Splendor is beauty on a magnificent scale.
The human heart longs for beauty from small to large, from intimate to public, from fleeting to lasting, from silent to deafening, and from earthly to heavenly.
- We long to see beautiful eyes in a beautiful face and hear beautiful words from a beautiful voice, especially when we love the one who owns that face and voice.
- We cannot step out of the door into a clear night with a full moon without stopping in our tracks to look upon such celestial beauty—shining moon, deep black sky, and silent stars blinking their promises of worlds yet to be found.
- We collect works of beauty in museums and erect them on public squares.
- We pay money to hear them and marvel at those whose years and hours of preparation have enabled them to perform masterworks.
- We produce plays and films to tell beautiful stories again and again because these stories so often are our stories, or we want them to be.
- We hold books in our hands: laws, constitutions, declarations—the documents of our chosen civilization—caressing beauty that extends beyond words to deeds and promises and civil expectations.
Taking what we can get.
The human heart takes what it can get of beauty, certain that with whatever portion we find, something will be missing. Beauty is not perfection; flaws are part of the charm beauty holds. Flaws are little chunks of failure that we, who may not be beautiful, can grasp and use to regain our balance, almost overcome otherwise by beauty.
This is the good news:
- There is a beauty we can hold without fear or feelings of rejection.
- There is a song that is simple in its perfection yet profound in its meaning.
- There is a gallery of beauty where we are invited to enter, to share it, see it, hear it, and receive it deep into our longing souls.
Splendor shines forth.
This place is Zion, the place where God Almighty lives and rules, the place we come to when we worship. The writer to the Hebrews describes this place in terms of splendor. The psalmists keep returning to the word “splendor” to describe Zion. They knew it wasn’t a tent or a palace or even a magnificent temple. Zion is beautiful beyond man’s ability to design and construct. The music there is higher and lower and faster and slower than any music we can make. It takes angels to make this music.
And yet, there is a anthem that only people can sing—the Song of the Redeemed. And that is the song the church will sing every Lord’s Day.
As we do, our beauty-starved souls will feed on true splendor.
Psalm 96 NIV
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.
Hebrews 12:22-24 NIV
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Isaiah 6:1-4 NIV
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders…Day and night they never stop saying:” Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Lord Jesus, You are the source of all beauty. You are the end of every search, the object of every quest. When a man or a woman or a child imagines something beautiful, it is merely a small fraction of the whole of Your Creation. Even these bits of splendor feed our souls. Give us the wisdom to pass through the riven veil of grace, torn at the moment of Your death on the cross. Take us through even the wonders of creation to behold Your beauty and that of Your throne. Here is splendor built for time and eternity, rich and satisfying in this moment and filled with promise for tomorrow. Amen and amen.
O Worship the King
Words: Robert Grant
1. O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.
2. O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space!
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.
3. Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
4. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in you do we trust, nor find you to fail.
Your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!
5. O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
whom angels delight to worship above!
Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
in true adoration shall sing to your praise!
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved