Not many people have robes nowadays – at least , I don’t think they do! It’s a garment associated with authority or magnificence, isn’t it? Our late Queen even had her own Mistress of the Robes, a post which dates back to the 16th century, albeit now it’s more ceremonial than literal.
And this is the language of today’s psalm, which begins: ‘The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty.’ Whilst God is Spirit, many psalms and other scriptures like to imagine God as a physical monarch, with suitable imagery for authority and magnificence. ‘Robed in majesty’ is a wonderful, evocative phrase, but it’s no mere window dressing (pardon the pun). In this short psalm, we’re invited to sample the evidence for God’s majesty.
First, there’s our earth. A stable planet, which even the ancients knew to be ‘firm and secure’. I love playing records, and am always surprised to discover how many of my collection are older than I am. I can take out a piece of black plastic that’s still in pristine condition aged 60 – if only that would be true of me in time to come!
But these silly human comparisons pale when compared to the age of the earth. People often quote modern understandings of the age of the earth – approx 4 billion years – as being an argument against God. But here the psalmist – 3,000 years ago, remember – uses it as an argument in favour of God. He made something that can last 4 billion years. Puts every empire, every construction, every piece of human ingenuity into the shade, doesn’t it?
Then there’s his throne, which is likewise established ‘long ago’. Whilst we can’t point to a literal throne, we know that God’s authority has been seen in his dealings with our world for thousands of years – God has been God for as long as humans have existed. God is, as the psalm says, ‘from all eternity.’
Next, there are the seas – which in ancient thought symbolised all the forces of chaos and darkness. But in this marvellous poetic image, even the seas ‘have lifted up their voice’, because God is mightier than even the greatest waves. In other words, even the strongest force in nature is as nothing compared to the greatness of God.
Finally, there are God’s ‘statutes’ – that is, his laws and promises. These, too, stand firm. There is an air of permanence about everything God does, and his character (his ‘holiness’) does not change.
In our shifting times, our uncertain world, how good it is to reflect on the unchanging majesty, might and authority of God. It is this God into whose loving hands we place ourselves today, and this week. And may that thought give us the confidence of hope, the strength of joy and the peace that passes understanding today.
Father thank you that you are robed in majesty. I lift my voice to you, even as the great waves do. Help me to stand firm and secure upon the rock of your promises. Abide with me today. Amen.