Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! –Psalm 115:1
The people of Israel express in this praise a disposition that is contrary to their previous actions. Historically, Israel had repeatedly rebelled against God, which led to judgment from God. We see an example of this in Hosea 4:7, “The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame” (Hos. 4:7). This rebellion had at its heart distrust, dissatisfaction, and self-exaltation in the face of a sovereign God.
At the heart of every kind of sin is a root that provides constant growth in every kind of earthly soil. That root is pride. Pride is sin that is the root of all other sin. It was the pride of Adam and Eve that the serpent played on in the Garden. Pride is the essence of all idolatry, dishonesty, immorality, dishonor, covetousness, and discontent. Pride in the heart says, “I am god and I have the authority to assert my own way and will.” These prideful thoughts stand in the heart like a haughty mountain asserting its greatness for all to see. Pride always expresses itself in sin and does not hide itself in any situation. There is no occasion in which a prideful heart is hidden.
The kindergarten classroom, the pastor’s office, the church sanctuary or worship room, and the kitchen are all susceptible places to pride expressed in sin. Because of the fall and our union with Adam from birth, pride is the natural expression of our hearts. As a result, rebellion is the natural action that flows from the broken cistern of pride. In our pride we desire self-exaltation and glory apart from God and even above God.
The greatest hope for our hearts poisoned with the disease of pride is the antidote of the sovereignty of God. God’s sovereignty cripples our pride and destroys the mountain of glory we have built in our hearts. Self-exaltation crumbles at the foot of the mountain of God’s sovereignty. Self-righteousness is laughable in the face of a sovereign and righteous God. But there is also grace immeasurable and love unknown in the God who sovereignly does all that he pleases (Ps. 115:3).
While we stand as our own “sovereigns” doing all that we please, there is no satisfaction found in this self-exaltation. Only when we walk in the shadow of the wings of the all-satisfying Sovereign who reigns in the heavens in majesty and rightful glory will our rebellious hearts be cut down and filled with the joy we all so crave.
The plea in Psalm 115 must become the plea of every Christian. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us.” It is through this humble disposition that is so contrary to our sinful inclinations that we will find joy in communion with God. While pride is the root of all sin, John Chrysostom once remarked, “Humility is the root, mother, nurse, foundation, and bond of all virtue.”
God’s universal rule and reign over all crumbles our pride. The glory of God is an eternally satisfying well we taste in Christ. Our self-exaltation and self-proclaimed glory is a joy-killing falsity. Glory and honor are not found in pride and self-exaltation. Trusting self is not the path to glory. True and lasting glory is ultimately found in the humility of Christ on the cross.
[T]hough he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:6-11)
God has all power to preserve and provide for his church…all creatures are under his control, therefore nothing can frustrate his purposes. Clearly, while chance is ruled out, the faithful can be assured of God’s control–no obstacle can impede his will. –John Calvin
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.