In my last post, I began pondering Psalm 29. Within this Psalm is the mysterious truth of what happens when God’s people worship. Last time, I looked into the call to worship the Lord in verse 1. Today, I continue and meditate on verse 2:
2 Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in
the beauty of holiness.
Give Unto the Lord Glory
The phrase “give unto the Lord glory” is actually a repeated one from verse 1. There the Psalmist commanded the saints to “give unto the Lord glory and strength.” Here, he reiterates it saying that there is a glory due to Yahweh. As stated in my last post, there are a few ways to define “glory.” Glory can be translated as “wealth and riches” so this is a reference to giving all my silver and gold, tithes and offerings to the One who is worthy of it all. When Believers bring their tithes and offerings to the Lord, it is an opportunity to worship in a way that only we can. Also “glory” is commonly understood to mean giving him honor, praise, and reverence. This isn’t something we merely do in song on a Sunday, but our very lives can be lived in such a way that every movement of our heart, every conversation, every amount of our time is intentionally given for God’s honor. And lastly, another layer to this verse is that we actually offer the Lord our glory. Any honor we receive for a promotion, victory, or area of growth in our life all goes back to Him.
So, why repeat this phrase? I believe David is reminding us in this call to worship that this isn’t something we simply offer out of our good graces: this is a glory due to God. We actually owe it to Him. Because our Father is so gracious and familiar to us, we can easily approach worshipping Him as something we only casually do. Notice I said “only.” One thing that certainly sets Christianity apart is the fact that we do have an intimate, familial relationship with our God. We are called to come to Him as sons and daughters, boldly before His throne with confidence. We chit-chat with Him throughout our day. We laugh with Him. We sing to Him as we go about our work. Because of this casual relationship, we can readily forget that all of this is due Him. All honor, all praise, all reverence, all worship is not simply something we offer or He even demands – it’s owed to Him simply because of who He is.
There are times when we must lay aside our casual approach and come before Him in humility, remembering our place as mere mortals approaching an Eternal, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Almighty God. This is the call David proclaims to us in this song. This Psalm is indeed a call to lay aside our casual approach as a congregation for a moment and to enter into a reverent understanding of what we are doing. I can almost see David as the worship leader standing on the platform as the doors of the church opens. From there, he shouts out his command to those entering one by one: “Remember who He is! Remember who you are compared to Him! He is an All-Consuming Fire! An Eternal Holy Lord! So worship Him with all of your strength! Worship Him with all of your might! Waste yourself. Pour it all out. Leave nothing on the shelf. Tremble before Him in fear! He is holy! Because He is GOD, this is due to Him.”
This Psalm reminds us that this type of worship is expected and necessary in our lives. Beloved ones, when is the last time you put aside your informal conversation with God and instead let the weight of His terrifying awesomeness overtake you? Both types of worship are commanded. Both are essential for us to rightly give Him what is due.
Worship the Lord
I believe the next line emphasizes David’s point to approach God in awestruck reverence. When David says, “worship the Lord,” he chooses the Hebrew word “shachah” for worship. This word means to “bow down, lie down, prostrate, weigh down” in homage. He could have chosen many other words here. Such words as “Halel” which means to “rave, boast, be clamorously foolish” could have been used – but it wasn’t. David could have used “Alaz” which means to “jump around with joy” – but he didn’t. He could have even chosen “ranan” which is a “shrill shout or a ringing cry,” – but he chose not to. David chose to command us to “shachah” before the Lord. “Get low,” he says. “Get as low as you physically can before Him.” In essence, whenever we take this position, we are humbling ourselves to the point that we “return to the dirt” from which we came (Gen.2:7). Ah, what a reminder this command is! In our modern day homes and churches, we graciously have carpet on which to prostrate ourselves; but the reality of what we are doing still remains – from dust we came and so to dust we return before you, Yahweh.
The Beauty of Holiness
There are two ways in which I ponder this phrase. Firstly, “the beauty of Holiness” is a reference to the awesome majestic splendor or our God. This phrase could easily be written, “Worship Yahweh – the very beauty of holiness.” When we stop and ponder his holiness, often one word comes to mind – beautiful. The word in Hebrew here for “beauty” is “hadarah” which can be translated as “adornment, glory, arrayed, decoration, splendor, honor.” Notice the idea in many of these definitions is that of being clothed in something awesome. Our God is clothed in beauty, arrayed in majesty, adorned in splendor. When we ponder how Yahweh is described in scripture, we stand in awe at the beauty of what is seen. John the Revelator saw the Lord and described Him like precious gems with light radiating all around Him. The light emanating from God hits the rubies and jaspers and emeralds and makes a majestic rainbow all around him. Beauty that is beyond compare! Ezekiel saw the Lord in the midst of fiery tornado, with living creatures surrounding Him. He penned in Ezekiel Chapter 1:
“ 26 Above the large covering that was over their heads there was something that looked like a throne, and looked like it was made of sapphire. Sitting on the throne was what looked like a man. 27 Then I saw that there was something like shining brass from the center of his body and up to his head. It looked like fire all around within it. And from the center of his body and down to his feet I saw something like fire. There was a bright light shining all around Him. 28 This light shining around Him looked like the rainbow in the clouds on a day of rain. This was what the shining-greatness of the Lord looked like. And when I saw it, I fell on my face…”
Notice Ezekiel’s response to such beauty – he fell on his face or in other words prostrated himself in fear and reverence.
Beloved, how can our response be anything less? Although most of us have yet to see God with our naked eye as John & Ezekiel did, this is still the God we approach. The reality of what we do when we gather together on Sundays should strike our heart with fear and wonder. We should listen to David’s command and bow down, get low – worship the Lord in and for the beauty of His holiness.
The second way I like to meditate on this phrase shifts the focus. Whenever we worship the Lord, there is only one way we may approach Him: in holiness. In Psalm 24, David said, “who may ascend the hill of the Lord [to worship]? Who may stand in his holy place? [Only] he who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (verse 3 & 4). Because of the blood of the Lamb, I am washed clean. I am made pure. I am holy.
The “beauty of holiness” is in part a reference to the truth that we, His children, are wrapped in His likeness and that likeness is holy. The beauty of His holiness resides within us and upon us. The angels don’t have His holiness. The four-living creatures don’t have His holiness. But because of the blood of Jesus, we are made the very righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:4)! Being made the highest order of creation, we are made to house and to display His holiness like no other created being. So, I believe David is calling God’s sons and daughters, who alone are created in His likeness, who alone can worship the Lord in the beauty of this level and type of holiness, to give unto the Lord what only we can give: worship from a heart now created like His.
When you enter into your congregation to worship next time, see yourself this way. Gather with the family of God and let the weight of what the blood of Jesus has transformed you into cause your heart to bow down before Him. Let the beauty and the majesty of who you now are mingle with the beauty and the majesty of the One who made you that way. Let holiness be offered to Holiness himself. If we will obey David’s command, the beauty that flows in our houses of worship will be overwhelming. Who knows? Maybe we will even see what Ezekiel saw.