“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1
We can learn a lot about an artist by looking at a canvas of his or her work. We see Picasso’s radically innovative nature in Guernica, Georgia O’Keeffe’s obsessive love for the Southwest in her enormous portraits of flowers and cow skulls, and Jackson Pollock’s wild and dark spirit in his drip paintings. Even if we don’t fully understand the meaning behind each painting, we clearly see the personality of each artist expressed through a unique style.
Likewise, to understand that God is perfectly beautiful, we need only to look at the world He created. Despite the obvious evidence of a curse—thorns, sickness, death—God gave us stunning examples of His beauty: a sunset flaming above a silent lake, ocean waves crashing against the shore, and the moss-dappled stillness of a mountain stream. These divine works of art remind us that God created a world that was perfect in every possible way. In Romans 1:20, Paul said, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” The creation testifies to its Creator.
It’s one thing for an artist to skillfully labor over a painting that everyone will see. It’s another for an artist to so thoroughly enjoy beauty for its own sake that he paints what few will ever likely behold. Certain medieval artists created a delightful art form called “fore-edge” painting, the technique of painting landscapes or portraits onto the gold foil edges of bound books. Even more hidden, a few artists fanned the page edges before painting, creating a work of art that is only visible if the reader fans the book’s pages just the right way. These artists had a prodigal sense of beauty: an extravagant scene painted in a secret place.
God is the ultimate prodigal painter. The greatest understatement in the Bible may be in Genesis 1:16 when it says that God “also made the stars,” as if the brilliant cosmos full of light and color and unthinkable remoteness were just a creative afterthought. God could have made a single star and then quit. Instead, He made billions and billions of galaxies that no human has ever seen, tucked on the edges of the universe, fanned out purely for God’s pleasure. The stunning abundance and variety of celestial bodies reminds us that God is an overflowing, super-creative being who delights in the beauty of His creation.
God needs no audience for His beauty. He is so thrilled by it that He is happy to enjoy beauty apart from any applause.