Psalm 96:9


O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. This is also read, "in the glorious sanctuary," and "in holy vestments." The Authorized Version is the more poetic sentiment, and may therefore be preferred. The expression is given in 2 Chronicles 20:21, where Jehoshaphat, in sending forth his army, "appointed singers who should praise the beauty of holiness." Holiness is the keynote of the worship of Jehovah; but it is the keynote of the worship of no other god. "Had a medal been struck in praise of Jupiter, who is the best of the pagan gods, on one side might have been engraved 'Almightiness, omnipresence, justice;' and on the reverse, 'Caprice, vengeance, lust.'" But the association of beauty with holiness now requires our attention. The best idea may be gained by thinking of ripe fruit; if it is really healthy and ripe, it cannot help having a bloom on. That bloom is the beauty of ripeness. "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." Then we must find the elements that go to make a worship so holy that, both in God's sight and in man's, it should be beautiful. Worship that can be thought of as showing the "beauty of holiness" must be -

I. LAWFUL. It may not be sufficiently recognized that public worship was arranged for, authorized. There is no room for self-will. There may be different views as to the ultimate authority for forms of worship. If it is to be "holy," the elements of mere self-willedness and pleasure must be excluded.

II. PURE. "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord." This was at once typified and testified by the clean white linen garments of the priests, and by their washing before engaging in their offices. Bodily purity did but represent the moral purity God requires.

III. SINCERE. This brings before us the condition of the will. God's great reproach is levelled at the divided mind. That worship cannot be acceptable in which the man's hand is one way and his heart is another. Worship is only ceremony and routine unless a man's heart is in it. Absolute simple-mindedness is the beauty of worship, the bloom on the fruit.

IV. CHEERFUL. The psalmists constantly remind us of the joyousness of worship. It excited high emotions. Lifted out of all drudgery to become a holy delight, we feel still the "beauty of holiness" in God's glorious sanctuary and exalted worship. - R.T.







Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come into His courts.
I. PRAYER. As we all have religious feelings to express, sins to acknowledge, mercies temporal and spiritual for which to give thanks, evils to feel or fear, with regard to ourselves and others, it highly becomes us to join together, and to lift up our hearts with one accord, in a public and social manner, to the hearer of prayer, and thus to offer unto Him our united homage and supplication with thanksgiving. Prayer is not only a duty, it is a high privilege and honour; the nearest approach to God, and the highest enjoyment of Him which we are capable of in this world.

II. PRAISE. The saints on high, and the angels around the throne, praise God in the highest, and well does it become men upon earth to join their humble notes of praise to the anthem of the heavenly choirs, in exalting together His great and glorious name. All the works of God praise Him, from the heights of heaven to the depths of the earth; the angels around the throne praise Him; the sun, and moon, and stars of light praise Him in their courses; the mountains, and valleys, and woods, and fields, and seas, and streams of water praise Him; the elements of nature praise Him and obey His Word.

III. THE PREACHING AND HEARING OF THE WORD. Both the ministers and the hearers of the Word should watch over themselves, that they may have singleness of eye and heart to the glory of God, more desirous of the Divine approbation than of human applause, avoiding all vain and vexatious questions, which profit not, but engender strife and ungodliness, and which violate that heavenly charity without which all our services are hateful in the sight of God.

IV. THE GIVING AND RECEIVING OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD'S SUPPER. We should consider the "nature and design of the Lord's Supper," the dispositions which are required for an acceptable participation, and the graces which it is calculated to cherish. The Lord's Supper thus observed would be attended with the happiest and most beneficial effects on our hearts and lives, in confirming our faith, enlivening our hope and charity, and in promoting our progress in holiness, and in meetness for the pure and perfect service of heaven.

(J. Wightman, D. D.)

Worship may be called the flower of the religious life. It will be absent where there is no religion at all; it will be scanty or poor when one's religion is feeble; it blossoms into beauty and perfection only when godliness is assiduously cultivated in daily practice and the soul is accustomed to dwell habitually under the shadow of the Almighty. Here, then, you have a very useful test by which to judge of your real religious condition. Is worship irksome? Do you find your affections generally cold, your desires languid, or your thoughts wandering when you come to church? Search within for the cause; see if there be not a negligent state of the soul behind this undevout frame of yours; inquire into your daily habits of obedience, your vigilance against known sin, your study of God's will and mind, your practice of repentance, and of faith in the Saviour. As a Christian lives well or ill so will he worship. Again, his worship, if it be hearty and constant, must feed and purify his spiritual life. And here let me speak a little on the utterances which the devout mind finds for its feelings towards God; because it should be recollected that although worship begins in a state of the heart it does not stop there — to feel penitence, or gratitude, or adoration is not just the same thing as to worship; worship or homage begins when the hidden emotions of a devout mind, stirred up at the thought of God, run out into some form of utterance. The utterance may, no doubt, be secret and silent — no voice — hardly even the lips moving, like pious Hannah's, the soul talking only to its God. This is how people commonly worship when they are alone. No matter; there is none the less real outflow and utterance of the man. An outflow of the heart towards the Most High there must be, perfectly well understood by Him whether discernible to men or not — then the soul worships. Now, of what nature is this outflow from the religious heart? Briefly, it is of the nature of an offering of a sacrifice. Foremost of all, that of which it is expressly said, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit," etc. Next comes the offering of our grateful and joyous praise for Him who hath been sent among us to heal the broken-hearted; I mean the words of our lips giving thanks to His name in song and audible confession of His mercy, for "with such sacrifices," likewise, "God is well pleased." One other offering alone I shall name which we ought to bring within His courts — it is that which the apostle has described as a service reasonable on our part and acceptable to God — I mean the dedication to His service of ourselves. Christian homage to the Redeemer finds its supreme utterance here in the recognition of the fact that we are no longer our own, at our own bidding and disposal, but are His who bought us with a price, willingly devoted, separated of our own choice, to the service and honour of our Redeemer, living and dying body and soul the Lord's.

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

1. The primary foundation of this duty is the soul's relation to God. Every consideration by which we commend filial piety towards earthly parents holds still more forcibly in reference to our heavenly Father. How unnatural the child that never asked his father for anything, that never made his mother the confidante of his troubles and difficulties, that could drink the cup of enjoyment and success, and never ask his parents to share it, or that never poured into their hungering ears the expressions of affection and honour. What opportunities the wants, troubles, and enjoyments of childhood afford for intercourse between parent and child, for the moulding influence of the parent to exert itself upon the child's character, for the play of mutual affection and delight. Judging from human analogy, it would seem quite sufficient reason for God's making the bestowment of His best blessings to depend upon their being sought in prayer, that "communications concerning giving and receiving" send themselves so directly to the expression and strengthening of love.

2. Prayer is a duty we owe to God's name, an offering which we ought to make to His blessedness. "God is love," and love has its expectations, its satisfactions, its dues, its delights. "Will a man rob God?" the prophet asks. Ah, we have robbed Him of dearer treasure than tithes and offerings. Where is the husband or wife, the father or daughter, who would not account the withholding of the affection that was their just expectation a more grievous wrong than any passing injury or lapse of material gifts? Our obligation as Christians to live in communion with God is all the stronger that in these last days He hath spoken unto us by His Son.

3. Public worship is a duty we owe to God as witnesses to His existence, authority, and grace. The maintenance of this testimony is a most efficient means of advancing His kingdom in the world. When we render it, we are doing in a humble way the work of such men as Elijah and Daniel. This is one important use of public worship. Such worship, by uniting many suppliants in one request, calls forth more abundant praise when it is granted: it provides, also, a fuller expression of adoration than the individual soul can compass, and therefore intensifies and exalts its feeling; further, it exhibits the sympathy and concord of human beings in the loftiest employment of their powers; but beyond all this, it lifts up a clear and striking testimony to the reality of God's authority and grace, and bids men everywhere bow down before their Maker.

4. The neglect of prayer indicates a general indifference to duty. Since we are really dependent upon the inspiration and guidance of God for the power to serve Him acceptably, to neglect the means of obtaining these is to be careless where we ought to be most careful. If out of the heart are the issues of life, and prayer is the chief instrument of heart culture, how blamable our want of diligence in it. To neglect prayer is to leave our loyalty open to every hostile temptation, to burn our lamp and make no provision to replace the exhausted oil.

(E. W. Shalders, B.A.)

Worship the Lord in
Slightly changing the order of the psalmist's biddings, I will invite you to lend to him your attentive ears, first, as he says to you and to all, "Worship the Lord," and that "in the beauty of holiness"; and then, as he summons you to one duty, or rather one privilege, more, "Bring presents, and come into His courts." And first, as he says to you, "Worship the Lord," this house being first and chiefly a house of prayer, according to that word of the prophet, afterwards made His own by Christ the Lord, "My house shall be called a house of prayer." "Seek ye My face," He says to each that enters its gates. They only enter those gates with profit, they only carry away a blessing, who make answer from the heart, "Thy face, Lord, will we seek." But this worship, how shall it be offered, and with what accompaniments? "In the beauty of holiness." Other beauty is good in its place and its degree; has its worth, although that altogether a subordinate worth. The outward apparel of the king's daughter may be of wrought gold (and who would grudge her this, where it may be fitly had?) but she must be "all glorious within," glorious with the inward graces of faith and love, humility and holiness, if that Lord for whom she adorns herself is indeed to delight Himself in her or to behold any beauty in her, that He should desire it. But how worship Him "in the beauty of holiness"? We unholy, we defiled, our souls not beautiful, but ugly with sin, how shall we fulfil the condition which the psalmist requires? First, then, I reply, or rather the Word of God replies, he only who has his conscience purged from dead works through the blood of sprinkling can do this. And the second condition is like to it, that we, as the true Israel, worship God in the spirit, praying in the Holy Ghost. But what else does the psalmist say? "Bring presents, and come into His courts." And first, lest there should be any mistake here, let me remind you of that without which every other present will be worthless in the sight of Him who does not weigh what we give, but with what spirit we give it. See, then, that you offer first and chiefly yourselves, your souls and bodies, acceptable through Christ, washed with His blood, sanctified by His Spirit. Give, and that without keeping anything back, yourselves to God. But, this done, bring other presents, other gifts; they will all, indeed, have been included in this all-embracing one, to Him. If you have leisure, leave not your clergy to cope single-handed with the ignorance, the vice, and the misery around them; range yourselves among their helpers; give them some of that lay assistance which is so invaluable to them. If you have means, suffer not the Church's charities at home, her missions abroad, to be starved and stunted through contributions by you withholden altogether, or doled out with a miser hand. If you have any special talent, see if it cannot be enlisted in the service of God, and find its highest consecration there.

(Abp. Trench.)

I. ITS NATURE. It consists in devout exercises of the soul, whether in meditation, adoration, admiration, or supplication. It is the spirit disentangled from the sensuous and engaged in fellowship with the Invisible and Divine.

1. Worship is a necessity of man's nature. He is no mere machine, or thinker, or theorist; he is pre-eminently a worshipper, distinctively moral in his make, religious in his proclivities, akin in the great spiritual invisibilities of his nature to the all-glorious Creator.

2. Worship is an evidence of man's greatness. The existence of moral intuitions amid the sad wreck of the soul by sin proclaims a fallen nobility, a crownless royalty: yea, tells it even now to be — "Sublime in ruins and grand in woe."

3. In worship man finds his native element. Like the bird which has been encaged for weary months, that breaks through the wires of its prison and escapes on swift wing, pealing forth its song of freedom as it finds its native element, so the believer, escaping from the din and turmoil of the world, or of business, and entering into the hallowed retreat of the closet, or "the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High," hears amid its hush and stillness angelic voices whispering, "The Lord is in His holy Temple," and finds in His presence the society for which he was made, and the fellowship for which he pants. There is a kinship of soul, an affinity of sympathy, a unity of will, a oneness of spirit, a reciprocity of affection.

II. ITS OBJECT. "Worship the Lord."

1. He should be worshipped in His sovereign and paternal relationship to us.

2. He should be worshipped in the Tri-unity of His nature. Though it be impossible to give a "positive definition of the distinction between Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, yet this is no sufficient reason for denying the distinction itself, of which the Bible assures us; for reason, when left to herself, sets before us objects concerning which we, indeed, know that they exist, but concerning whose nature we have no positive knowledge. We can only distinguish between them and some false representations, or determine what they are net; but of their intrinsic nature, how they are we have not the slightest knowledge."

3. Man becomes assimilated to the object of his worship. How vastly important, then, that our knowledge of God should be intelligent, correct, scriptural, and true.

III. ITS SPIRIT. "In the beauty of holiness."

1. Reality.

2. Simplicity.

(J. O. Keen, D.D.)

Why do we think that nature is beautiful? Because it is the external world formed by the same hand that made us. We, partakers of the likeness of God, naturally admire our Father's works. We see beauty and divinity in them, and if He hath made the external world beautiful He hath made the human soul also, and devised that it shall be beautiful, like a great and beautiful temple, full of costly and beautiful things, a soul in harmony with itself, a soul in harmony with other souls that seek with it to do God's will, a soul filled with purity, light, gladness, charity, a soul overflowing with the love of God, with love of our fellow men, with the earnest desire to do always the things that are pure and virtuous. Look into such a soul and see how beautiful it is, the marvellous symmetry in the human soul, the marvellous colours, divinely gifted, in the human soul, the marvellous possibilities in the human soul. It is God's wonderful picture, His wonderful dream. God made the human soul, and the beauty of God, the beauty of the Divine conception that was in God's mind is expressed there. What a wonder is a beautiful soul! The soul that has been recognized in this world as transcendently beautiful is the soul of Jesus Christ. It has drawn other souls that had been contaminated with sin, drawn them to itself and transformed them to the glorious image; it has influenced more than anything else that we know the whole mind, the whole movement of the human family. The beauty of the soul of Christ — transcendent, heavenly, bewitching — we gaze upon it, and we say, "whatever divinity may be we cannot tell, but this is divine enough, it is the summation of divinest ideals for us." And gazing thus on the beautiful soul of the Christ, we are drawn up and beautified, filled with His love, transformed to His likeness, made more and more divine in the excellence of that grace which He gives to those souls that seek, for His sweet sake, that love to forsake evil, to put away the deformity, the debasement and the ugliness of vice, and to lay a herd of the Divine ideal, the beauty of Christ, and to worship God through Him and in His likeness, laying our noblest and our best, our best thoughts and our best feelings, and our noblest actions on the high altar of dedication to Him who has invited us in the old words of the psalm to worship Him "in the beauty of holiness."

(A. Bennie, B.D.)

What is this "holiness" which is so beautiful? It is not justice — though it must include justice and have its root in strong integrity. It is not charity — though it must make man charitable with that finer love which not so much denies itself as simply forgets itself. It is not purity, but it is only in the pure soul that holiness can live; and purity which may be as cold as marble, touched by holiness takes on a glow as warm and radiant as the light of heaven. And it is no fancy of mine to make holiness include these things. Do you remember that "holiness" in its original derivation is simply "wholeness," though the words have grown so curiously out of likeness in the spelling? Wholeness — the wholeness and completeness of character! Do you note the great, far-reaching meaning of this? I might figure the complete whole of human character as a pyramid: broad based in bodily power and aptitudes of strength or skill for life's basal work; then, above this the various grades of intellectual faculty; above these, again, the moral with the lofty sense of conscience and right, and, still in these higher reaches of character, those human affections which give a tenderer grace to mere rigid morality; and, then, rising highest of all, capping and crowning all, the apex to the pyramid — religion. As a fact, holiness has come to mean, not all this wholeness, but especially that crowning and completing religious element which makes life "whole" at the higher end of it. And I do not want it taken away from that meaning, but it does want recognizing that the other is included, that for real holiness there must be wholeness; that holiness is not just a little religious element up in the heights of soul, and which may have nothing underneath it, but that it must have strong, full manliness or womanliness underneath it. The holiness that is not based on manly wholeness is not what the world wants. Man's being, in this common work-a-day world, has to be based on capable manhood; man has to have his feet firm on the solid earth. But now the other side of all this wants recognizing also. For that strong manly wholeness to come to any fine worth, there has to be this crowning element of holiness. The manhood that stops at strength, ability, or even intel-lect; the manhood that is not adding to these some crowning grace of earnest religiousness, is a poor truncated manhood. That is the most common trouble to-day. Men — men especially — are too content in life's lower levels. They are strong, busy, capable there, but there they are content to stop. Life never was stronger at its base, but there is too little effort to build it up towards that finest manhood which is "made whole" by genuine, unashamed religion. And life loses immeasurably by this. It loses its highest outlook, its loftiest hopes, and all its noblest spring and power. Life wants to be made whole at the top.

(B. Herford, D.D.)

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