And let the beauty of the LORD our God be on us: and establish you the work of our hands on us; yes…
I. WHAT IS THE BEAUTY OF GOD? Some have said that beauty is the indication of utility, the stamp of the highest usefulness. Others have made it to consist in the harmony of opposites; others in proportion or symmetry; others in conformity to a certain ideal standard of perfection. The saying attributed to comes nearest to satisfying us, — "Beauty is the splendour of truth." It is the lustre of perfection, the sign or token of a completed ideal. It always suggests the thought of a Being behind who seeks to realize His ideas and express Himself in them, and give a conception of their worth and beneficence. Do not beauty and sublimity owe their power to this, that they are suggestions of the illimitable, the transcendent, the infinite? Once in the history of this sinful world infinite beauty appeared. Divine loveliness spoke and acted among us, shone through the eyes, and lived in the actions and sufferings of Jesus of Nazareth. A beauty more splendid than day and all the jewelled crown of night, more tender than the most ethereal tints of flowers, more sublime than the mountains — the beauty of Divine love and truth and righteousness, of patience and longsuffering, dwelt in mortal flesh, streaming evermore through its covering, seeming the richer and tenderer for its covering, till it shone out in noontide glory through anguish and death. It is a perception of the beauty of God, a delight in it, a desire after it, which distinguish the spiritual man from others.
II. THE BEAUTY OF GOD AS REFLECTED IN MAN. There is always a suggestion of joy and hope about spiritual beauty. It speaks of a wide horizon. It is the beauty of a day in spring, having a hold of the future, while struggling with east winds and rain; looking on to summer, and not back upon it as do the fairest autumn days. It is the beauty of the rising sun, or of the sky before sunrise that presages a day of glory. Benevolence is the essential element. It is love that is lovely. To love the Infinite One and all Being in and through Him cannot but impart to the soul a deep beauty in harmony and alliance with the fairest scenes in Nature. But it is a strong and abundant life that is beautiful. Strength is the natural and genuine root of loveliness; and if there be anything fair to look upon that is not associated with this, but is rather a tender delicate grace inseparable from feebleness of principle or purpose, it must be somewhat of the nature of a sickly flush. Only, we should not forget that there is a beauty that precedes strength. For this is a characteristic of God's work as distinguished from man's, that it carries a measure of beauty with it from the beginning through all its stages. There is one beauty of the tender shoot and another of the plant in flower. Unity is an element of beauty. Intellect requires unity and is pursued through all sciences by this quenchless thirst. Conscience, heart and imagination also desire it, and without it have no rest. If we will examine it, we shall find that in every object which we reckon beautiful there is unity open or concealed. What we call proportion, harmony, balance, order are only modifications of this. But unity must never be so understood as to seem in conflict with freedom. The beautiful is free, expansive, flowing. Unity and freedom are both included in this utterance, as they are in the truth of things — "I will walk at liberty because I seek Thy precepts." Joy also is an element of beauty. The joy that we get by looking at Christ is healing and softening. It is a joy from beholding beauty of the loftiest and tenderest kind, and must be productive of beauty. Repose is not less an element of beauty. How powerfully this element of calm strikes us in the life of our Lord. He had the repose of a perfectly balanced soul, of strength and love, of patience, meekness, and unshaken trust in God. Hence there is a beauty in Him of which the tranquil majestic vault of heaven and the serene stars are a picture. They who inherit His peace cannot but inherit something of His beauty. Naturalness and unconsciousness must be added as necessary to all the elements of beauty. Let us have simple reality, whatever else we want. The beauty of life is life. We do not make beauty. It grows. We must not seek it directly, else we shall certainly miss it. Now, what light does this psalm shed on this beauty of God? What light does it give on the means of attaining it? First of all, a soul must have its home in God. It must have rest and a centre, and it can only have this in the bosom of infinite love. It must realize God's eternity. A deep sense of sin is another outstanding element in this psalm, and there is no real beauty possible to sinful man without that. The gladness that God gives, and the wisdom that God gives, are both prominent here, and they are both necessary to work out the beauty of God in us.
(A. Raleigh, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.