The King In All His Beauty

My wife and I recently returned from a short getaway in Seattle, Washington. We lived there for many years in the early seasons of marriage and pastoral ministry. This trip reminded us how much we missed, of all things, the rainy weather. The gloomy, dark and soggy days are indeed one of our favorite parts about that place.

This "Emerald City" gets its name from the green grass and moss and evergreen trees that remain radiant throughout most of the gray, rainy year. Those whose eyes are set only to the gloom of the skies fail to see the glow of the ground below. The diffused light perfectly illuminates the rich colors of the landscape in a way that the pure sunshine of a Colorado winter's day cannot match. And so it is that even veiled beauty - or misunderstood beauty - remains beauty nonetheless.

When we examine the gospel story itself we find this kind of beauty. The opening chapter of John's gospel tells us that God's own glory was revealed to mankind in flesh - namely Jesus Christ. "The Word became flesh, and we beheld His glory" - what an incredible thought! But let it not escape our notice that up to that point was it ever possible for mankind to view God in His glory - the beauty of holiness and righteousness, of power and might - without experiencing terror and dread. The prophet Isaiah gives us his first-hand account of coming face to face with God:

"...I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up... and I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1, 5)

Isaiah recognized in that moment that he was not worthy to look upon such perfection without experiencing a severe recognition of his own imperfection, and the imperfections of his (God's chosen) people. This unveiled, unfiltered beauty of the King was too much for a sinful mortal. And yet, it would not be long before the Lord would lay a word of hope upon Isaiah's renewed lips, a hope for all the world, that someday a virgin would bear a child whose name would be "Immanuel - God with us." Charles Wesley would say it this way:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th'incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

The gift of Jesus Christ is the gift of the fullness of God's beauty hidden, as it were, in the not-so-glorious skin of mankind. Isaiah would later prophesy of Him:

"...He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:2-3)

But praise be to God that the beauty of what Christ has done for us was not diminished in any way by these things. Praise be to God that His beauty shines through even in the midst of the sin He bore for us on the cross, even as the dreadful judgment of God's wrath fell upon Him in our stead. When we look to Calvary we see a throne in the shape of a cross and a crown of glory disguised by thorns. We see not simply the king of the Jews mocked and scorned, but the King of mankind preparing to enter the throne-room and claim His rightful place of glory. We see Jesus diffused - but with our own eyes - as the King of Kings in all His beauty. Golgotha is both a dreadful and beautiful place where:

"Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty..." (Isaiah 33:17)

I'm thankful to songwriters Matt Boswell and Matt Papa for condensing this truth and this hope into another beautiful and worshipful hymn. May our Eternal King receive all His praise and may our eyes be opened to all His beauty!
O lift your eyes to Heaven see
The Holy One eternal
Behold the Lord of Majesty
Exalted in His temple
As symphonies of angels’ praise
Now strain to sound His glory
Come worship fall before His grace
The King in all His beauty

How worthy, how worthy, how worthy
The King in all His beauty

Now see the King who wears a crown
One made of shame and splinters
The sacrifice for ruined man
The substitute for sinners
As Earth is stained with royal blood
And quakes with love and fury
He breathes His last and bows His head
The King in all His beauty

Now see the Savior lifted up
The Lamb who reigns in splendor
The hope of every tribe and tongue
His kingdom is forever
Bring praise and honor to His courts
Bring wisdom, power, blessing
For endless ages we’ll adore
The King in all His beauty

Matthew Boswell | Matthew Papa
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