This is how many times, in the ESV alone, the word “behold” appears in the Bible.But here’s the thing: I have yet to find a place in which it is completely grammatically necessary for it to be used. A quick case study:
original: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a —- without behold: “And God saw everything that he had made and it was very good.”
original: “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” Psalm 54:4 —–without behold: “God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.”
The list goes on and on (1,069 times, to be exact). Although it’s easy to skim over the word whenever we encounter it for that very reason, we also know that God is intentional… His words are not in vain; Not even a word like behold, that we don’t exactly tend to throw around in our daily conversation.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” Revelation 21:5
God urges us to behold this amazing truth while He reminds us that the scriptures are His words and they are trustworthy and true in the very same verse! But regardless of this interesting overlap, in this verse God gives us this beautiful mental picture of Him speaking each word to the writer and assuring him that the words are His, and that they overflow with truth. Divine authorship does’t exclude words that we overlook due to our fleeting attention span, and our fleeting attention span is the exact reason we NEED to behold.
The word behold is used in a unique way all throughout the Bible. Many times, it could easily be replaced with “look!”, and it would still fulfill the same grammatical usage. But it’s not, and there is a key difference here: “Behold” is a beckoning to linger, an urging to admire, survey and appreciate… the command “to look” only demands the necessity of a fleeting glance. The dictionary puts it this way: “We see, distinctly or confusedly. We look at, near, or at a distance. We behold, with wonder and attention. We view, with care and exactness.” God doesn’t call us to “take a glance” at what He’s doing… His majesty displayed in His word deserves our wonder and attention. His beauty doesn’t require an audience, but He knows that our captivation leads to our sanctification… so He beckons us to behold. Every time we behold His promises in scripture and allow them to sweep us off our feet, God draws us nearer to Himself.
But here’s the problem, our society doesn’t encourage beholding. Humans are fast paced creatures with the inability to even lock eyes with someone for more than a few fleeting seconds without becoming tired or uncomfortable. Things become mundane to us because our sinful eyes and hearts are restless. But the Bible encourages us to look at the world differently… and to behold how everything in creation cries out to God like the rocks cry out in silence (Luke 19:40). I believe that many of my problems and sins… the desire to control my life, my selfishness, pride, and fear, can many times be because I struggle to behold God rightfully. Job was pressed with an immensity of trials, more than most of us will ever experience. But each time he was mocked, questioned, or questioning God, we are also shown how he fights defeat: by reflecting upon and beholding God’s character. This is our calling.
Don’t miss it, God faithfully uses the word behold before revealing some of His greatest masterpieces! He knows that our fickle hearts struggle to see the marvelous glory that he reveals about Himself in the ordinary and extraordinary objects of life. He clothes the lilies in splendor, He springs forth redwood trees from seeds that we can hold on our fingertips, He handcrafts the light that flickers through the trees in the morning and bounces off our windowpanes at night… and He intricately and perfectly planned to save ordinary, broken people like us to hold His treasure. Nothing in my sinful nature wants me to see and experience these wonders, but God sent His spirit to us for this very reason: to help us behold Him and His hand in our lives so that we can press on in faith.
These glimpses are just small glimmering fragments of the promise that one day, the fog will be lifted and God’s glory will be revealed to us in fullness. When we behold Him as our vision, how could our hearts not well up with excitement and overflow in worship?
“Remember to extol his work,
of which men have sung.
All mankind has looked on it;
man beholds it from afar.
Behold, God is great, and we know him not;
the number of his years is unsearchable.
For he draws up the drops of water;
they distill his mist in rain,
which the skies pour down
and drop on mankind abundantly.”