“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.” (Psalm 96:9)
The book of Psalms is the largest in the Bible, and one of the richest in its form and content. At its core is an array of poems and proclamations of worship, all with a singular love and awe of God. This psalm allows us to prepare our minds and bodies for praise, focus together on worshipping in His presence, and look ahead to how that prepares us for a life of righteousness and holiness here and in heaven.
#1 Worshipping in the Beauty of Holiness
What does it mean to worship in “the beauty of holiness”? The Hebrew text is actually better translated as “adornment.” In ancient times, the priests were instructed to wear a particular set of garments for their work in the temple. Those garments were set apart, or holy, by their craftsmanship and by their purpose. The priests were required to wash their bodies before and after wearing them.
The key here is not the garments themselves, but what they represent. Earlier in the psalm, we are commanded to sing to God in praise (Psalm 96:1) and to ascribe glory and honor to His Name (Psalm 96:7). His presence is so much greater than we can comprehend, and He is the source of everything good and beautiful in creation (Psalm 96:6).
#2 Welcomed with the Body in Holiness
But we cannot worship Him by ourselves. We are also commanded here to worship with other believers. During the Old Testament, the children of Israel were considered the chosen people of the God Who revealed Himself as Yahweh (Deuteronomy 7:6). However, they were not released from common courtesy and care toward the other nations (Leviticus 19:34).
The surrounding people, usually called Gentiles throughout the Bible, were to be respected and protected by the Lord’s direct command. Although God’s unique favor rested upon Israel, He would occasionally use people from other nations and cultures as instruments of His will and recipients of His grace.
The phrases “all the earth” and “the nations” are mentioned twice apiece in this psalm alone, and the command to honor God is given to the “kindreds of the people,” which includes people from every nation and tongue. We are all to worship God together and to recognize Him as Lord and Creator over all the earth.
#3 Walking in the Benefits of Holiness
This is not mere lip service or empty praise; we are called to put that love into action in our daily lives. We are to continually praise Him and tell others about His salvation (Psalm 96:2). We are to proclaim His righteous judgments to everybody, not just our fellow believers (Psalm 96:10). After all, a life of devotion is the only acceptable sacrifice for everything He has done for us (Romans 12:1).
#4 Worldwide Broadcasting of His Holiness
And we are not alone in singing the praises of God. The heavens and the earth, the sea and the sky, the trees and all living things are called to proclaim His goodness and shout for joy (Psalm 96:11-12). When Jesus Himself was rebuked by the Pharisees for the adulation He was receiving, He answered that if the people were silenced, the rocks themselves would cry out (Luke 19:40). The apostle Paul would later recognize that the world that God created is a living, breathing, and actively speaking testimony to His power and might (Romans 1:20). He would also argue that the whole universe is waiting for God’s ultimate redemption and restoration from its fallen state, and that we as Christians have the same longing within us for God’s perfect, holy presence (Romans 8:18-27).
#5 Waiting for the Brilliance of Holiness
This psalm ends with an eye toward the future, lending it an air of prophecy amidst the worship and praise. The final verse is a cry that anxiously awaits God’s return to judge the world and receive His children (Psalm 96:13).
Many of the books of prophecy contain oracles like this that look past the judgment and condemnation and call for the time when the punishment has been fulfilled and God’s mercy will find its perfect expression. The book of Revelation begins with words of encouragement from Jesus Himself in the passages containing letters to several of the early churches (Revelation 2-3). Those churches are congratulated for their faithfulness, admonished for their shortcomings, encouraged to trust in Him, and promised a blessing for their perseverance.
This world is a mere shadow of the brightness and glory of heaven. We can only experience God in a partial and imperfect way in this life (1 Corinthians 13:12), but we will gaze upon His splendor when we stand before Him renewed. For now, psalms like this as a glimpse into the beauty we will one day behold in fullness. We can put on that garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3) and tell others about the holiness and righteousness of God as faithful witnesses to His salvation (Matthew 28:19-20).
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.