Not to Us
Psalm 115 begins with the plea: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name be the glory…” If that was our daily prayer, our lives would be lived in a way which honors God, enriches those around us, and brings blessings to us, as well. So, we would do well to let the lyrics of this anthem, and the words of this Psalm, sink deep into our hearts until it becomes an essential part of our motivation for living.
When we observe this verse, we notice the repeated phrase, “Not to us.” In the Hebrew language, repeating a word or phrase is done to add emphasis and impact. The writer of this Psalm is stressing that all glory is due to God, and none to man. God tells us repeatedly that He does not share His glory (see Is. 42:8, 48:11). But this is not just because He is some kind of glory hound. The reality is we do nothing of our own strength, out of our own goodness, or gain anything by our own merit. The simple truth is that everything is sourced by God, His goodness, His mercy, His lovingkindness, His power… Therefore, all glory is His alone.
We were created for His glory. Those who delight in Him, seek to glorify Him, return His love, trust in Him, and otherwise follow in the ways described in His Word. They give Him glory intentionally, and through the natural outgrowth of their spiritual development. However, those who don’t seek intentionally to glorify or relate to God in any way, in fact, even those who shake their fists in God’s face, intentionally rebelling against Him, end up glorifying Him, despite themselves. Remember old Pharaoh, who resisted and resisted God? Exodus 14:4 says, “I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” God was gaining glory even through Pharaoh’s stubborn rebellion, because it offered God the opportunity to show the nations Who He is, and what He can do. The plagues were designed to show God’s power over the various gods of Egypt. None of who they trusted in were equal in the slightest to the God of Israel.
And the nations did know! As Israel found out when they entered Canaan, the nations were trembling at what Israel’s God had done to the mighty Egyptians. The Israelites were helpless, and they did nothing to enable their escape from bondage—it was all the might, mercy, and lovingkindness of their God! So, not to them, not to them be glory, but only to their God, and His Name!
However, I don’t think most of us would really want God to gain His glory through us by our destruction and humiliation, as He did with Pharaoh. What a blessing and a thrill that God chose to gain His glory through our salvation and not our ruin!
Paul tells us that we should do everything for God’s glory— whatever we do in word or deed, and even whatever we eat or drink, we should do it all for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:17). Our prayer before our feet hit the floor each morning should be, “Lord let me glorify You in everything today. May my thoughts, my attitudes, what I put into my mouth and the words that come out of my mouth, what my eyes behold, and all my actions—everything—be intentionally for Your glory, and not my own. Not to me, but to You be glory.”
Paul also reminds us that we do nothing of our own; that everything we have has been given to us (1 Cor. 4:7)—our abilities, our intelligence, our connections—we are not our own, so we can boast in nothing but the Lord. Jesus even told us that apart from Him we can do nothing, that is why we must abide in Him. And we must also humbly acknowledge, “Not to us, not to us, but to His name alone be glory.”
These are stark truths and noble aspirations, but what is the reality of our lives? At the core of our humanity is the desire that we be glorified. From our infancy our driving need is for others to satisfy us, to serve us, to notice us. We may no longer wail when our cravings aren’t being met, but inside we still yearn for others to serve us, cater to us, to recognize our achievements and give us glory. And when they don’t, we can selfishly take it into our own hands to meet our needs. Like Eve in the Garden, we give in to the fleshly desire for what looks pleasing to us—even the craving to be more like God without going the proper route to that through humility and dependence, as Jesus demonstrated.
Isn’t that the essence of our attempts at the glory-robbing of God? Seeking to be the god of our own life, meeting our own needs, or insisting that others meet them, instead of depending on and waiting on God’s provision? Seeking self-determination, instead of submission and dependence? Seeking prideful self-promotion instead of humbly exalting God above all else in our lives?
Truly, we need to reorient ourselves to the mindset of “Not to us, not to us, but to You be the glory,” making it the entire thrust of our lives, the driving motivation in all we do. Only then will we be Christlike in our living; only then will we experience real joy and full satisfaction. All of that comes only by giving glory to God, not seeking it for ourselves. Not to us, not to us, but to Him be the glory!