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
Once upon a time in another life, I was a disc jockey. This was back in pre-historic days when live radio announcers played music from vinyl records. My parents did not much like the music we played on the station where I worked, and I did not much like the music they preferred. Playlists on personal music devices hadn't been invented yet. But if they existed, we would have had very different playlists.
Many churches have either been through or are going through some controversy about the style of music that will be sung in their worship assemblies. Some people have a strong preference for the old hymns, while others would like more contemporary songs. The old words and phrases, so dear to old hearts, are strange to young ears.
Could any song be appropriate for everyone in every situation of life? I like to think of Psalm 115 as A Song For All Seasons. I hope you will agree, after you read and think about it with me.
The first people who prayed and sang this psalm were believers surrounded by unbelievers who mocked their God. The believers asked God to show his power, not for their own sake, but for his glory. Perhaps modesty or shame restrained them from asking God to demonstrate his power to validate their faith to the neighbors. Maybe a strong sense of unworthiness about their own lives kept them from asking.
I believe this psalm could help us when we’re discussing spiritual matters with our associates. We must guard against a selfish desire to prove ourselves right and others wrong. Maybe we’re ashamed when our faith is belittled and mocked by the surrounding culture. In such circumstances, our prayer should not be for our vindication, but rather for the illumination of the people around us. We should want them to see God's glory, not to tell us we were right about him. I fear that my prayers too often focus on my safety and comfort than God's glory. When people disagree with our profession of faith, my flesh wants to retaliate and win the debate, but my spirit needs to be praying for God's glory.
But this song would help in so many seasons of life, not just when we’re oppressed by unbelievers. Let's notice a few more settings where we should be singing, "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory!"
This is a good song for newborn babes in Christ who are deeply conscious of their own sinfulness as they stand in awe of the grace that saved them. There's no hint of arrogant self-righteousness in this song. They see and ask God to see more of his glory because of the grace that saved them.
It's excellent for young followers of Christ who live in a season of decision-making about their career and future. Their decisions will plot their course and shape their lives. it would be so good if their primary concern was for God’s glory.
It's good for preachers, when our tradition and even the architecture of the building where we preach focuses attention on us. Those lights, that microphone and all those attentive listeners might make us think too highly of ourselves. We could easily seek our own glory instead of God's alone.
Are you a mature Christian? This is good for you as well, as you look back over successes and victories you have experienced. You realize that God has protected you and kept you from evil, and all the glory for it belongs to him. And this is a good song for a dying believer who realizes the necessity of depending on God's mercy and faithfulness as life grows short and death draws near.
See why I think of this psalm as a Psalm For All Seasons? How about one more? We’ll sing with more fervor than ever before when we are in the throng of the redeemed ones in glory. We will sing about God's glory with no boast or sense of entitlement about being there. When we see him and bask in the brightness of his light forever, we can sing with the angels, "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory." Let's be there together, and we'll sing out loud.