[L]et your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation
and let your godly ones rejoice in what is good.
2 Chronicles 6:41b (NASB)
This was one of the more interesting verses in the passage I read for my quiet time (devotions) earlier this week. What does it mean, “let your priests … be clothed with salvation”?
First, I think it helps to avoid reading New Testament terminology into this verse. In the New Testament epistles “salvation” nearly always refers to eternal deliverance from hell. In the Old Testament, it was more likely to be referring to a practical, temporal deliverance from concrete, earthly peril. David, on the run from his enemies, might pray, “Save me, God”, meaning simply, “Keep me safe from the people who are trying to kill me.”
Next, this is a petition to God, not an exhortation to people. The second part of the verse, for instance, isn’t saying, “OK, all you godly people listening to my prayer, be sure you rejoice in what is good!” In fact, I don’t even think it is saying, “God, help us to have the right attitude, to rejoice in what is good.” I don’t think it is focused on the attitude of God’s people at all, but on the blessings of God. Solomon is praying, “God, give us something to rejoice in. Surround us with your goodness so that we can celebrate it.” That fits the context of the chapter – this is part of a prayer by Solomon that God would hear and answer the sincere prayers of His people.
Similarly, being clothed with salvation is not a duty in this verse, but a request. They are not promising to clothe themselves with salvation; they are asking God to clothe them with it.
Third, the two phrases may very well be parallel; i.e., they may be expressing the same basic thought in two different ways. That is, it is likely that “let your priests be clothed with salvation” has the same fundamental meaning as “let your godly ones rejoice in what is good”. Solomon says,
let those who belong to you (priests / godly ones)
have your blessings (of salvation / of goodness)
surround them (clothed with it / rejoicing in it)
If this is correct, then a priest being clothed with salvation meant being surrounded by God’s constant presence as his deliverer, wrapped around him like a garment throughout the day.
Finally, even though the focus of the petition is on God’s blessing and not human gratefulness or rejoicing, I think there is a secondary aspect of the verse – a kind of echo of the primary thought – that those who are depending on God for everything welcome His salvation and His goodness with open arms. They rejoice in it; they clothes themselves in it. So there is, after all, a part of this that refers to human response to God’s goodness.
There are a lot of things in the Old Testament that do not apply directly to us as New Testament believers, but the principles in this verse – God’s goodness, our dependence on it, and the joy we can have in knowing He is faithful – apply equally well to our own times. We can think of ourselves as wrapped in salvation in both the Old and New Testament senses. In fact, I think the verse in Ephesians 6 about arming ourselves with “the helmet of salvation” has very much the same idea behind it.
I am trying to learn to trust God more with my daily responsibilities and concerns. I love the idea that I can ask God to wrap His deliverances around me like a mantle.