“You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering…”
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that human beings by nature long for and seek after beauty—beauty in themselves, others, and the places they inhabit. When planning a vacation, the choice is usually between a beach or a mountain top, and always with a view. Very few people seek the sprawl of metropolitan suburbs, much less ghettos; and there’s a reason for it. We seek beauty by nature because that is one of the many ways we were created like God.
As we consider Ezekiel’s prophesy against the king of Tyre, we’re reminded of the same truth. This king, like most people, had devoted his life to seeking, among other things, beauty and splendor. But this king, unlike most people, had access to everything the world of his day had to offer. He teaches us several truths that sober us, but none more important than this: the more we seek beauty on our terms, the uglier we become.
The prophet first reminds us that human beings at creation were endowed by God with beauty beyond imagination. Beauty was a gift we naturally possessed within, without, and all around us. In describing this king and his enormous wealth and beauty, Ezekiel references the first Adam because, like him, Tyre’s king had beauty, riches, and wisdom. Sadly, they both were led away from their exalted position through a quest for beauty and pleasure outside of God.
Notice how beauty and splendor are emphasized: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (v.12). “You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering” (v.13). “I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked” (v.14). The stones of fire likely refer to the beautiful and rare jewels of Eden, jewels we still consider precious today: sardius, topaz, diamond, jasper, sapphire, emerald, etc.
If we see anything here, we see that the God we serve, among other attributes, is beautiful. He is not, as modern thinkers would suppose, boring and bland. One essential quality to God’s beauty is His holiness. We cannot and dare not think that beauty and desirability can exist for long without holiness. This is exactly what the first Adam and his distant counterpart, the king of Tyre, teach us. The prophet drives the point home in v.17: “Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.”
Tyre’s king, not unlike modern people, became ugly in his pursuit of beauty. He became violent (v.16); he was unethical in business (v.18); and pride and corruption were what he ultimately attained (v.17). Perhaps the most shocking consequence of his beauty-lust is found in v.2: “you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods.’”
He reminds us of what happens when we pursue any gift of God apart from God. We not only lose what we had, but we grow ugly and undesirable. And one day we lose, as this king did, the only source of our beauty:“I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God” (v.16).
Though I can’t prove it with chapter and verse, I’ve always suspected that part of the anguish of judgement for those who reject Christ is related to beauty lost. It will be experienced when unbelievers realize the depths of the beauty, wonder, and desirability they have spurned and when they see the true ugliness of their sin.
But all of us in Christ will one day experience to the utmost what this king only shared in part. We will one day live again in paradise. The fading beauty we see around us will be green with youth and rich in the splendor that comes from God’s eternal beauty.