“Majesty Revealed: The Beauty of God”, from Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin (with Jonathan Edwards, Aquinas, Augustine)

God’s Majesty, Revealed

A Biblical Focus

Down to the eighteenth century, pastors and theologians regularly considered the concept of beauty to be central to any discussion of the divine nature. As these pastors and theologians read the Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures, they were struck by various places where God is described as beautiful. For example, in Psalm 27:4, the Psalmist asserts, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord” (NKJV). Here, beauty is ascribed to God as a way of expressing the Psalmist’s conviction that the face-to-face vision of God is the profoundest experience available to a human being. Again, in Psalm 145:5 the Psalmist states that he will meditate “on the glorious splendor” or beauty of God’s majesty (NKJV). Similarly, the eighth-century (bc) prophet Isaiah can predict that there is coming a day when God will be “a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty” to His people (Isa 28:5, NKJV).

One of the most important biblical concepts in this connection is that of “glory.” When used with reference to God, this concept emphasizes His greatness and transcendence, splendor and holiness. God is thus said to be clothed with glory (Psalm 104:1), and His works to be full of His glory (Ps 111:3). The created realm, the product of His hands, speaks of this glory day after day (Ps 19:1-2). But it is especially in His redemptive activity on the plane of history that God’s glory is revealed. The glory manifested in this activity is to be proclaimed throughout all the earth (Ps 96:3), so that one day “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (Hab 2:14, NKJV). In other words, it was their encounter with God on the plane of history that especially enabled the biblical authors to see God’s beauty and loveliness shining through the created realm.

Augustine and Aquinas on the Beauty of God

Later theologians built upon these biblical foundations. The fourth-century North African thinker Augustine (354–430), for instance, identifies God and beauty in a famous prayer from his Confessions:

I have learnt to love you late, Beauty at once so ancient and so new! I have learnt to love you late! You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself. I searched for you outside myself and, disfigured as I was, I fell upon the lovely things of your creation… The beautiful things of this world kept me from you and yet, if they had not been in you, they would have had no being at all. 

The material realm is only beautiful because it derives both its being and its beauty from the One who is Beauty itself, namely, God. Augustine intimates that if he had been properly attendant to the derivative beauty of the world, he would have been led to its divine source.

Similarly, Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274), the quintessential medieval theologian, argues that God is called Beauty because, as Aquinas comments, “He gives beauty to all created beings.” He is, Aquinas goes on, most beautiful and super-beautiful, both because of His exceeding greatness (like the sun in relation to hot things) and because He is the source of all that is beautiful in the universe. He is thus beautiful in Himself and not with respect to anything else. And since God has beauty as His own, He can communicate it to His creation. He is, therefore, the exemplary cause of all that is beautiful. Or, as Aquinas puts it elsewhere: “Things are beautiful by the indwelling of God.”

Jonathan Edwards Reflects on the Beauty of God

As one enters the modern era, a profound reconstruction takes place in thinking about beauty in general. The watershed is the eighteenth century, when there is a dramatic movement away from the question of the nature of beauty to a focus upon the perceiver’s experience of the beautiful. The perception of beauty now becomes the basic concept in the writing and thinking about this subject. And it is intriguing that there is a corresponding diminution of interest in the ascription of beauty to God. Nevertheless, one can still find vital representatives of the older tradition. One such figure is the New England theologian, Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), who stands at the center of eighteenth-century Evangelical spirituality and who was deeply conversant with earlier theological thought, especially that of the Augustinian tradition. There is no doubt that beauty is a central and defining category in Edwards’ thinking about God. He regards beauty as a key distinguishing feature of the divine being: “God is God,” he writes in his Religious Affections, “and distinguished from all other beings, and exalted above ‘em, chiefly by His divine beauty, which is infinitely diverse from all other beauty.” Unlike creatures who receive their beauty from another, namely, God, it is “peculiar to God,” Edwards writes elsewhere, “that He has beauty within Himself.” Typical of the older tradition in aesthetics, his central interest is not in what he calls “secondary beauty,” the beauty of created things, but “primary beauty,” that of God. His writings contain no extended discussion of the nature of the fine arts or of human beauty. Even his occasional rhapsodies regarding the beauties of nature function chiefly as a foil to a deeper reflection on the divine beauty. Secondary beauty holds interest for him basically because it mirrors the primary beauty of spiritual realities.

Preaching the Beauty of God

Edwards’ focus on the beauty of God does not mean he has no interest in the beauty of this world. In his Personal Narrative, for example, while he is describing his conversion to Christianity, he indicates that his conversion wrought a change in his entire outlook on the world:

The appearance of everything was altered: there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost everything. God’s excellency, His wisdom, His purity and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon, for a long time; and so in the daytime, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things…

This passage helps us answer the question: How does the preacher present the glorious beauty of God to His people? The answer is, not only by preaching on biblical passages that reference this divine beauty, but by taking the time to meditate on the glory of God visible in the secondary beauty of the created realm. Edwards’ sermons communicated the glory of God since they were grounded in part in his own experience of that glory as he spent time gazing upon the created beauty all around him.

What is also striking about this passage is what Michael McClymond has recently called Edwards’ “capacity for seeing God in and through the world of nature.” For Edwards, the beauty of creation exhibits, expresses and communicates God’s beauty and glory to men and women. In nature God’s beauty is visible. Thus, he could state with regard to Christ:

…the beauties of nature are really emanations or shadows of the excellencies of the Son of God. So that, when we are delighted with flowery meadows, and gentle breezes of wind, we may consider that we see only the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ. When we behold the fragrant rose and lily, we see His love and purity. So the green trees, and fields, and singing of birds are the emanations of His infinite joy and benignity. The easiness and naturalness of trees and vines are shadows of His beauty and loveliness. The crystal rivers and murmuring streams are the footsteps of His favor, grace, and beauty. When we behold the light and brightness of the sun, the golden edges of an evening cloud, or the beauteous bow, we behold the adumbrations of His glory and goodness; and, in the blue sky, of His mildness and gentleness. There are also many things wherein we may behold His awful majesty, in the sun in His strength, in comets, in thunder, in the hovering thunder-clouds, in ragged rocks, and the brows of mountains.

Again, this passage is rooted in Edwards’ spending time meditating on God and Christ in creation, and his determination to have a God-centered approach to all things, in strong contrast to the man-centered perspective that was coming to the fore in Western culture in the eighteenth century.

Edwards’ Advice to Today’s Preacher

How then should the gospel preacher today speak about the beauty of God? He first needs to recognize the loss of the concept of divine beauty that is part of even his own evangelical heritage. Evangelical theologians and authors simply have not talked about beauty as a divine attribute for the best part of two centuries. Though evangelical theologians are beginning to realize what has been lost in this regard, the evangelical pulpit rarely sounds this vital note about our God. Then, time must be taken to meditate on God’s beauty in creation. Here, Jonathan Edwards is such a good model to follow: he saturated himself with God in His material world, soaking up the beauty of God displayed in manifold ways in His creation. This helped to prepare him to preach on texts that bespeak God’s beauty and glory. Of course, the biblical text was primary for Edwards. Charged with the glory of God, it provided Edwards—as it does today’s preacher—with an inerrant basis for declaring to the world this great truth: our triune God is a glorious being of such awe-inspiring beauty that the prospect of catching but one glimpse of His face in Christ in the new heavens and new earth will forever provide purpose for living all-out for Him in this world.

Author: Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality and Director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of a number of books, including Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival and The God who draws near: An introduction to biblical spirituality.

(This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2014 Expositor magazine.)


“Love in the Balance of Heaven and Earth”, a worship poem from Linda Willows


this was inspired at the beginning of the year and I wanted to bring it back…

Love in the Balance of Heaven and Earth

In the mountain tops, I answered,
Near the white cloud mist’s hold.
Where shoulders of green bear gentle earth mothers.
They call up horizons, they reach to sky’s fold.
Bearing weight all, caring with nests filled with gold.

Sweetened with sunlight shed full upon
Mountain fellows, their faces, turned by lives worn.
Here on their shoulders, high in the sky,
dipped in the blue is a Majesty’s’ cry.

Love in the balance of heaven and earth
dreams reach to thee as the clouds fall with mirth.
All into shoulders of gentle green peaks
Like mounds of earth mothers that fall, quake, birth, seek.

Soft are the bellows, on sky mounds that run
lovingly toward, their home near the sun.
Angels paint rainbows in tomorrow’s new day.
from the mountaintop’s glory, in horizons we pray.

© 2019 Linda Willows

Colossians 1:16
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

Psalm 95:3-5
For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

“Isaiah 59:21 The Promise and Glory of our Redemption”, from L.Willows (Salvation, Joy, A New Covenant)


I opened to Isaiah 59 this morning and read aloud. My heart was swept into the power of the words. When I read 59:21, I felt as if the LORD was speaking His Living Word. The flood of His Spirit was rushing into and through the words in a way that was tangible. My heart shook. Joy rushed in…

I am not different than any other. I have known some dark days and nights and been near the hand of life’s mortal suffering. We can be tempted to feel isolated under these conditions. Circumstances can separate us from what is familiar and from what we believe that we need to fill our hearts with courage and nourishment of what has given us confidence and encouragement in times past.

It may have been family, a community, even the ability to read favorite passages in scripture. There are times when even the physical eye is weakened by illness. There are times when we could have all seeming resources at hand but the “shaking” comes from deep within as if a longstanding tremor finally awakens and longs to arise. We are called to respond because we must. The urgency of need awakens us to seek the healing, comfort, and rescue of God.

When days like this come, we need “new eyes” to look and see from. If hope recedes we need a stronger armor to put on for our confidence must come, not from our muscles, but from a lifting that only God can provide.

Sometimes, we are at war with something that needs to die within ourselves. At other times something in our lives is shifting deeply by God’s own hand and we need to respond. It can feel like a war. In times like that we, you and especially me, need to put on the Helmet of Salvation.

Isaiah 59:17 “he put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmut of salvation on his head”.

I liked Ellicott’s commentary on Isaiah 59:21 and I hope that you enjoy the Photo with the Gospel Quote.  I am adding the Greek definition of Salvation below ~ Linda

Salvation (4991) (soteria from soter = Savior in turn from sozo = save, rescue, deliver) (Click here or here for in-depth discussion of the related terms soter and sozo) describes the rescue or deliverance from danger, destruction, and peril.

Salvation is a broader term in Greek than we often think of in English. Other concepts that are inherent in soteria include restoration to a state of safety, soundness, health and well being as well as preservation from danger of destruction.

Ellicott’s Commentary Charles Ellicott-Wikipedia

(21) As for me, this is my covenant . . .—The words are, as to their form, an echo of Genesis 17:4; as to their meaning, the germ of Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16. The new covenant is to involve the gift of the Spirit, that writes the law of God inwardly in the heart, as distinct from the Law, which is thought of as outside the conscience, doing its work as an accuser and a judge.

Hebrews 8:10-11
The High Priest of a New Covenant
8 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”[a] 6 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said[b]:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

Hebrews 10:16

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”[a]