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!
Not to us, not to us … . Such a phrase may indeed be needed for the poetry in Hebrew to sound the way the author wanted it to sound. But in the providence of God the repetition of this opening phrase of the Psalm is one of the most needed messages to all people, including believing Christians today.
Not to us. We are so prone to want to gravitate attention to ourselves. What we need to be reminded of is that if the attention is to get to us then it will not go to the One who really deserves it. It will be denied in many circles in the evangelical camp, but there is a palpable arrogance among those who call themselves Bible believing Christians.
The reason why the opening phrase of Psalm 115 is repeated is because we need to be constantly reminded not to grab for the glory that belongs to God alone. How do we know what glory belongs to God and what belongs to us? It is a pretty complicated formula, so pay close attention – God should get it all, you should get none.
There is hardly a believer who wouldn’t agree with such a statement and there is hardly a believer who wouldn’t defend his own arrogance. We say things like “that’s not pride, that’s the wise use of our gifts”, “this is simply an accurate appraisal of the situation”. “That’s not arrogance, it is just a matter of being right.” Jesus taught us things that serve as arrogance meters. Consider the following:
1) Matthew 6:1-17 – When you do good for others, or pray, or fast, don’t let others know you are doing it. Corporate prayer and fasting and charity work are not wrong, but can you do these things and be content to let no one know about them?
2) Luke 14:7-11 – When you are invited to a banquet, take a seat in an inconspicuous spot. Don’t be anxious to be seen with prominent people
3) Luke 14:12-14 – When you hold a banquet invite those who cannot repay the favour. This means, at the very least, that we get to know people outside our own social setting.
4) Luke 10:17-24 – Rejoice in undeserved grace and mercy given you more than your accomplishments for the Kingdom. It is easy to think that we are the reason for growth, when growth happens.
The sad reality in this is that even when we know these things we still get carried away with ourselves. We can justify violating the principles. We can forget that people do not need to hear or see us. We can do good for very bad reasons, even while we know that they are bad. Our hearts are so deceitful that we can deny that the pride and arrogance and self-centeredness and love of praise, are there. It is truly frightening. It is worth considering the repetition of these words in Psalm 115. Not unto us. Not unto us. How they need to be believed and how they need to be practiced.
The way to truly mean and practice “not to us” is by getting to know God better. What humbled Isaiah was a visit to the heavenly temple of God (Isaiah 6:1-6). The prayers of Paul for the churches he wrote was that they know God better. (Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-11.) One cannot grow in intimacy with God and keep one’s pride. And it will make us most happy when He not us gets the attention and the praise. True happiness and contentment lie in knowing Him as He is and deflecting all praise to Him, who alone deserves it.