The Beauty of Worship
“One thing have I asked 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 gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”- Psalm 27:4
Our studies of the Reformation and worship have focused on the various elements that Scripture reveals as essential parts of God-honoring worship. As we consider these various elements, we find that they are enhanced by various art forms. The singing of prayers, psalms, and hymns involves the art of music. The places where we gather for worship are designed according to the art of architecture. We could give other examples, but the point is that the arts play a key role in worship. In order that we might have a biblical view of the fine arts, particularly regarding their role in worship, we will now spend a few days looking at what Scripture has to say about the arts. Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Recovering the Beauty of the Arts will guide us.
When we study the Scriptures, it is very clear that our Creator is concerned with both goodness and truth. What we sometimes miss, however, is that our God likewise esteems beauty. In fact, the Bible—especially the Old Testament—contains many passages that praise the beauty of our Maker. Today’s passage, for example, expresses David’s desire to gaze upon “the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4).
Psalm 27 is particularly notable for its connection of worship with God’s beauty. Since the old covenant saints did not see God face-to-face, the only way they could gaze upon the beauty of the Lord was to enter the tabernacle or temple and view the beauty of the structure and its furnishings. David notes his desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, which is a reference to the earthly sanctuary where God made His presence felt. The curtains, altar, lampstand, and other elements of the temple all revealed particular truths about the Lord. To see these things was, in a very limited sense, to gaze on the beauty of God.
We also see a connection of beauty and worship in the garments the Old Testament priests wore. Exodus 28 relays the Lord’s instructions for the priestly attire, which was to be made “for glory and for beauty” (v. 2). Obviously, the priests wore their priestly robes for service in the tabernacle and temple. God was not looking for something that was merely functional for worship in Israel; rather, He wanted the priests adorned in beautiful garments when they entered His presence.
The Lord was so concerned for beauty in old covenant worship that He employed skilled craftsmen in order to craft the tabernacle and its furnishings (31:1–11). God gifts artists in order to create beauty for His worship.
If God thought beauty was important for worship under the old covenant, how much more important is it for new covenant worship since we have a clearer understanding of God’s beauty through the life and ministry of Christ? Let us encourage our leaders to pursue beauty and excellence in worship, and may we seek to use our talents to help create such beauty if we are so gifted.
Passages for Further Study