Not unto Us, O Lord...but unto Thy Name Give Glory 

by Mary E. Stephens
Dec. 2010

The title of this article comes from Psalm 115:1.  Although I’m discussing another Psalm here, this verse seems to make a good title for the thoughts I want to share with you.

In Psalm 104 the psalmist begins with his desire to bless the Lord. It starts out in verse one, “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” But, that’s as far as he gets before his focus seems to totally change.  “ O LORD my God,” he continues,  “thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

From there he goes on to declare the majesty, power and honor of God. Then he transitions to God’s creative might and genius, and His infinite care for His creation.  Finally, he ends on the glory and might of the Lord once again.

2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: 3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:

10 He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field…

14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.

24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.  [This is one of my favorite verses.]

31 The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.

Only at the end does he return to his feelings and how he will praise the Lord. 

33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. 34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.

But, what is not uncommon in the Psalms, he also mentions almost at the very end, the righteous judgment of God and his desire to see an end of wickedness and sin.

35a Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more.

Somehow, a natural response to the greatness of who and what and how God is should lead us to a desire to see the end of wickedness and sinfulness in this earth.  It should give us a healthy and hearty appreciation for God’s righteous judgment, and His right to judge His creation.  That is interesting and worth pondering, especially in a world that wants a “god” that does not require personal responsibility.

As children of the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, our hope is not in human inventions, and we are not the victims of human folly.  We are also not “self-sufficient.”  We are dependent upon the Lord God Almighty who is intimately concerned with His creation.  He is also the righteous Judge of all the earth who will someday consume the sinners out of the earth.  How important it is to remember this in these fearful days we live in!

Finally, the psalmist ends with his personal desire to bless the LORD and with and invitation to the listener to praise the LORD. 

35b Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.

In the King James Bible the translators to let us know when the text is speaking in singular or plural in instances such as this.  “Thee” and “thou” indicate singular – in this case the psalmist speaking to his own soul.  “Ye” and “you” indicate plural – in this case the psalmist is inviting all of us who hear or read this to join in the praise of the Lord.  This is beautiful and has a sweetness to it that is touching.  Though he emphasizes God Himself throughout most of the Psalm, he ends with a personal desire to express this worship himself, and then he invites us to join him.

More Thoughts

But, I am also thinking about what a good example this psalm is to us.  Modern praise and worship, and also too many of the old hymns and spiritual songs, will often tend to dwell excessively on “me” and “us,” what God has done for me and us, and God’s relationship to me and us.  Too often the praise and worship music in particular is heavily about me, I, mine, my, and how *I* will praise or worship the Lord.  While there is a place for that train of thought, it seems to me that there is too much emphasis on “me” and how “I” will serve, praise, worship, love, stand by, etc. the Lord. 

A friend of mine who has had a good deal of exposure to praise and worship music once told me she felt very strongly about this, and consequently did not like praise and worship music. Her complaint is that there is a great loss of the concept of who and what God is and of His unlimited power when we focus so much on what we will do for Him and how we feel about Him.  When hard times come and we can’t do all those things, then what?  Are we left feeling empty and incapable of worshipping Him because we can’t do, feel, or praise the way we once did?  But, God didn’t change.  He still is what He was all along.  And, the grand old hymns that are being so lightly replaced and set aside emphasized these things more, I think.  (This is a bit of a side thought, but somehow fits this discussion.)

I find Psalm 104 to be a bit of a rebuke to that way of thinking and “praising and worshipping”.  Though there are many psalms that speak of the psalmist’s feelings, desires, worship, etc. in a personal context, I find it interesting how often it switches to praise of God alone as He is – in and of Himself without our permission, praise, help, approval, etc.  Or, in some cases it switches to an invitation of group worship – the whole congregation of the Lord (past, present and future, as it were).

Some years ago when my dad was pastoring a small church in Michigan he was convinced of the need to somewhat refocus the emphasis of our worship.  Instead of an “order of worship” prescribed in the bulletin and forced upon the Holy Spirit by human whim, he decided to let the Spirit of God lead more and to trust Him to do what was good for us.  (No, we did not become Charismatic in any way, as some might think.  There was no speaking in tongues or any such thing.  All things were done decently and in order, and if anything got out of line it was curtailed by my dad or one of the leading men.)  One of the things he introduced at that time was a praise and prayer time during the morning worship service. (And, by the way, our worship service was not 3-4 hymns, an offering, a “special number”, and a prayer.  We were trying to learn to truly worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24)

One Sunday my dad, in introducing the praise time, specified that it would be praise only that morning and he asked the people not to say anything about what God had done for them personally.  They could praise the Lord for who He is or what He had done for someone else or something like that, but they couldn’t relate any of it to themselves personally.  At first they just stared at him.  (OK, I was in the congregation and it took me off guard as well. ;-) )  I think someone tried to offer a praise that was self-related, and my dad politely corrected him and told him that was “off sides”, so to speak.  It took folks a couple of times to get it, but eventually they figured it out, and even enjoyed the whole concept.  Sometimes my dad would ask people to only say something about God and who He is.  Later when he did this it was received as a welcome challenge and eventually as “normal.”  I might also add that it proved to be a great blessing to the whole assembly on more than one occasion!

You see we get so wrapped up in ourselves and what God does for us and how we feel about it that sometimes we forget or neglect or don’t even know how to praise Him solely for who He is and what He is and what He does outside of our own personal context and need. 

Now, we are needy people, as my Grandpa Van Nattan often said.  We need a lot of help and wisdom and forgiveness and rescuing by God on a daily basis.  So, it isn’t surprising that we would tend to focus on what He has done for us personally.  And, there is a place for that.  But, my challenge to us is this: that we make an effort and a point of stopping and thinking about who and what God is Himself – of all the many things He does that are not related to us directly and don’t reflect on our personal needs.  More than that, I suggest that we worship and bless and praise Him for those things, yea even speak of them out loud.

And yet, in a miraculous and amazing way, all these things do relate back to us in a personal way, for they remind us that our hope is in the Lord, that He is the righteous Judge and that Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17  How much we ought to worship and praise the Lord for the rich gifts of who and what He is and what He does in creation outside of our personal needs!

All By Himself

A friend once sent me a link to a song.  The song itself was not what impressed me in the clip, though.  It was something the singer said before she started singing that made me think.  She said, “God is just good, and He is good all by Himself!”  Wow.  What a statement. 

Did it ever occur to you that God doesn’t need you or me to “prove” that He is good?  God doesn't need us to show that He is good, He doesn't need to do anything to "be good" like we do.  He IS GOOD – all by Himself.  He is good in and of Himself.  He doesn’t need anyone or anything to prove it.  I think sometimes we get the wrong idea, thinking that we have to somehow prove that He is good or that He is God. Why? He is Good and He is God without proving Himself to us, without our approval, without our proving it to others, to Him or to ourselves.  (Although He does prove Himself, He does not need to prove Himself in order to be good.)

He does not technically need us to tell Him He is good either, though we definitely know from scripture that He wants us to praise Him for who and what He is – including His goodness.  In fact, it is expected of those who love and fear Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth.  But, He was good and wise and creative and mighty “all by Himself” before the foundation of the world; or perhaps I should rather say, He IS all these thing before the foundation of the world for His goodness is not limited to time as ours is, or as our concept of Him is. John 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

I don’t know what that lady was thinking when she made the statement that God “is good all by Himself.”  She may have been thinking of what Jesus said when He stated,  …there is none good but one, that is, God. Mark 10:18  God “is good all by Himself” in the sense that He alone is good (all others have sinned and come short of the glory of God, Rom. 3:23),  but He also is good alone, without the need of proof or commendation by anyone.  It is a wonderful thought!  It takes a lot of false responsibility off of us.  It also reveals to us the blessing and privilege of worshipping Him outside of our own specific needs.  He is not good and just and wonderful and powerful and mighty and wise because we found Him so, or because He proved Himself to be so to me or to you.  He is not all these things because we say He is either.   He is all those things without our praise, without our permission, without our being on the receiving end of them.  He is "good all by Himself."  He is I AM THAT I AM (Ex. 3:14).

And yet, wonderful thought, He desires the sacrifice of praise from us in adoration and worship of Him as the good, creative, mighty, awe-inspiring God that He is!  What a privilege!  What a blessing! And yet, how humbling.

Psalm 104:35b Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.

Hebrews 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

What can you say in worship and praise to God today that does not reflect upon your own needs or blessings? 


Background and graphics by Mary Stephens

Posted Dec. 2010
updated 2021