What draws David’s delight is that God’s people are set apart for his purposes. These people reflect, however imperfectly, the majesty and glory and beauty of God’s own holiness. Henry Scougal once said, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” And so, David looks upon those who love God, he sees their worth and excellence, the majesty of their souls, and he says, “These are my people, and I love them.”
Tucked away in Psalm 16 is a shocking statement:
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. (Psalm 16:3)
“All my delight?” Could King David mean that? Could he really mean that all of his delight is in the people of God? He could. He says the saints are “the excellent ones.” This word is an important word, found throughout the Bible. Elsewhere it is translated as majestic.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1)
So then, as the name of the Lord is majestic and excellent, so the people who bear that name are majestic and excellent.
Ordinary and Majestic
This word for majestic (or excellent) can also be translated as mighty or noble. It’s often linked to glory, power, and magnificence. Mountains, ocean waves, massive cedars, great cities — all of these are described in the Bible as majestic. When used of people, the word often refers to princes, rulers, and lords, those who have official positions of authority over others.
David Mathis explores the meaning of this biblical term as applied to God:
In our language, as in biblical terms, the word captures not only greatness but also goodness, both bigness and beauty, awesome power together with pleasant admiration.
God’s people have a kind of grandeur about them, one that calls forth awe and wonder from David. Such grandeur may not be visible physically, but, as C.S. Lewis reminds us, someday it will be. “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship” (The Weight of Glory, 45).
When Dante encounters the apostles Peter and James in Paradise, he bows down before these “great and glorious princes.” After an encouragement from his guide Beatrice, he raises up his eyes “unto those mountains that had bowed them” (Paradiso, canto 25, lines 38–39). Dante, like David, is awed and delighted by the saints, who are as majestic as mountains.
Mankind and My Odd Neighbor
It’s important to note that David doesn’t delight in the saints merely as they will appear in glory; he delights in the saints “in the land.” In other words, these are real people, on earth, at the present time. How easy it is to love mankind in general, and yet how difficult to love particular individuals. As the old joke says, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.” The Christian variation of this is to love what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “the visionary ideal of community” (Life Together, 27).