Yesterday the daily Bible reading I receive by email began with Psalm 93. “The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.” A few lines later I read “Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!” That wasn’t the passage I had planned to use with Mighty Majesty (my notes had Psalm 145:12), but I decided the timing made it a good choice.
I found myself wondering, as I read the first two lines, why the phrase “he is robed” was repeated. From what I understand about Hebrew (purely secondhand, from my husband’s studies in seminary), repetition is used to emphasize a point. I can understand using such emphasis on the majesty of God, or His might. But why the emphasis on “he is robed”?
I suppose the best way to understand this would be to learn more about the Hebrew word translated as “robed” and its uses in various contexts. I might be able to figure out something using my husband’s interlinear Bible and Strong’s concordance. But while I can do that reasonably well with Greek words in the New Testament, I find it harder to deal with the Hebrew, where I keep forgetting I have to read from right to left.
In any case, I found myself thinking about the possible significance of the word without having done any word study on it. If this were about a human king being robed with majesty, I would think it might have to do with the exceptional beauty of his garments, or perhaps an oblique hint at the fact that under the robes he is like the rest of us, and it is the robes and the office they signify that set him apart, rather than his own inherent qualities.
But of course with God it is quite the opposite. It is God’s own inherent qualities that set Him apart from us, and any reference to robes is purely metaphorical. To my ears, it sounds strange to emphasize the metaphor, rather than the real majesty with which God is metaphorically robed.
Then I started asking myself, what exactly is majesty? Is that also a metaphor? I associate the word with royalty, with the pomp and riches associated with royalty, and with the sense of grandeur produced by panoramic vistas such as the Grand Canyon, snow-capped mountain ranges, and star-studded skies. (And also by hearing a pipe organ played by a skilled musician in a large and beautiful church.)
God is King, but I’m not sure whether to say that is literally true or metaphorically. He is rich in that He ultimately owns everything, and He is due all the pomp we can imagine and more. But the mental images that come to my mind when I sing hymns about God’s majesty are borrowed from ceremonies involving human kings or other highly placed leaders.
The majesty I see in nature seems to come closest to reflecting God’s majesty without comparison to human monarchs. But even there I am trying to extrapolate from something familiar and more or less tangible (I’ve never actually touched a snow-capped peak, or any of the Grand Canyon past the scenic lookouts designated for tourists, and certainly nothing I see in the night sky – with the exception of the occasional jet plane) to the transcendant and intangible.
Of course that’s true with virtually everything we can think of or say about God. When we say He is mighty, we think of strong people and strong armies and we extrapolate to the idea of a Being of unlimited might. His might is of an altogether different nature, as it requires only His will, while we can exercise power only by means of some tool (whether our own bodies, inanimate objects, or other people).
Perhaps it is that contrast between human characteristics and divine attributes which is at the heart of this Psalm’s message. A web page on the song “Majesty” by Jack Hayford says that “The word majesty describes a reflected part of God’s nature that emphasizes how different our Creator is from us.” Even with human royalty, all the robes and pomp and circumstance are designed to highlight how the king (or queen) is elevated above the common people.
I found this hymn, based (at least in part) on Psalm 93, at this website (which I bookmarked for future searches for hymns based on Scripture passages). I don’t recognize the hymn from singing it in church, but I know the tune Regent Square (best known to many people for the Christmas words more often sung to it: Angels from the Realms of Glory). These words and that music together make an excellent hymn of praise to God’s Mighty Majesty.
God, the Lord, a King remaineth,
Robed in His own glorious light;
God hath robed Him and He reigneth;
He hath girded Him with might.
God is King in depth and height.