Splendor and Majesty
The word splendor conjures the idea of beauty and of grandeur. Our God isn’t only comely; He is altogether lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16). In his Treasury of David, Spurgeon wrote regarding the honour and majesty of Yahweh:
Men can but mimic these things; their pompous pageants are but the pretence of greatness. Honour and majesty are with him and with him alone. In the presence of Jehovah real glory and sovereignty abide, as constant attendants.
So we see that God is God above all false gods in the preceding verses, but in verse 6 the psalmist is drawing our attention to His majestic beauty. It isn’t just that God is better than other gods in the sense that He is bigger and more powerful. God is also the standard of beauty and honor to which everything else must be compared. He is not only better than false gods because of His power and strength, but because of His glorious beauty. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder when we are discussing the objective reality of God’s honor! Splendor and majesty are before Him because that is only what is fitting to be before Him!
It is interesting that in Psalm 96:6 splendor is said to be before our Lord, and then in Psalm 96:9, we are told to worship Him in the splendor of holiness. Yet, two different Hebrew words are used here but both are translated as ‘splendor’ in the ESV.
Strength and Beauty
The second half of verse 6 draws our attention back to God’s omnipotent strength yet reinforces his beauty. These are qualities that are in the holy of holies and thus are rightly ascribed to God himself. We find in God’s sanctuary strength in time of weakness and beauty to behold when we begin to see this corrupt world for what it really is. What a respite from this corrupted creation! God’s creation is gorgeous, but can’t you see that it is merely a poor reflection of His resplendent, transcendent beauty? Oh dear saint, when we behold the creation with a sense of awe it ought to evoke an even greater sense of awe toward the Creator who is blessed forever! The creation is but for a moment, but our God is eternal.
Thus we ascribe to God the glory due to His name. His name is worthy of glory and honor. He alone is majestic in holiness. It is our dear Lord Jesus Christ who is the fairest of ten thousand to my soul (Song of Solomon 5:10, The Lily of the Valley Charles W. Fry, 1881). It is a dead type of religion that sees Jesus as savior but not as the beloved, even handsome, bridegroom. What bride looks forward to consummation with her Husband who is not also enraptured by his comeliness? It is a miserable Christian who does not behold our Lord in all His attributes, including His beauty. On the contrary, have you ever noticed how ugly false gods? Look at the strange gods of the Hindu religion or the odd faces of Roman Catholic saints. These temporary gods even fall short of any natural temporary beauty, let alone compared to our great God!
So we declare truths about God among the nations. We proclaim His marvelous excellence, His mighty deeds, and His splendid beauty. In Psalm 96:8 we are reminded that to enter His courts that we must bring an offering. There is no one who can stand in His presence without an offering for the stain and guilt of our sin. But once a person brings a sufficient offering, one prescribed by God in His Word, entering His presence is permitted. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ our Lord who is our offering. He is the only one who once and for all made a sacrifice for sins that is acceptable to God, a fragrant offering indeed!
He Had No Beauty
But notice. Our Lord came in the most unexpected fashion, especially considering the great estate whence he came.
Isaiah 53:2 ESV For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
Do you see that? The God that we worship in the splendor (or beauty) of holiness came down, humbled himself, and became a man. But not only that, Isaiah tells us that he wasn’t even a good-looking man. He had no regal sense about him as a king does, but instead, He came as a humble carpenter’s son. His appearance, rather than like jasper shining in the sun, was unremarkable, even homely. He was everything those who worship the creature rather than the Creator would not notice. It was as if He was becoming everything He wasn’t in order to accomplish His mission.
And is that not what we read? That for our sake he who knew no sin became sin for us? In the humanity of Jesus Christ, we find the culmination of the perfect mind of God so that He might be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ. Jesus never stopped being God, but we cannot forget the absolute necessity of believing that He truly came in the flesh, honestly suffering in the body, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18;1 John 4:2-3).
So when we praise God for His absolute, objective beauty and His almighty omnipotent hand, we also remember His unfathomable and unsearchable humility. The One who ought to be served came to serve. The One who can do no wrong was punished as if He was wrong incarnate. The God who all the families of the peoples are called to worship joined a family of the peoples, suffered, died, and rose again, so that we may enter the family of God. Praise His name today, the name of Jesus Christ!
In part 1 of this series, I challenged anyone reading this to commit to memorizing Psalm 96. I hope if you have not started that endeavor you will start now. If you want my recommended smartphone app for Bible memory: here is a 20% discount code for it.
If you want to hear the sermon I preached on this great Psalm, you can hear it here on my Be A Berean podcast.
See all posts in the Psalm 96 (Yahweh Reigns) series:
Psalm 96: Introduction
Psalm 96:1-2 Sing of His Salvation
Psalm 96:3-5 Worthless Idols
The Shame of Idols
Psalm 96:6-9 The Beauty of Christ
Psalm 96:10 Jesus Reigns!
Psalm 96:10-13 God Will Judge!