The Beauty of Holiness, Part 1
by Nathaniel T. Jeanson, Ph.D.
“He appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.” (2 Chronicles 20:21)
In today’s verse, a key phrase occurs that is easy to miss. Some Bible translations miss it altogether. Literally, the Hebrew reads that Jehoshaphat, Judah’s king, appointed “ones praising the beauty of holiness.”
What does this phrase mean? “Holiness” translates the typical Hebrew word used for “holy,” and it carries the concept of being set apart. For example, God made the seventh day of creation holy by setting it apart from the other six (Genesis 2:3). When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, He set apart a plot of ground as “holy” (Exodus 3:5). Firstborn children of the nation of Israel were holy in that they were set apart (Exodus 13:2).
The Hebrew word for “beauty” in this verse carries the idea of intrinsic beauty and worth, not passing or shallow beauty. Thus, the “beauty of holiness” refers to the intrinsic attractiveness of “set-apart-ness.”
Intuitively, we recognize that “set-apart-ness” is beautiful. Consider a rare and expensive diamond. Its rarity sets it apart from the rest of the diamonds. What do we do with such a special diamond? We relish in its beauty by giving it its own display case. We might even put it aside in a special room reserved for this one diamond.
However, our example stops there. Some might dispute the beauty of the diamond as a matter of preference. In contrast, the beauty of holiness is not subjective or limited to cultural context. Why? Because Scripture calls holiness intrinsically beautiful. Furthermore, Jehoshaphat commanded people to praise the beauty of holiness. Something this praiseworthy must be overwhelmingly and stunningly beautiful! NTJ