1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Ever since I was a little kid, I have always loved sports – not just watching them, but especially playing them. And when I went off to college the first time I discovered a whole new world of sports that really fueled my competitive juices. It was called intramurals. Whether it was flag football or basketball, tennis or ping pong, bowling or handball, I so looked forward to these athletic contests, always hoping of course to experience the thrill of victory rather than the agony of defeat. Now when it came to the team sports, typically you signed up and those in charge assigned you to a team. But during my final year at the seminary they made an exception to that rule and we were allowed to assemble our own teams which I thought was great because the 2 guys I hung out with the most were excellent basketball players and together we thought we would be unbeatable. As far as we were concerned, the intramural basketball championship of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN was ours for the taking. Why, so certain were we of victory that we felt it was almost pointless to even play the season out for who could possibly beat us? You want to know the answer to that question? Of course you do. I wish I could say NOBODY could beat us, but as things turned out, EVERYBODY beat us. I don’t think we won a single game that season. And after each loss we would get together in one of our apartments and try to figure out what we were doing wrong. Now that I’m more mature I know what we were doing wrong.
It had to do with Prov. 16:18 which says: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” We certainly found out what that feels like and maybe you have too because when we talk about pride, we’re talking about one of the biggest root problems we human beings have. You see, from early childhood on we are programmed because of our sinful nature to think that it’s all about me. What is one of the first words out of a baby’s mouth? It’s the word “Mine!” And the older we get, the more we want things to go our way. The more we want to be recognized for what we do. The more we place ourselves and our needs and our desires ahead of everyone else’s. It’s all about me.
But my friends, that way of thinking is dangerous not just because of the problems it can create in a home, a family, a church, a work place, but also because it flies in the face of what God teaches us in the Bible. OK – so if it’s not about me, then who or what is it about? Well, the Bible answers that question from a thousand and one different angles, but no matter how you look at it, it all boils down to the same answer. And that is it’s all about God and it’s all about his glory. It’s all about the revelation of himself and his character. So this morning we’re going to spend some time talking about the important subject of God’s glory. That’s our worship word for today.
And perhaps the best place to begin is by defining exactly what is meant by that term. I would suggest to you this morning that God’s glory is his preeminence. Now that’s a word you don’t hear a lot these days. If you’ll notice, it contains the word “eminence” which is a term of respect that is usually reserved for royalty or someone who has a lot more power and authority than what we have. For example, if you were in London and you had the opportunity to be in the presence of the queen, you might bow or curtsy before her and address her as “Your Eminence.” If you were in the Vatican and you met the pope, it would be very appropriate to refer to him as “Your Eminence.” “Eminence” comes from the Latin word emineo which means to jut out, to be high, to be lofty. “Your Eminence” is a high and lofty term of respect. It’s what Marilyn says to me every morning we wake up. She says, “Good morning, your Eminence.” Not really! She actually says, “Good morning, your Eminence, Sir!”
So eminence is a term of respect. Preeminence refers to that which is higher than the eminent, that which was eminent before anything else was eminent. When we speak of God’s glory then we are speaking of his preeminence, his loftiness, his highness, his spectacularness. When we say, “To God be the glory,” we are acknowledging that he is higher than anyone or anything else. We are saying that he alone deserves a place on the winner’s platform. He alone should receive all the gold medals, all the championship trophies, all the accolades.
King David does a great job of expressing this in the 29th Psalm, but I want to read his words to you out of the version of the Bible known as The Message. It will sound a little different than what we’re accustomed to hearing because it’s a very contemporary paraphrase of the Bible, but I love what it does with this psalm. Listen: “Bravo, God, bravo! Gods and all angels shout, ‘Encore!’ In awe before the glory, in awe before God’s visible power. Stand at attention! Dress your best to honor him! God thunders across the waters. Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness – God, across the flood waters. God’s thunder tympanic, God’s thunder symphonic. God’s thunder smashes cedars, God topples the northern cedars…God’s thunder spits fire. God thunders, the wilderness quakes; He makes the desert of Kadesh shake. God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing, a wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches. We fall to our knees – we call out, “Glory!”
I don’t know about you, but when I read something like that, I want to fall to my knees in humble awe and adoration of the One whom David is writing about there. Having seen all that God can do, David says there’s only one word that can capture how he and his people feel, and that is the word “Glory.” That, by the way, is an interesting word. It comes from a Hebrew word that means heavy or weighty. The image it conveys is similar to something Marilyn and I have seen on some of our vacations to the mountains. It’s not unusual for very heavy and weighty clouds to come over the mountain peaks and just settle on those peaks and remain there for long periods of time. When we saw that the first time it reminded me of what we heard before in our Old Testament reading, how God’s glory descended on Mt. Sinai in a cloud with flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.
So to reveal God’s glory is to reveal his heaviness, his weightiness, his presence that is so high and exalted that not even the heavens can hold it. And for us to say “Glorify Thy name” as we will sing in our next hymn, is to say, “Lord, take us to another level in understanding how great you are, how strong you are, how magnificent you are. Show us again what matters most to you so that it might matter most to us.” So God’s glory is his preeminence.
Then secondly, God’s priority is the revelation of his glory. Listen, my friends, if God had staff meetings with his angels in heaven, the one question God would want to consider would be: “How can we reveal my glory today?” I guarantee you that these questions would not surface: “How can we make Doug Meyer more comfortable today? How can we pamper him? How can we make him stand out more than those around him?” Rather, the one issue that God is concerned with more than any other is, “How can I reveal my glory?” Need proof of that? Consider what the Bible says.
Do you know why the heavens exist and all that is in them? Ps. 19:1 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Do you know why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart during the 10 plagues? In Ex. 14:4 God says: “I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army.” Do you know what the psalmist told his audience to do in Ps. 96? “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.” Do you know why Jesus turned water in wine at the wedding of Cana? John 2:11 says: “He thus revealed his glory.” Everything that God does he does to reveal his glory.
Now about this time a nagging question may begin to surface in your mind. And that question is: Don’t we call this desire to reveal and receive glory self-centeredness or egotism? I mean, for God to be so obsessed with his own glory, isn’t that a bit arrogant, a bit self-promoting? Why is he so concerned about his glory being revealed? I would submit to you this morning that it is for the same reason that the captain of a lifeboat is concerned that sinking swimmers know where he is. Let me explain.
I want you to imagine that you are on the Titanic and this supposedly unsinkable ship has just sunk. There you are floating in the ocean. The water is freezing. Your energy is waning. But you know that somewhere in the foggy vicinity there is a lifeboat and you know that on that lifeboat is a sailor who can rescue you. Now what do you want that sailor to do? Do you want him to be quiet? Do you want him to be bashful and reserved, to not say anything for fear of coming across as a little presumptuous or bold? Of course not! Rather, you want him to declare his position. You want him to announce: “I am here. I’m strong enough to save you. I have room in my boat for you. Call out to me and I’ll find you and rescue you.” You know what you really want that sailor to do? You want him to declare his glory, to stand out above all others, to reveal his strength and his ability to save.
And that, my friends, is why God is so passionate about his glory being revealed. So that those of us who are sinking in the sea of our sins will know who he is and reach out to him for help and cling to the greatest instrument of rescue the world has ever seen and that he holds out to us, and that is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. So understand, my friends, that God has no ego problems. He does not glorify himself for his own sake. Rather he does it for our sake.
And that takes us to one more thing I want to mention and that is if God’s glory is his preeminence and God’s priority is the revelation of his glory, do you know what that says to us? It says that our purpose in life is to glorify God. You and I have been created and put here on this earth for one reason and that is to lift God up, to make him known, to proclaim his love, his power, his majesty. Every breath you take is given to you by God so that you might glorify him. The job you work at? He gave you that so that you might glorify him there. The children you have? He’s given you them so that you might glorify him by how you raise them. That paycheck you bring home from your job? He gives you that money so that you might use it in ways that glorify him. The sickness you have, the burden you’re carrying right now, the challenges you’re facing? He’s allowed them to come into your life in order that you might glorify him through how you handle them. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in I Cor. 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
So to borrow an analogy from our solar system, we are the moon; God is the sun. Remember the difference between the two? The sun has its own inherent energy source and projects its own light and heat. The moon, on the other hand, is just a big rock in the sky with what looks like acne scars. But on a dark night that moon appears beautiful because it is simply content to reflect the light and glory of the sun.
That’s our job, my friends, to reflect the glory of God in all that we do. As Jesus once put it: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
So this week, as we go about our daily tasks, let’s remember that it’s not about me. It’s not about you. Instead, it’s all about God and the revelation of his glory. And that, by the way, is why worship is so important because sometime between Sunday and Saturday we forget that and those self-centered, self-promoting tendencies begin to take over again. But worship re-positions us. It reminds us that God alone deserves center stage and that what he wants is what matters most. So to him – to this great, wonderful, awesome, mighty, and majestic God – be all the glory both now and forever.