Two negatives equal a positive
Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.
…our God is in the heavens; He does whatever pleases Him.
It is rare for the psalmist to begin with a negative, much less a double negative. Not to us…not to us, O Lord. Truth is not all the psalms come out of the gate with praise or thanks. Some start with questioning, others appear to be rants, still others suggest that David (and other musicians responsible for these 150 poems) could be a bit of a whiner. Imagine that…a whining artist! And yet God allowed these musings to be penned and recorded for billions to use as tools for worship.
I think David was so convinced that we are never to be the subject or object of worship that he chose to emphasize what it is not. It is not about us, though it is essentially for us, for our edification. And it is certainly not to us, and David gives us the reason why. “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him.” Period. As one prof once told me, “Whatever God does is right, because He is God. When I become God, I can challenge His wisdom for doing whatever He does.”
Now it is no small thing that we believe, and scriptures clearly teach, that God is good, and mighty, slow to get angry, rich in mercy, etc. But often we find ourselves in the midst of pain, suffering, or confusion, actually placing God on trial, demanding that He make it perfectly clear what exactly He is up to. It’s often out of our pain or rebellion that we begin to question His character or motives.
David seems to conclude that the only things we need to know about concerning the worthiness of God are that He is love, and that He is absolutely trustworthy. Since no one ever created or yet to be created will ever exhibit these two traits perfectly: contest is over. And since He is God, He gets to make the “glory” call—who deserves it, who doesn’t. Consider a related passage from Isaiah 48:
I am the first and I am the last.
My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summon them, they all stand up together.
From now on I will tell you of new things,
of hidden things unknown to you.
For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another.
Our God is a jealous, zealous God, remember? He alone has earned the right to be the focus of any worship uttered by His creation. In her rendition of Psalm 115, Nicole Nordeman reminds all Christians, but particularly those who lead worship, not to be tempted to hog the spotlight belonging only to our God.
Let us not imagine
that we might have a hand in
where the wind blows,
where grace goes.
Let not any passion
be for kingdoms we have fashioned
in our own name,
for our own fame.
As we begin another season in the ministry of leading corporate worship, let us be reminded that we are called to bring glory to Christ through our music. Every picture frame has its place, but it is not in the center. Not to us, Lord; not to us but to Your name… I told you two negatives equal a positive.