And let the beauty of the LORD our God be on us: and establish you the work of our hands on us; yes…
I. THE YEARNING AND LONGING CRY OF THE MORTAL FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE ETERNAL. The word translated "beauty" is, like the Greek equivalent in the New Testament, and like the English word "grace," which corresponds to them both, susceptible of a double meaning. "Grace" means both kindness and loveliness, or, as we might distinguish, both graciousness and gracefulness. And that double idea is inherent in the word, as it is inherent in the attribute of God to which it refers. So the "beauty of the Lord" means, by no quibble, but by reason of the essential loveliness of His lovingkindness, both God's loveliness and God's goodness; God's graciousness and God's (if I may use such a word) gracefulness. The prayer of the psalmist that this beauty may be "upon" us conceives of it as given to us from above and as coming floating down from Heaven, like that white Dove that fell upon Christ's head, fair and meek, gentle and lovely, and resting on our anointed heads, like a diadem and an aureole of glory. Now, that communicating graciousness, with its large gifts and its resulting beauty, is the one thing that we need in view of mortality and sorrow and change and trouble. And then, note further, that this gracious gentleness and longsuffering, giving mercy of God, when it comes down upon a man, makes him, too, beautiful with a reflected beauty. If the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, it will cover over our foulness and deformity.
II. THE CRY OF THE WORKER IN A FLEETING WORLD FOR THE PERPETUITY OF HIS WORK. "Establish," or make firm, "the work of our hands upon us," etc. Our work will be established if it is His work. This prayer in our text follows another prayer (ver. 16) — namely, "Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants." That is to say, my work will be perpetual when the work of my hands is God's work done through me. When you bring your wills into harmony with God's will, and so all your effort, even about the little things of daily life, is in consonance with His will, and in the line of His purpose, then your work will stand. If my will runs in the line of His, and if the work of my hands is "Thy work," it is not in vain that we shall cry, "establish it upon us," for it will last as long as He does. In like manner, all work will be perpetual that is done with "the beauty of the Lord our God" upon the doers of it. Whosoever has that grace in his heart, whosoever is in contact with the communicating mercy of God, and has had his character in some measure refined and ennobled and beautified by possession thereof, will do work that has in it the element of perpetuity. And our work will stand if we quietly leave it in His hands. Quietly do it to Him, never mind about results, but look after motives. Be sure that they are right, and if they are, the work will be eternal. Just as a drop of water that falls upon the moor, finds its way into the brook, and goes down the glen and on into the river, and then into the sea, and is there, though undistinguishable, so in the great summing up of everything at the end the tiniest deed that was done for God, though it was done far away up amongst the mountain solitudes where no eyes saw, shall live and be represented in its effects on others and in its glad issues to the doer.
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.