In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth . . . And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

Genesis 1:1Genesis 2:25

 

I’ve been trying to remember the first time I saw beauty. Oh, I know as a young boy I saw many beautiful things, sunsets, mountains, ocean waves, and the like. But I don’t remember feeling awed by their beauty. What I do remember vividly is my first trip to New England in the fall. I was four years old when my parents took me to visit my grandparents in Connecticut. From there, we made a trip up to New Hampshire and Vermont. I was astounded by the brilliant fall colors, especially the deep red of maple leaves. For the first time in my life, near as I can recall, I saw beauty. I was awestruck by it.

In our recent examination of Genesis 1-2, I saw beauty in the text for the first time. More accurately, I saw more clearly than I had ever seen before that God created beauty as an essential attribute of the cosmos.

At first, this is implied in the text. God created the heavens and all that fills them. If you’ve ever seen the expanse of the sky on a clear night, you know how beautiful this is. But Genesis doesn’t specifically say that the heavens are beautiful. God saw them and knew that they were good. This goodness may well have included beauty, as God admired what he had made. But, again, this isn’t explicit in the text.

When we come to Genesis 2:9, however, beauty takes center stage. The verse begins, “Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” There it is: “pleasant to the sight,” or as the CEB renders this verse, “the LORD God grew every beautiful tree with edible fruit.” God made trees to be beautiful, and he made us with the capacity to see and enjoy their beauty.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never before seen this in the biblical text. I had missed the beauty, so to speak. Now, I can’t miss it, and I’m grateful for the new insight God has given. Not only has this enabled me to think more truly about the necessity of beauty, but also the presence of beauty in Genesis 1-2 has encouraged me to see beauty I might otherwise have missed. Quite literally, I have looked at trees differently in the last few weeks. I have delighted in their various shapes and colors and in their branches reaching toward heaven. I have been amazed by the stunning blooms of a Kousa dogwood (also known as a Japanese dogwood).

Today, as you survey the world around you, yes, especially the trees, take delight in the beauty God has placed before your eyes. And thank the Lord for helping your eyes to see this beauty.

New Hampshire trees at their autumnal best
Photo of New Hampshire in the fall taken by Mark Roberts and used with permission and gratitude.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Can you remember one of the first times you saw beauty as such? How did you feel?

What does the beauty of the world tell us about God?

What in your life today is beautiful?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, once again we thank you for making this world to be full of beauty and for making us with the ability to perceive it. What wonderful gifts of your grace! Even as we do not overlook the pain and ugliness in our fallen world, may we continue to see the beauty that remains. May we thank you for it and be inspired by it. May the beauty you have made give us joy. And may our delight in this beauty give you joy. Amen.