Let your priests be clothed with righteousness; and let your saints shout for joy.
The allusion is to the way in which the priests of God, in discharging their sacred functions, set forth his righteousness in the salvation of his people. The white garment of the priest is the symbol of the clothing of righteousness (see Zechariah 3:3, 4; Revelation 19:8). "Fitting attire, figuring the inner still more glorious attire which they should wear, of holiness and obedience to him whom they serve" ('Speaker's Commentary'). Dr. Bushnell remarks on dress as being the "outward analogon, or figure, of character; dress relates to the form or figure of the body, character to the form or figure of the soul - it is, in fact, the dress of the soul. The option we have in one typifies the grander option we have in the other. The right we have in one, above the mere animals, to choose the color, type, and figure of the outward man, foreshadows the nobler right we also have to cast the mould, fashion or despoil the beauty, of the inward man. On the ground of this analogy it is that the Scriptures so frequently make use of dress to signify what lies in character, and represent character, in one way or another, as being the dress of the soul. Thus they speak of the 'wedding garment,' ' the garment of praise,' that 'of cursing,' that 'of pride;' 'the robe of righteousness,' and 'of judgment,' and 'the white robe,' and 'the best robe' given to the returning prodigal, and 'the robe that has been washed,' and 'judgment put on as a robe,' of 'white raiment' and 'white apparel,' of 'glorious apparel,' of 'filthiness,' or 'righteousnesses that are filthy rags,' of 'filthiness in the skirts;' and, more inclusively and generally still, of being 'clothed with salvation,' 'with strength and power,' 'with humility,' 'with majesty,' 'with shame,' 'with fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints.' All the figures of dress and clothing are used up, in this manner, by the Scriptures, to represent the forms of disgrace and filthiness, or of beauty and glory, into which the inner man of the soul may be fashioned - wearing Heaven's livery, or that of sin. As character is the soul's dress, and dress analogical to character, whatever has power to produce a character when received, is represented as a dress to be put on." In the references of this psalm to the white clothing of the priests, that clothing is said to represent both "righteousness" and "salvation." It may very well be that these are only two terms to represent the same thing, but, at least, they are the same thing seen from different points of view; and we may be right in seeing distinct but related things.
I. THE HOLY CLOTHING OF THE PRIESTS SYMBOLIZES SALVATION. The white garments on the cleansed body were associated with the great sacrificial acts, which bore the closest relation to the recovery, restoration, ceremonial redemption, of the people. At the great Day of Atonement, the symbol of all the Divine salvations, the High priest was required to "put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen miter shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on" (Leviticus 16:4).
II. THE HOLY CLOTHING OF THE PRIESTS SYMBOLIZES RIGHTEOUSNESS. Which is the basis, ground, and condition of salvation on man's side. A man who seeks salvation must want to be what is represented by the priests' white garments. A man who seeks Christ's salvation can never have it unless he wants to be as pure, as righteous, as Christ. The priest can atone for nobody and nothing unless he is, representatively at least, righteous. And nobody can be atoned for unless he is representatively-and in resolute will and purpose - righteous. Man's righteousness is no ground of acceptance with God, but man's wish to be righteous is the condition on which alone a sacrifice can be made for him. So when the restored exiles longed and prayed for the renewal of the glories of David's time, they wanted their priests who represent them clothed with salvation and clothed with righteousness; clothed with righteousness because clothed with salvation, or in order to effect salvation. It will easily be seen how the formal teaching of the "holy clothing" found its spiritual realization in our great High Priest, who, in his righteousness, represents what we would be to the eternal Father, and gains the power and right, through his obedience, sacrifice, and exaltation, to come into our spheres of character, and make us what we would be, and what he is. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.