Psalm 96:9

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 9. 0 worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. This is the only beauty which he cares for in our public services, and it is one for which no other can compensate. Beauty of architecture and apparel he does not regard; moral and spiritual beauty is that in which his soul delighteth. Worship must not be rendered to God in a slovenly, sinful, superficial manner; we must be reverent, sincere, earnest, and pure in heart both in our prayers and praises. Purity is the white linen of the Lord's choristers, righteousness is the comely garment of his priests, holiness is the royal apparel of his servants.

Fear before him, all the earth. "Tremble" is the word in the original, and it expresses the profoundest awe, just as the word "worship" does, which would be more accurately translated by "bow down." Even the bodily frame would be moved to trembling and prostration if men were thoroughly conscious of the power and glory of Jehovah. Men of the world ridiculed "the Quakers" for trembling when under the power of the Holy Spirit; had they been able to discern the majesty of the Eternal they would have quaked also. There is a sacred trembling which is quite consistent with joy, the heart may even quiver with an awful excess of delight. The sight of the King in his beauty caused no alarm to John in Patmos, and yet it made him fall at his feet as dead. Oh, to behold him and worship him with prostrate awe and sacred fear!

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 9. In the beauty of holiness, or, in the ornament of holiness, alluding to the splendid robes of eastern worshippers. W. Wilson.

Verse 9. The beauty of holiness. Shall I call holiness an attribute? Is it not rather the glorious combination of all his attributes into one perfect whole? As all his attributes proceed from the absolute, so all again converge and meet in holiness. As from the insufferable white light of the Absolute they all seem to diverge and separate into prismatic hues, so they all seem again to converge and meet and combine in the dazzling white radiance of his holiness. This, therefore, is rather the intense whiteness, purity, clearness, the infinite lustre and splendour of his perfect nature -- like a gem without flaw, without stain, and without colour. All of his attributes are glorious, but in this we have a combination of all into a still more glorious whole. It is for this reason that it is so frequently in Scripture associated with the Divine beauty. The poetic nature of the psalmist is exalted to ecstasy in contemplation of the "beauty of holiness," the "beauty of the Lord." Beauty is a combination of elements according to the laws of harmony; the more beautiful the parts or elements, and the more perfect the harmonious combination, the higher the beauty. How high and glorious, therefore, must be the beauty of this attribute which is the perfect combination of all his infinite perfections!

You see, then, why this attribute is awful to us. In the ideal man all the faculties and powers, mental, moral, and bodily, work together in perfect harmony, making sweet music -- the image of God is clear and pure in the human heart. But, alas! how far are we from the ideal! In the actual man the purity is stained, the beauty is defaced, the harmony is changed into jarring discord, "like sweet bells jangled out of tune." How it came so, we are not now inquiring. We all feel that it is so. Therefore is this attribute so awful to us. It is the awfulness of absolute purity in the presence of impurity; it is the awfulness of perfect beauty in the presence of deformity; it is the awfulness of honour in the presence of dishonour and shame; in one word, it is the awfulness of holiness in the presence of sinfulness. How, then, shall we approach him before whom angels bow and archangels veil their faces -- him in whose sight the white radiance of heaven itself is stained with impurity? Joseph Le Coute, in "Religion and Science," 1874.

Verse 9. The beauty of holiness. The religion of the gospel of Christ is "the beauty of holiness," as it concerns its Author, its plan, its fruits. First, As it concerns its Author. Whatever we can understand as meant by beauty or holiness, we see in the attributes of God, whether we consider them in all their harmony, or contemplate any one of them in particular... Secondly. As to its plan. Survey the gospel where we will, or regard whatever we can that is revealed concerning it, we find it to be all "beauty"; and we cannot call it by a more appropriate name than "the beauty of holiness." Thirdly, As to its fruits. There is a holy separation, a beautiful character of holiness, a separation as to character, feelings, and conduct; these are all the various fruits of grace; and so the man becomes beautiful in holiness. Leigh Richmond, 1772-1827.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 9. (first clause). An examination of true and false worship.

  1. False worship, in the obscurity of ignorance, in the dulness of formalism, in the offensiveness of indulged sin, in the hideousness of hypocrisy.
  2. True worship, in the beauty of holiness. C. D.

Verse 9. Holy fear an essential ingredient in true religion.