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Useless Beauty

God loves beautiful things. This is one of the important lessons of Exodus 25, which describes the preparations for the Tabernacle. God puts out a request to His people to offer up extremely valuable and rare goods for use in making and adorning God’s dwelling place, and this tells us what God is like and what He values when it comes to decorating His holy house.

And since we are made in God’s image, and our ultimate destination as human beings is to be conformed to the image of God in Jesus Christ, this passage tells us something about how we should think about God’s house, too. We do not think like God in many areas, including this one: we don’t value beauty as much as He does. We are far more pragmatic than God, and we need to change.

God calls for decorative metals, beautiful yarns and linens, nice wood, oils, spices, and jewels, which to us seems wasteful, extravagant, and a prime example of misplaced priorities. But God adorns the temple with these kinds of things “for glory and for beauty”. These values run completely contrary to our favorite things: “for efficiency and for productivity” or “for functionality and for cheap”.

It is true that people are more important than buildings, and it is also true that beautifying a building is one among several important priorities for a church. But we should not use other truths to blunt the reality of this truth: God spent an awful lot of His people’s wealth on a beautiful building, and He was holy, righteous, and good to do so. This is the God we serve: a God who spends millions on what we tend to think of as useless beauty.

So as we look to this list of raw materials for God’s house, we need to be asking God to open our eyes to see the world the way He sees it. Why does He value beauty so much? And when we do this, we find that this “useless” beauty is not useless at all.

First, God dwells in glory, and so in order for Him to dwell in our midst, as verse 8 says, He needs a glorious sanctuary. All this glory transforms a part of the world into a place that is set apart and glorious enough for God to live in. If this sort of sanctuary is built, God can dwell with us, with the unspoken implication being that it wouldn’t be right or appropriate for God to dwell in our midst without such glory.

Second, the pattern that is mentioned in verse 9 is the pattern of heaven. Hebrews 8 confirms that Moses on the mountain received a vision of heaven, and this is the pattern that the building needs to match exactly. This is what beauty and glory do – when you enter a glorious sanctuary, you realize that you are not in any ordinary place on earth, but you have walked into heaven! And so as we think about how to use this building, we need to think about how we can make it beautiful, so that we tell the truth about the God that is worshiped here.

Finally, we need to see God’s requirement for beauty and glory in His dwelling in order to appreciate the incarnation. Jesus Christ tabernacled among us, and took on flesh. This was a profound humiliation on God’s part, as Jesus set aside His requirements for glory and beauty for a short time, dwelling with us in humility and lowliness in order to save us.

If you do not appreciate just how important it is for God to be surrounded by gold and blue and scarlet, you will not appreciate just how significant it was that Jesus left all of that behind in order to save His people. The measure of God’s love for glory and beauty becomes a measure of His love for you. Jesus loves you enough that He is willing to forsake His rightful glory in order to overcome sin, so that He can lift you up out of your lowly estate and bring you into His eternal glory.

Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2014 by CJ Bowen