Thursday, June 30, 2016
8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings. (Psalm 17:8)
To a mother cat, true beauty is in the precious countenance of her kittens. The same is true for a mother and child of the human race. Only a mother could perceive a wet, wrinkle new born baby as being beautiful. But, in fact, all of God’s Creation has beauty. That beauty may be marred by sin and avarice, but the essence and stamp of its Creator is discernible even in the lowly ant.
An English dramatist, John Lyly, of 1588 wrote: “ . . . . as near is fancy to Beauty, as the thorn to the Rose.” Shakespeare expressed his own sentiment on beauty in the same year as follows:
Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean,
Needs not the painted flourish of your praise:
Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye,
Not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues.
But the lady who gave us the frank statement that “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” was Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her book, Molly Bawn (1878).
Man has long attempted to define beauty, but one man’s beauty is another’s homeliness. The ability of the heart to comprehend beauty is directly proportional to that heart to know and appreciate the beauty of Creation and its Creator. The “Apple of Thine Eye” is still the best description of beauty in my opinion. This describes what God considers beauty to be, and it is a comfort to know that He considers the each of His elect to be beautiful for He calls us the “Apple of His Eye.”
If you have ever wondered what the term means, allow me to give you my definition of Apple of the Eye. A mother watches her children constantly because they are her greatest possession. One who loves gemstones is constantly inspecting them with the meticulousness of banker. One who loves art can stand for hours admiring a great Masterpiece. But how does this relate to the Apple of the Eye? When we look intently at the object of our affections, that object is reflected in the pupil of our eyes. If we look closely at a mother whose eyes are fixed on her darling child, we will see a miniature picture of the child reflected on the mother’s eye. That is how God perceives us. We are constantly under His watchful eye, and a tiny image of our countenance is reflected in God’s eyes.
Beauty, apart from God’s Creative genius, is indefinable. True art best describes the perfection in Creation for it mimics the perfection of beauty and glory in tradition. But the vulgar abstract art of our time mars, instead of emulates, that beauty of God and His Nature. One of the most respected and reputable artists and art commentator of the past century, F.W. Ruckstuhl, had this to say of beauty and art:
Next to What is God? The most serious question of the age is – What is Beauty? Because, strange as it may appear to the unreflecting, on the proper answering of that question depends the Character of our future civilization. . . . When we contemplate Nature it suggests to us that Beauty is the vestment and expression of the Creator; that He made the pursuit of the Beautiful the Supreme Law of the Universe; that every insect, shrub, and even crystal, senses and obeys that law and makes itself and environment beautiful; and that undeveloped and degenerate men alone violate that law. (Great Works of Art, and what makes them great, Ruckstuhl, F.W. 1925, pp 93)
Abstract art defies the Creative Model of God by marring the perfection of beauty in Creation – whether abstraction in canvas, clay, stone, music, or even literature. The art of Picasso expresses a chaotic vulgarization of the true images that God has created in Nature. The decadence and degeneracy does not end with noses where ears should be, but gruesome and bloody depiction that should be banned to the public for their awful suggestions. Likewise, music which does not lift the soul to a higher plane nearer to God is not beautiful at all. Music should have melody, pitch, harmony and rhythm. The mind-bursting notes of heavy metal and rap are not spiritually uplifting, but rather the opposite. All of this modern rubbish that passes for art is a departure from what has defined art for the past six millennia. Even cave dwellers had a better concept of art than some that we see passed off as impostures of art today.
Is Beauty important? Of course it is because it expresses the perfection of God. 11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. (Eccl 3:11) Yes, indeed – EVERYTHING!
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely (beautiful), whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Phil 4:8-9) Based on God’s Word, it seems Beauty is quite important since God Himself is Beautiful, and all that He has made is likewise.
I hope to be the Apple of god’s Eye just as was David; and I pray that you, too, friends, will be the Apple of His eye. His eye is forever beholding those whom He loves and accounts His own. Of course, you are a cherished treasure for you were purchased at the greatest price ever paid for anything under the sun – the blood of the only Begotten Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. His Church is, indeed, a Pearl of Great Price. God’s only Begotten Son sold EVERYTHING that He had to purchase that Bride for Himself.
Though I have related it before, I wish to close with an illustration of a jeweler of some years ago who owned a jewelry shop in downtown Philadelphia. He was growing aged and had no heir to continue his busy after him; so he sought to find a young man to satisfy that expectation. He interviewed many hopeful aspirants and finally chose a bright and ambitious young man who added charm to an in-depth and technical knowledge of gemology. As he began to teach the young man the ropes of the trade, he one day allowed the young man to try his hand at selling the beautiful gems he had in stock.
One day, a well-dressed gentleman entered the shop seeking a wedding ring for his fiancée. He wanted the very best for his darling. The young jeweler took out the best diamond of the stock – and the largest. He explained to the man why this diamond was superb. He described the technical merits regarding setting, cut, color, and clarity. He pointed out the absence of any obvious blemishes, and the high quality gold in which the diamond was couched. The gentleman was not convinced and began to make as if to go. The old jeweler, watching from his office above the shop floor, came down and said, “Allow me to present this gentleman with the beauty and quality of this stone.” With that, he took the ring and described how beautiful it would look on the fair finger of his fiancée. He then held it up to the light and described the contrasting colors emitted by the stone as he turned it so that each facet would refract a different gleam. He described the permanence of the diamonds value, and how such a purchase would be a high tribute to the gentleman’s loved one. He described how the high cost was no great sacrifice for someone that he loved for life. The man was convinced and purchased the diamond ring.
In a rush of disappointment and frustration, the young jeweler asked, “You are not even a trained gemologist. You do not know the technical merit of that stone, yet you were able to make the sell and I was not. Why?” The old jeweler, with a twinkle in his eye, said: “Young man, I admit that you know diamonds better than I, and you have a better education in knowing them; but there is a difference – you KNOW diamonds, but I LOVE diamonds. Love makes all the difference when it comes to BEAUTY.”
We are all diamonds in the hand of God, our Master Jeweler. We may lack appeal and attractiveness in our plain boxes, but when God holds us up to the Light of Life and allows His radiant beams to permeate and emerge from every angle, suddenly, we have brilliance and a magnificent BEAUTY that we could never have supposed. As my favorite poet, Thomas Gray has written in Elegy Written in a country Churchyard:
Many a gem of fairest ray serene
The dark unfathomed depths of ocean bear,
Many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Being a child of God opens your life to beauty and joy unimaginable. Get out of the wilderness and into the byways of life. Rise up from the darkness of the Deep, and God will bring Light and Beauty to your tired soul.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's. (2 Chron 20:15)
In elementary school, I was the older of two brothers and was therefore the shield and guardian for my little brother against larger bullies. I often wished for the shoe to be on the other foot. Little did I realize that I did have an older Brother mightier than every bully, enemy, or hateful troublemaker – the Lord Jesus Christ! A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Prov 18:24) For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Matt 12:50) But of far greater gravity is the fact Jesus is our LORD and Master. He is our rock and our Fortress. As related in 2 Chronicles 20:15 above, He is the victor of all of our righteous causes.
There came a day when the first fleshly King Saul of Israel (God was first King) was engaged in a standoff with the legions of the Philistines. They were arrayed in intimidating numbers across the valley of Elah facing the armies of Israel. The numbers of the Philistines was daunting for both appearance and numerical advantage. To add to this seemingly hopeless imbalance, a new and unexpected threat was posed by the Philistines: 4 And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. 6 And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. 7 And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him. (1 Sam 17:4-7) By ancient records, the height of Goliath has been variously computed to be between 10 and 11.5 ft. tall. He was gigantic and struck fear in the hearts of the Israelites who did not remember their God was greater than the largest man ever born.
Consider, beyond the gigantic size of the giant, the size and weight of his armaments. His coat of mail weighed over 150 pounds; he wore greaves of iron sheaves on his shins and a large target (shield) of brass between his shoulders (he did not bear the shield in hand due to his overconfidence); the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam (about four inches in diameter and ten feet long); the head of his spear weighed about thirteen pounds alone; and there was an escort who went before the giant, out of formal courtesy, bearing a shield.
So the men of Israel were very fearful of this new development. Goliath proposed to be the champion of the two sides to settle the conflict without further bloodshed of many others. This seemed fair enough, but the advantage in size lay overwhelmingly on the side of the giant. Moreover, he was a seasoned veteran of battle.
While the mighty men of Israel shook fearfully in their boots and pondered who among them of their strongest and brightest could challenge the giant, a young lad was approaching the camp to bring victuals to his brothers. When the threat of defeat looms most threatening, and hope grows forlorn, the Lord is preparing a typical savior for His people in the form of the least among the Israelites to combat the greatest man of the Philistines. This is another example of the math of God. Gideon’s 300 against the enemies 120,000; and now this youthful lad against the greatest giant in the land of the Philistines. Who would have considered it? Have the Israelites forgotten that the battle belongs to the LORD? He did not even need David except to emphasize His own glory and majesty in preparing the smallest to defeat the largest of warriors.
Of course, David was a shepherd boy and not trained in the military arts of war. He did, however, have one small strength that he had learned in defending the sheep from the wolves and lions – a slingshot. He was a good shepherd who found the greenest of pastures for his sheep, and he practiced his skill on the slingshot in order to ward off predators in defending the sheep. Would it not be a great blessing if the under-shepherds of our churches had at least one means of defending the sheep from the wolves and lions rather than eating those themselves?
So David evaluates the situation facing Israel through innocent and child-like eyes. His child-like faith and courage were completely disappointed at the lack of courage of the strong men of Israel. They had forgotten that one needs only a single ally when confronting the battles of life – the Lord who is the God of Battles. David asks, who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? (1 Sam 17:26)
David’s brothers were offended at what they viewed as immature presumptuousness. But in spite of all, King Saul heard of this young lad and sent for him. And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. (1 Sam 17:32) Saul could hardly believe his ears! The exchange continued thusly: And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. (1 Sam 17:33-37) Though Saul doubted David’s ability to down the giant, he had nothing to lose but David’s life, so he relented and sent David to fight the giant. He went without armor since that was too heavy to be borne by a small boy.
40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. (1 Sam 17:40) David took neither spear nor shield, but only a shepherd’s staff and his faithful sling whose stones the Lord had always directed in flight. On the way into the valley of Elah to face Goliath, David gathered five smooth stones from the brook. Running water smoothens stones just as the water of life smoothens the turbulent heart. Why did David select five of those stones if he was so certain that God would direct his sling to target? I believe the evidence can be found in 2 Samuel 21. In verses 15-22 (too long to include here), the account is related of four other giants who threatened David, but were killed by his men. Each was of a similar size as Goliath and perhaps even larger. One of them at Gath, the homeland of Goliath, had six toes on each foot and six fingers on each hand. These four were all killed by men other than David, but at the favor of God. They were sons of Goliath we are told. These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants. (2 Sam 21:22)
It seems to me that the courage of David and his unsurpassed faith in God are under-rated in the account of his battle with Goliath. I believe David chose five smooth stones because he was aware of the sons of Goliath and realized that they may come to their father’s defense when they saw him defeated so shamefully by David. David must have expected to fight FIVE giants instead of only the father, Goliath, of four other giants. So, being wise beyond years owing to his trust in God, David made adequate preparation for contingencies that were possible, or even probable. If we are God’s people, we, too, must take measures for unforeseen dangers that lurk in the shadows against our brothers and sisters in Christ, against our nation, and against the Kingdom of God. It is not because God NEEDS our help, but He desires to see in us the courage and faith of a David.
As David approached the giant, Goliath was incensed at the absurdity of a lad coming before him with only a stick (shepherd’s staff) to confront so formidable enemy as himself. 42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. 43 And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. (1 Sam 17:42-44) This threat might intimidate our modern politicians and clergymen of today, but it only solidified the mettle of David. 45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands. (1 Sam 17:45-47) Thus did David proceed to do.
48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. (1 Sam 17:48) If God is in the equation, no need to fear and cringe. Note that little David RAN to meet Goliath! I wish our leaders of today would run to meet the enemies of freedom and liberty. 49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. (1 Sam 17:49-51) Yes, the champion of the Philistines was dead, beheaded by his own sword. The Philistines panicked at this miraculous defeat of Goliath. But the strong men of Israel were emboldened to battle by a mere boy – notwithstanding a boy who went forth in the favor and strength of God his Father.