“From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” Psalm 50:2
Our souls feel a thrill when we’re watching the sunrise over Atlantic sands, a child laughing at a birthday party, or a butterfly pulsing its wings on bluebonnets. Seeing something good or beautiful affects us at the deepest level, bringing a rush of life and excitement. Why is this the case? Because God Himself is the source of all beauty. Whenever we see something beautiful in this world, it reminds us of the beauty of our Creator.
Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth century American Puritan reformer, once wrote a book called Altogether Lovely. He took the title from Song of Songs 4:7, where the lover says of his beloved, “You are altogether beautiful.” For Edwards, this was a perfect description of Jesus—not a physical description, but a character portrait. The various aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry were, for Edwards, the most perfect example of beauty. Since we see the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6 esv), Edwards believed that people who understood the life and character of Jesus would be compelled to view Him as the most beautiful of objects, worthy of adoration and complete devotion. But was Jonathan Edwards right? Is God really “altogether beautiful”? The biblical writers thought so.
In the Bible, the beauty of God is so perfect that it is likened to the shining of the sun. In Psalm 50:2 the psalmist writes, “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” In Numbers 6:25 Moses calls down God’s blessing on the people and asks Him to make his face shine upon them. Numerous psalmists picked up the theme of God’s face shining like the sun, blessing His people. The same brilliance described God’s glory (Psalm 80), God’s teaching ministry (Psalm 119:135), and His vengeance upon His enemies (Psalm 94:1). In Isaiah 60:1, the prophet writes, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” In the new heavens and the new earth, the beauty of God’s glory is so powerful that “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 21:23).
Does the idea of God’s shining beauty resonate with you? If you have ever fallen in love, do you remember how that person’s face drew you toward them when you saw them? Everything they did seemed creative and kind. Aspects of their character made them even more beautiful in your eyes. After spending time in their presence, you felt joyful and more alive. Or recall the love you felt when you first saw your newborn child, or the fullness of your heart after spending a weekend with your best friends. That is a microscopic reflection of the blazing sun of God’s beauty, a beauty and holiness so burningly perfect that it caused the face of Moses to glow when he returned from spending time with God (Exodus 34:33–35). It is a beauty that only grows greater the longer we consider it.