beautiful as well, especially the scars that will still be visible when we see Him. .It seems to me that people mostly like a strong-willed, defiant, boasting and crass kind of guy, sort of like some of the parts Arnold Schwartnegger might have played. But Jesus came to lay His life down in submission to the Father. Men’s flesh do not desire that. But nowadays the tide has turned, and people now want men to be passive and nonjudgmental and feminine....but Jesus is returning as a roaring lion!!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Susan! I agree, that although our glorified bodies will be perfect, they will carry distinguishing characteristics that reflect who we were for the Lord in our earthly body, like Jesus' scars reflecting His sacrifice. People confuse the Lord's purpose and nature in each of His comings, and don't realize that while He came as a humble servant and sacrifice, He will come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
God bless,

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Before I was able to comment here, I turned to You-Tube and I watched the whole 22-minute film. With tension and expectancy, I was dreading how this unfortunate patient would look after her bandages were removed.
I was rather confused after her face was revealed. She was normal! And beautiful too. Like everybody else. Then they showed the hospital staff assembled in the corridor. THEY were the ones who we might consider "monstrous".
Talking about a twist at the end of the tail!
But having said that, these people are real. I once had a French publication showing photographs of "monsters" due to genetic defects at conception, with some making a fortune as a circus performer.
However, I will never forget the tale of the Elephant Man, who was rejected by his parents, the rest of his family, the school he attended, and shunned and repulsed by society in general. On top of all that, no one would employ him. Except for one man, a bishop, who took him in and gave him food and lodging in exchange for general church maintenance. He lived out the rest of his days with just the one friend he ever had, and died before reaching old-age.
For the rest of us who may be tempted to squirm in front of a mirror, these are worth thinking about and remembering.
A heart-moving post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thank you for taking the time not only to read and comment on my post, but to watch the Twilight Zone episode!
It is certainly true that "freaks of nature" are generally shunned by society. The film "Greatest Showman" portrays P.T. Barnum as an entrepreneur who profited from bringing together such individuals, yet the film has a positive message in that he gave each of them a new purpose and united them in a community that supported one another.

Praise God for our differences, for He designed each of us with unique gifts to glorify Him with the purpose He intended for us since before the beginning of time.

Thanks again and God bless,

Winkel's Crazy Ideas said...

Beauty. How harsh and judgemental we humans are towards eachother. How differently God sees us all, beauty in His eyes is so different from our limited and narrow versions of it. I believe Jesus' face was very beautiful, because nomatter His physical features, God's beauty was perfectly in Him. Oh to behold that dear face then, so full of God Himself. Sometimes we meet a very devouted follower of Christ, and there is a look, a glow in their eyes, a light somehow. A tiny reflection of our Lord. I can only emagine Jesus's face when He walked among us. God bless. Pam in Norway

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
Regarding physical beauty I have always seen that in people's eyes, there is something about the eyes that has always revealed a personality to me. I am not sure what Jesus would look like physically, I have always thought it meaningful that on the road to Emmaus Jesus was not recognized until He broke bread with the disciples. That is where I believe His beauty is, in the Word of God spoken to us.
God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Pam,
Thanks so much for your comment. How wonderful it will be when we finally see our dear Lord face to face! I agree, His radiance shines through the faces of those who follow Him most closely.
God bless you too,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
I agree, that the eyes are the window to the soul. When Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus, He was in His glorified body, as He was when He spoke to Mary, and neither the disciples nor Mary recognized Him at first. I believe it will bee similar when we have our glorified bodies -- we will know each other, but not necessarily by our physical appearance.
Thanks for your comment and God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie. You mentioned how often our ideas of beauty are influenced by the opinions of those around us. That isn't limited to our ideas of beauty. Today, professional chefs define what is good food, critics define what is good writing, acting, art or or music. Sadly, we've done the same things in the Christian world, so that many things that are considered spiritual are in fact wholly carnal, while truly spitirual people are dismissed as unimportant. I'm looking forward to the day when God shows things as they really are.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! So true, that the opinion of "experts" prevail in so many areas of life, when it is really only God's opinion that matters. So many times, even in churches, those in positions of leadership are carnal rather than spiritual, and when they are exposed, many members feel hurt and betrayed. But the unsung heroes who faithfully follow God's Word without making a show of it are often overlooked. As you say, all will become clear when God reveals it.
Thanks again and God bless,

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