More to be Desired Than Gold

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When we look through the Bible to learn something about beauty, we need to think about how the Bible teaches about other things with beauty standing nearby. What do I mean by describing beauty as standing nearby?

Let me read four verses from the middle of Psalm 19:

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

To enjoy gold or honey — to desire the experience of seeing gold or eating honey — is to take delight in the beauty that gold has — beauty for the eyes — or the beauty for the taste buds that honey gives to us. People might want gold just to be rich, or they might want honey to take as a medicine. But the main reason gold is valuable is because it is so beautiful, and the main reason people bother to keep bees is because  honey tastes so good. It is a form that beauty takes in our mouths.

We take delight in the gold in the icons that hang on either side of the altar in our church not because gold is worth a lot of money, but because gold is beautiful to look at. They are there because beauty is part of our worship, not to show off how much money we spend on the church.

Related:  The Liturgical Nature of Culture

The Psalm that I read from isn’t really teaching about gold or honey or their beauty.

It’s teaching about the law of God and about what happens to us when we keep God’s law. It seems interested in truth and goodness, not in beauty. But in order for us to understand about truth and goodness, beauty is standing by to explain them to is. Let me read those verses again:

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

The law of God teaches us what is true, and it teaches us how to be good. But this Psalm makes it very clear that understanding God’s law and obeying it are both beautiful things to do. Just as eating honey is the experience of beauty through taste, and the sight of gold is the experience of beauty through sight, and (if I can expand on this list) just as the incense we use in worship is the experience of beauty through the sense of smell, and the music that our organist plays and that we sing is the experience of beauty through sound, so meditating on God’s word is the experience of beauty in the mind, and obeying God’s commands is the experience of beauty through our whole life.

Related:  Glory and Beauty

So in learning about the qualities of God’s law, and what it can feel like to be living our lives in keeping with God’s law, we also learn something about beauty: that is, that truth and goodness and beauty are all intertwined with each other. It is true that beautiful things are good. It is good that the truth is beautiful. And it is beautiful that goodness reveals to us the truth of things.

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