Saturday, May 11, 2019

Beauty to Ashes; Beauty for Ashes

Photo by Naveen Nkadalaveni 2019

As we saw last week, inner beauty is a gift from God, bestowed on those who receive the holiness of His Son by trusting Him as their Lord and Savior. Only then will we see beauty as God sees it, and be beautiful in His sight!

When God’s chosen people and nation turn away from Him by forsaking His holiness to worship idols, whether other gods or earthly pursuits like power, lust, fame and fortune, God will remove their beauty. Their physical beauty will be consumed to ashes under the fire of His judgment (Isaiah 64:11; Lamentations 1:6, 2:1,15; Ezekiel 7:20; 16:12-15, 25; 28:6-7).

God created Lucifer, the angel of light, to be the most beautiful and wise angel (Ezekiel 28:12-19), appointed to lead the angelic host in worshipping God. Through the sin of pride, wanting to set himself above God (Isaiah 14:12-15), Lucifer fell from heaven to earth, where he is now Satan, prince of the power of the air, also referred to allegorically as the king of Tyrus (Ezekiel 28: 6, 7, 12, 17) and the Assyrian (Ezekiel 31:8-11)

Ezekiel 28:12 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.… 17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

The hatred of Satan for God and man now make him as ugly and evil as he once was beautiful and holy, yet he and his demons can still appear physically and spiritually beautiful to deceive us if we are not careful (1 Peter 5:8), transforming themselves into ministers of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).

However God defines human physical beauty, it is clear that just as He created and bestowed it, He can take it away. Earthly beauty passes quickly while we are still in our physical body, consumed like a fading flower (Isaiah 28:1,4), or a moth drawn to the flame (Psalm 39:11), for aging is part of the judgment we face under the curse of sin (Genesis 3:16-24). Such beauty is therefore vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised Proverbs 31:30).

Yet in the United States alone, billions of dollars each year are spent on cosmetics, plastic surgery, and other rejuvenating “beauty” treatments, not to mention on high fashion and jewelry. In 2015 the beauty industry generated $56 billion in this country, of which 24% was for hair care, 24% for skin care, and 15% for cosmetics. These soon reach the point of diminishing returns, as the ravages of aging continue while we are in our earthly body.

Whether or not our earthly companions consider us to be beautiful is of little importance compared with what God thinks of us. How can we be beautiful in God’s eyes? The apostle Peter warned women that our best adornment is not our hair style, jewelry, or clothing, but the “ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (1 Peter 3: 4, 1-5).

When a nationwide beauty pageant was held to find a new bride for King Ahasuerus, Esther won his heart and the crown without any special beauty treatments or adornments, for her love of God and of His people must have given her a unique inner beauty that appealed not only to the King, but to all who knew her (Esther 2:1-17).  

We cannot achieve such beauty ourselves, for it is a gift from God. When Job questioned God’s treatment of him, God asked if Job could condemn God to make himself righteous, or if Job could give himself power, majesty, glory, or beauty (Job 40:6).

The answer, of course, is that Job could not, for all such attributes are from God Himself (James 1:17). Now that we are under the curse of sin, there is nothing in our own heart or good works that God considers righteous or beautiful (Romans 3:23). But once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the onlyWay (John 14:6) to Heaven, His perfect, beautiful holiness is credited to our account, for He robes us in His righteousness (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10).

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

Only then can God see us as beautiful, for when He looks at us, He sees the perfect beauty of His Son. Then the beauty of the Lord our God is upon us (Psalm 90:17), for He finds pleasure in beautifying the meek with His salvation (Psalm 149:4). We have no power or beauty of our own, but once we are saved, the Holy Spirit lives within us (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30, giving us access to His perfect power, beauty and wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Lord of hosts is a crown of glory and of beauty for those who trust Him (Isaiah 28:5).

Through His plan of salvation, God exchanges our ashes, representing our sin, sorrow and death, for His beauty (Isaiah 61:1-3), meaning the righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:22), the joy of our Lord (Habakkuk 3:18), and eternal life (John 3:16).

Isaiah 61: 1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

When we are saved, God transforms us from His enemies (Romans 5:8-10) and children of the devil (John 8:44) to God’s friends, His children, joint heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:14-17), His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), fellow workers with Him (1 Corinthians 3:9), and the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7-9).

In these new roles we radiate His beauty to others as we spread His Word, for beautiful are the feet of those who spread His Gospel, or Good News! (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15). God allows us to be His ministers, reconciling other sinners to Himself by telling them about His Son (2 Corinthians 5:18). 

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

How are we saved? By God’s grace, through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), which elevates us to heavenly places in Him (Ephesians 1:3). When Moses in faith drew near to God on Mount Sinai, his face shone with God’s glory and was visible to all the people (Exodus 34:29-35).

Once Sarah finally trusted God completely to bring her the child He had promised (Genesis 18:10-15), she too must have reflected God’s beauty despite her old age, for King Abimelech wanted her to be in his harem, until God warned him in a dream to restore her to her husband Abraham (Genesis 20:1-14).

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we can all shine with inner beauty that is pleasing not only to God, but to others. In Psalm 110:3, King David described the people of God as having “the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.”

If we lack that inner beauty, we may fool others who admire our exterior appearance, but we can’t fool God, for He knows our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus criticized the religious leaders of His day for being hypocrites who rejected Him. They appeared holy and beautiful outwardly, while being full of corruption and decay within, like a beautifully decorated burial vault containing rotting bones and flesh. Interestingly, this verse (Matthew 23:27) is the only instance of the word “beauty” or “beautiful” in the four Gospels.

Even though we can’t always see the beauty of God’s design for our lives, He sees it all, from beginning to end, and He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We see the tapestry of our life from the reverse side, where the knots and threads crossing over each other seem to make a tangled mess, but from His viewpoint, the placement of each strand is woven into an intricate, harmonious masterpiece.

When He takes us to Heaven, we will see not only the beauty of our own life tapestry viewed from the right side, but His perfect beauty mirrored in everyone and everything around us, defying description and human imagination (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9). The holy city, containing mansions for each of us (John 14:2), will have foundations and walls of precious jewels, gates of pearl, and streets of gold, and it will be lit by the brilliance of Jesus Christ Himself, the fairest of all (Revelation 21:10-23).

Even our vile, corruptible, aging body will be transformed instantly into a glorious body like that of Christ Himself, never to age, die, sin, sorrow or experience pain or sickness (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:35-57; Revelation 21:4).

May we allow God to exchange our ashes for His beauty! May we realize that beauty is in the eye of God, see beauty as He sees it, and be beautiful in His sight!

© 2019 Laurie Collett



Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Samuel was awestruck when Jesse presented his older sons to him for the anointing. When Eliab presented himself to Samuel, the seer was impressed, but God told him not to judge according to outer appearance, for God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:6-7). Amazingly, Jesse saw little hope in his youngest son David, for he didn't even call him to join his brothers. Yet it was him who God saw had the greatest beauty, both physically and spiritually.
An excellent post, God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thank you for recapping this pertinent and illustrative Bible episode. Praise the Lord that He sees all and discerns accordingly, while we are easily misled by superficial characteristics. May we see others as He sees them and grow to be more like Him each day.
Thanks as always for your illuminating comment. God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie. In Our society, there is such a focus on outward appearances and actions with little concern for the inner attitude and nature, yet those are the things that matter most in our relationships with God and with other people. Thanks for the reminder.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald, for your encouragement! May we learn to discern others as He does, by accessing the mind of Christ within us as we die to our fleshly mind.
God bless,

Susan said...

Amen Laurie. Beautiful post. Today I purchased flowers and a few berry plants to plant into our garden. It always strikes me how beautiful God has made everything, but that everything in this world is temporary and fading away, just as the flowers will after their season to let us know fall is coming, and then winter. Likewise, we also can see our bodies going into the autumn of our lives (unless the Lord removes us sooner in our youth) and we know from the signs of the season that winter (death) approaches. But Jesus in His mercy removed the stinger of death, in the lives of His sons and daughters it is only a tiny blip and then we are to enjoy His full majestic presence forever. In this temporary world beauty only lasts a moment, and without His Spirit that beauty is emptiness and shallow. True beauty can only come through the new life given freely to us paid in full with the payment of His blood shed for us on Calvary.

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Susan, for your beautiful comment! Physical beauty is ephemeral, but our soul will live forever, in a place beautiful beyond imagination if we have trusted Christ!
God bless you,