“Not Unto Us, But To Your Name Be Glory”
Do you have a life verse? What is the theme of your life? Back when I studied at Moody Bible Institute, we were instructed to pick a life verse. I took a lot of time to choose one for my life. For a long time I struggled because every verse I considered was not broad enough or applicable enough for me to take as my life verse. Finally, I settled on the verse in Psalm 86:11 “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” This verse has served me well over the years. And I do strive to make it a reality in my life.
However, if I were ever to consider adopting another life verse, I think it would be the first verse of Psalm 115. “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.” This verse captures the heart attitude we should have because God has saved us.
The historical background of this Psalm is unclear. Some commentators put this Psalm at the time of Judah’s return from the Babylonian captivity. Others say that it dates from Moses and the deliverance from Egypt. Whatever time frame they put it in, they all seem to see in this first verse a plea for God’s help.
Undeniably this is a powerful plea in prayer. This is a plea that Moses used with God in Exodus 32:11-13 “Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: ‘LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” Joshua also prayed this way after the fiasco at Ai. He said, “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?” Joshua 7:9.
In a real sense, when we close our prayers by saying, “In Jesus’ name,” we are saying, “Lord, we ask you to do this for your Son’s glory alone!” If this reality took hold of our hearts it would revolutionize the way that we pray.
If this is indeed a plea here in Psalm 115, why is it not followed by a specific request for aid? I can’t find one. Do you? Perhaps the Psalmist is simply expressing in song the desire of his heart. Do we only desire to glorify God to get something from Him? I sincerely hope not.
The Psalmist knows the LORD God has delivered him and He has been with him. The Psalmist grew in such a way that he has learned to love the Lord more than he loves himself. He came to the same desire that John the Baptist expressed in John 3:30. “[the Lord Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.”
Remember, it is not so much that we decrease, it is that He increases in our lives. Then there is little room left for us. If we faithfully walk with the Lord and seek Him, we will eventually grow spiritually to this place in our lives.
This suggests another question. Why is it important that he receive all the glory? There are several reasons. First, it is important that we glorify him, because that is the ultimate reason why he saved us. Ephesians 1:11,12 tells us, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” The Lord Jesus Christ saved us in order that we might glorify Him. The ultimate purpose for our existence is to glorify Him. Aiming our lives at glorifying God is also the way to full joy. In the Westminster Shorter Catechism we find this question and answer. “What is the chief end of man?” “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Our joy is the direct result of our glorifying Him.
Second, it is important that we glorify Him because that is the true spirit of our faith. In our natural state we are self-seeking. When we are converted, our self-centeredness is supposed to change. Remember how Paul exhorted the Philippian believers? Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Why do we do what we do in serving Christ? Over the years I have heard several messages on the crowns that we can win by faithfully serving Christ. Still, the greatest honor of all is when we cast those crowns at the Lord’s feet. Revelation 4:10 -11, tells us “The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.’” We want crowns so that we can give them to Jesus! “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory!”
Third, it is vital that we glorify God because it is a sure test of true theology. Charles Spurgeon wisely observed, “This is, to my mind, a test of what is true and what is false. If you meet with a system of theology which magnifies man, flee from it as far as you can. This shall be an infallible test to you concerning anyone’s ministry. If it is man-praising, and man-honoring, it is not of God. The slave said of a certain preacher in America, ‘He do make God so great.’ I would that it might be said of all of us, that our preaching made God great!”
Fourth, it is crucial that we glorify God because He will be glorified either in spite of us or because of us. There is a very important verse found in Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another.” In Numbers 14 after the Children of Israel refused to obey God and go into the land, God swore this oath, “But truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” The Children of Israel refused to glorify God by believing Him and taking the land, so the LORD declared that even in spite of their disobedience He would be glorified.
The Psalmist in this very Psalm gives us two reasons why we should glorify God. First, we should to glorify God because of His loving kindness and truth. These two characteristics of our God are why we are even saved. God has been gracious to us! He has given us what we did not and do not deserve. Can we list some of the blessings that we have by grace? We are justified by grace through faith. Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
We minister by grace. Both the gifts and the opportunities to minister come from God’s grace. Romans 12:6 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith.” Our giving to God is by grace. 2 Corinthians 8:1 “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.” In short, everything we experience in our Christian lives is a product of God’s grace. We only know of this grace through the truth that God has given us.
The second reason the Psalmist in Psalm 115 says we should glorify God is so everyone knows where our God is. “Why should the Gentiles say, ‘So where is their God?’ Because they do not see Him in our lives they ask this question. In 1 John, the Apostle John speaks to how others can see God in us. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.”
Verse 3 of our Psalm, Psalm 115, tells us where our God is. “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.” He is still on the throne in heaven and He is still in control. Is this the attitude of our lives? Is this the attitude of God’s church? Is it the driving thought that governs our conversations with one another? It needs to be! “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth.”