Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the water; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters….
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King for ever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.
(Ps 29. 1-3, 9-11)
I love feeling small, being dwarfed by beauty, might and power. This may be because I have never been at the mercy of nature as many of our race have – whether hurricane and typhoon, or flood or earthquake. I am awed and inspired by the beauty and power which God has released into creation – through all the laws which govern the air, earth and water. Do we sometimes forget to be in awe of these elements? It is good to remind ourselves that we are not as powerful as we might like, that ultimately we cannot control what happens, and that if we trust in our own strength, we will surely be disappointed.
Either through natural disasters, or man-made destruction, all the things which our race depend upon for life can be taken away. If our security and contentment are founded in those things, then we are looking in the wrong place for our peace of mind and hope for the future. But these great forces in themselves are not ultimately in control either!
This psalm positively reverberates with the sound of God’s voice: its power is proclaimed and celebrated in the most forceful ways to drive home the point that the greatest of natural forces is as nothing beside the Lord, and that He alone is worthy of our worship.
The word “Ascribe” in the psalm can also be translated as “Honour”, in other words we should give full praise to God as his right for his power and holiness. We do not in any way add to God’s greatness by our worship, but do we perhaps rob him in a way when we fail to recognise and exalt it?
Everything in creation apart from humanity brings glory to God simply by being, by fulfilling the purpose for which He created it – manifesting His imaginative power, His creativity and strength, His unfathomable command of physical laws which enabled the creation of universes beyond our comprehension. The flight of the tiniest birds; the obedience of the oceans to the forces which govern their movement; the infinitesimal growth of great trees over hundreds of years; and the haunting beauty of the Aurora Borealis, all bear witness to their creator’s greatness and glory.
And I? I struggle and pout and fret about getting things my way; I complain when life does not give me the opportunities I desire – for myself or my loved ones. I worry about the future instead of celebrating the present, and accepting that my maker in His wisdom and goodness knows what is best for me. This is our shame as a race, that we refuse to give God the glory which is due to his name, and instead set ourselves up as worthy of honour and all the effort and focus of our lives.
This is the miracle which time and again fills me with wonder and thankfulness, that this God, this Creator, whose glory fills the heavens and stuns me into silence, is the same God who knows and loves me personally. Through faith in Jesus Christ, my rebellion is forgiven and I am transformed into one who seeks to exalt and honour God as she ought – feeble though the effort may be at times… And through Christ, I know the tender and intimate love of God, the promise of a new start in this life, and eternal life to come. This is all grace, all the goodness of God poured out on the undeserving rebel to give her a second chance and set her free from worshipping herself. I am never so full of life and joy as when I am abandoned in praise of my adorable Saviour; my tender Father; and my strong and powerful Counsellor. I am nothing, God is all!
These words from the great hymn by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) put it so much more briefly and beautifully – may we all receive grace this week to glorify our God as He deserves.
Lord of all being, throned afar, Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Centre and soul of every sphere, Yet to each loving heart how near.
Lord of all life, below, above, Whose light is truth, whose warmth is love;
Before thy ever-blazing throne, We ask no lustre of our own.