One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life…
In the New Testament the word "beauty" or "beautiful" is only used once in its literal sense. As in "the gate Beautiful." But the Old Testament has it frequently, and applies it to things, qualities, actions, persons. This one of the differences between the Old Testament and the New, the one teaching the benefits of religion in regard to time, the other in regard to eternity. Hence the Old Testament seeks to bring men into harmony with natural laws; the New, with those which are spiritual. In the one we have truth represented through the senses, but in the other truth is taught in a more spiritual way. There are many scriptures in the Old Testament which speak of beauty, as in text. Reference may be designed to the beauty and splendour of the ritual service of Israel, but the more instructed people rose up from the lower forms of beauty to those higher ones which the house symbolized. Men's first ideas of beauty are physical, and in such beauty there is real pleasure, for which those who possess it may well give God thanks. But the idea of beauty means much more when it is applied to moral qualities. Of these, the earliest which was thought beautiful was courage, the power to do and endure. Then men went on to admire self. sacrifice. The man who would die the most dreadful death rather than desert his post. Or the helmsman who would not quit the wheel-house of his steamboat though she was in flames. Then, a mother's love has always been counted beautiful. Hence all artists have been fond of painting Madonnas. And the love of lovers, because it is the commingling of two hearts. Then the love of the philanthropist. What a halo surrounds the name of Florence Nightingale! And of such men as Kossuth! But to perceive spiritual beauty we must possess it. One of the evidences of Inspiration is its admiration of Moral Beauty, the high praise the Bible gives to goodness. But all such beauty must be real, not pretence, and, when so, it is like music. Melody is beautiful, but harmonies are yet more so. But musical taste is needed to appreciate them. Some prefer a simple ballad to all the glories of Handel or Mozart. No beauty is to be despised, and if the higher be present it will impart some of the lower. The good come to work good. All, therefore, may be beautiful through the possession of moral goodness, and the beauty of moral conduct. You often see this in old and faithful servants. An old servant of my father's was a great saint as well as a most lovable man. To me he was always radiant as an angel. He was not black — to me he was as white as the clouds. And there are many such. On the other hand, a man may be in all his surroundings — house, furniture, etc. — adorned after the manner of a palace, but if he be mean, selfish, sensual, all external beauty will not avail. Let no one mourn that they have not such things. If we could be pictured as we are, what different portraitures there would be! Then love moral beauty everywhere, and despise that which is sensual. Let text be our prayer.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.