Ugly is a negative term. We don’t like it. By contrast, the word “beautiful” inspires joy in every human heart.
As an artist who paints in watercolors, I naturally find beauty in flowers, mountains and lakes but also in old trucks, aging barns and rusty steel doors. Visual beauty of all varieties can be inspiring.
As a Christian, I have noticed how many of the biblical authors have shown love for visual beauty. But here in the Scriptures, I have also found the references to beauty that go much deeper than the visible. Let’s take a brief look at these two uses of what is claimed to be beautiful.
Starting with Genesis 1:31 — “God saw all that he had made and indeed, it was very good.” Helmut Thielicke, a German theologian said that in this verse “good” should be translated, “beautiful.” The wonders of nature affirm his choice. “The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork (artistry)” (Psalm 19:1). The Bible uses beauty to describe some people; Rachel, Esther, Bathsheba. It describes some buildings, especially Solomon’s temple and orchards, trees and rivers. In Psalm 48:2, the poet sings praise “in the city of our God. His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth.” Of course Jesus loved creation’s beauty. He mentions to his disciples, “even Solomon in all his splendor could not equal the beauty of these lilies” (Luke 12:27).
However, lilies don’t last, buildings crumble, people die, and nature suffers fires and floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. Earthly beauty will fade and fall away. This world is temporary but that is not the end.
The Bible shares the good news of a new heaven and a new earth. This will have everlasting beauty with no decay or death, nothing ugly or evil (Revelation 21:1-5). So the messengers who bring the good news of peace and salvation are acclaimed with, “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of this messenger” (Isaiah 52:7). The psalmist was one of those heralds. He prayed, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that will I seek after ... to behold the beauty of the Lord and inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:2). We are called “to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96:9 NIV). There is beauty in the holy, a lasting beauty in what is godly and good.
Remember the woman in Bethany who anointed Jesus with costly ointment only to receive the sharp criticism from Judas and some of the disciples?
Jesus, sensing her love, defended her saying, “leave her alone, she has done a beautiful thing to me. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:6-9).
She did what she could. It was a costly gift. The poor widow, who gave only a penny in her offering, also did all she could. For Jesus each gift was a “beautiful thing.”
God has done a most beautiful thing for all in the death and resurrection of Jesus which has inaugurated the new creation when all the old ugly junk will be no more. So when we become discouraged by what appears to be ugly things of the world at this time, we can look forward to that new day when God’s love will reign supreme. And that will make everything eternally and truly beautiful. Thank you, Lord!