If you like words, I have a treat for you.
Since God uses words to communicate to us, we are interested in words in general and God’s words in particular. These two interests come together in the Psalms, where the psalmists took great care in handling words. Beautiful communication, they reasoned, should be communicated beautifully. As such, you can almost see them searching for just the right word, and they inevitably found it.
Many of us have a short list of words that are right and attractive. Justification does not make the list. Though the underlying image is beautiful, the word itself lacks something. Better are words such as blossom, swan, pernicious, nefarious, intrepid, and growl—which makes the list because it is an onomatopoeia.
Beautiful words leave open the possibility of ugly words, and we have plenty of those. Profanity is ugly, but so is vegetable medley, and pulchritude—though pulchritude gets points for irony. Dollop is borderline.
Then there are other words that are fine but only in their proper place. For example, I once heard banana in a funeral sermon and knew immediately that it was a near immoral placement of the word.
Now for some fine words.
I occasionally pick up John Goldingay’s commentary on the Psalms (Psalms, Vol, 3, Psalms 90-150, Baker Academic, 2008). I think of his commentary as dessert. Not that it is light and fluffy, but that it is an indulgent pleasure. Even some of his titles for the psalms are satisfying.
Psalm 132 catches your attention because it is a conversation between David and the Lord. That alone makes it attractive. But Professor Goldingay’s translation should make you smile. As the Lord concludes his words to David, he promises a future that will include a horn (strength), a flame (clarity and purity), and a crown (regal holiness). For those with eyes to see, Jesus is coming into view.
Look especially at the crown.
There I will make the horn that belongs to David flourish;
I have set up the flame that belongs to my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe in shame,
But upon him his crown will sparkle.
Doesn’t that make you smile? “His crown will sparkle.” If you have ever wanted a visual for the word glory, here it is. The Psalm could have ended with, “upon him will be a good-looking crown,” but the psalmist aimed for something more arresting.
Can you see that crown? Watch it catch the light and sparkle. The picture is now complete—a little understated, as Jesus can be, and perfect.