Wednesday, June 29, 2016

PSALM 96 continued...

"the beauty of holiness" 


Okay, these verses contain the whole of my Christian understanding
and what my life is based upon.
It is like the peak of the highest mountain that can possibly be climbed.
So sit and rest and enjoy the view.  Hopefully you will see things you have not seen before.

First is the warm-up verse...


"Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts."
(verse 7)
Ascribe can also mean give.  But in one sense it is as the old hymn says, "Nothing in my hands I bring, but only to the cross I cling."  Or even more simply, the old poem by Christina Rosetti, "What can I give Him poor as I am? ...Give Him my heart.  One commentator even suggested  this word for offering is that our gift is bloodless, as contrary to the sacrificial system because the Lamb of God once and for all made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Thus, what we bring is a different kind of gift.

Adam Clarke says, "It is a debt; and a debt, in equity, must be paid.  The honour due His name is to acknowledge Him to be holy, just, true, powerful..Defraud not His name of the least honour...Approach not before the Lord empty, as the Jews were commanded, to which the prophet alludes: They had their sacrifices, and we also have our spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...These are the sacrifices of a contrite heart; bring these when you enter into His courts..."

If we skip over the main verse that I want to examine, verse 9, look ahead at verse 10...
"Say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns...'"

In the most ancient versions, it reads something like, "'Say among the nations, the Lord ruleth by the wood,' meaning the cross.  Justin Martyr accuses the Jews of having blotted out this word out of their Bibles, because of the evidence it gave of the truth of Christianity.  It appears it did exist anciently in the Septuagint; or at least in some ancient copies of that works. ..The reading is still extant in the ancient Ronan Psalter, and in some others, 'The Lord reigns by the wood of the cross.'  My old Scottico-Latin Psalter...seems to refer to it in the paraphrase: 'For Criste regned efter the dede on the crosse.'" (Adam Clarke) (For Christ reigned after His death on the cross is my paraphrase.)  I think it is beautiful reading, "the Lord ruleth by the wood."


So as "Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary...we are to 'Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;" and to "Bring an offering, and come into His courts."  Our offering is clinging to His rule by the wood, to His cross to cling.   This is why the later part of verse 9 says, "Tremble before Him, all the earth."

But here's the jewel, verse 9
"O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
The whole world and the garden was a picture of perfect beauty in Creation.  In the Beginning even Adam and Eve were the climax of His glorious creativity, that is, before the Fall.  The Fall began to smudge, taint, stain this beauty.  Until heaven we will not see the perfection of what God intended for us.  However, in this life there is this mystery of a call to worship in the beauty of holiness.  It is a reflection upon Whom we worship.  However, it is also a call, an order to us to worship somehow by joining and even being  "IN the beauty of holiness."  How can we come into His presence otherwise?  This is where all of Christianity has had its tug of war with dirty rags or perfection of heart. 

In the Old Testament, this could only be pictured by the putting on of the specially clean robes with ornaments of the High Priest who would enter into the Holy of Holies once a year.  Yet this Psalm was written some think upon the occasion of David bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to the Temple to reside in the Holy of Holies.  

Charles Simeon says, "The ark was a very eminent type of that adorable word; who in due time became flesh and dwelt among us.  God dwelt in a bright cloud, the Shechinah, the visible symbol of His presence...Even the vail of the temple itself was to be rent in twain to approach the very mercy-seat of the Most High.  To this David here invites the Gentile world;  Not David himself would have dared to enter into the sanctuary which was then standing, into the 'holy place'...The tabernacle and the temple are indeed long since swept away; nor is there in existence a vessel that belonged to either.  But if the symbol of God's presence is removed, is God Himself therefore gone?...What was there in the temple of old which we do not possess?...What we enjoy as far excels in beauty and in holiness all that they possessed."

John Wesley says: "Beauty-Clothed with all the gifts and graces which are necessary in God's worship."

In Isaiah we see the prophet struggling with worshipping with this impossibility,
"I saw the Lord sitting on a throne,
lofty and exalted,
with the train of His robe filling the temple.
Seraphim stood above Him...And one called out to another and said,
"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory...
Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of hosts.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me,
with a burning coal in his hand
which he had taken from the altar with tongs.
And he touched my mouth with it and said,
'Behold, this has touched your lips;
and your iniquity is taken away,
and your sin is forgiven."
(Isaiah 6:1-3, 5-6)  

This is the beauty of holiness that a purifying fire can cleanse our lips to worship.  Nothing of works but a giving of our  hearts which God purifies to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Joseph Coute, 1874 wrote,

"Shall I call holiness an attribute?  Is it not rather the glorious combination of all His attributes into one perfect whole...combine in the dazzling white radiance of His holiness.  This, therefore,
is rather the intense whiteness, purity, clearness, the infinite lustre and splendor of His perfect nature, like a gem without a flaw...that it is so frequently associated with the Divine Beauty...Beauty is a combination of elements according to the laws of harmony;...How high and glorious, therefore must be the beauty of this attribute which is the combination of all His infinite perfections...the image of God is clear and pure in the human heart."

Leigh Richmond, 1772-1827 wrote,
"Whatever we can understand as meant by the beauty of holiness, we can see is the attributes of God, whether we consider them in all their harmony...There is a holy separation, a beautiful character of character, feelings and conduct; these are all the various fruits and graces; and so the man becomes beautiful in holiness."
Personally, I am a visual person.  I love, love, love beauty that God has created, love it like an addiction.  However, in people, there is a falseness when beauty is only skin-deep.  There is no true beauty unless it is inward as well as outward.  It makes no sense to me and is sad to see Christians attack the concept of holiness as if it is a false claim by believers by denying the beauty of holiness in His people.  It is only by the grace of God, and is a gift which the majority of Christianity refuses to accept.  It is the contrast of "the rule of the wood," the ugly horror of the cross to the beauty of holiness which it made possible. 

If God calls us to worship in the beauty of holiness,
He can cleanse us, purify us to make it possible.  It only takes a willing heart
and a belief that it is possible.
"There is a peculiar beauty about godly old age,
the beauty of holiness."
Alexander Smith
"God took out all that was not patient and kind,
and came and shut Himself in."

"Let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands with all my heart whatever that is."
Elisabeth Elliot

"He does not want a girl who trifles with Christianity,
He wants a woman who is radically given to Christ. 
He does not want a girl who prays tepid, lukewarm prayers. 
He wants a woman who lives in defiance of the powers of hell. 
He does not want a girl who is self-adorning with the latest fashion and trends. 
He wants a woman who is adorned with the inner jewelry of Christ--given holiness."
Leslie Ludy

"He disciplines us for our good,
that we may share in His holiness."
Hebrews 12:10

Come share His holiness!

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