One of the remarkable things about the Bible is it’s willingness to expose the weaknesses, errors, and sins of its major characters. One of the especially endearing features of the Old Testament is its openness about its heroes flaws — and of the flaws and failures of the nation as a whole. This is a poor piece of propaganda for the nation — we see its sins and its errors and its flaws. It is not propaganda. It is not an apology for the nation at all. It is not a glorification of its heroes. We see them as deeply flawed. It is a glorification of God’s character and grace.
לֹא לָנוּ יְהוָה לֹא לָנוּ כִּי־לְשִׁמְךָ תֵּן כָּבוֹד עַל־חַסְדְּךָ עַל־אֲמִתֶּךָ
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.” (NRSV)
Adam Clarke paraphrases the first part of this verse this way:
We take no merit to ourselves; as thine is the kingdom, and the power in that kingdom, so is thy glory.
In the Old Testament, even the official religion and ritual of the people comes under heavy criticism:
“Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation — I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:10-17 NRSV)
Back then, it was the prophets.
I am continually amazed at this theme. No glory goes to Israel. No glory goes to its great heroes. No glory goes to its priests and its religion.
All the glory goes to God, and God alone. The Bible is the record of the faithfulness of God — in spite of human foolishness, waywardness and sin.
We are so quick to defend ourselves, our leaders, our institutions. But, amazingly, the Bible does not do this. In fact, the apostle Paul, in the New Testament, suggests that our weakness is an important component of our witness to the power of God. “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NRSV)
לֹא לָנוּ יְהוָה לֹא לָנוּ
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us…”
Not to our nation… Not to our great heroes and heroines… Not to our saints… Not even to our religion and our religious institutions… be the glory. We do not want the glory, the Psalmist says, for such glory can only go to God.
There is a freedom that comes when we lay down the burden of self justification. We are justified by faith. Our weakness does not cancel out the power of God. It is an opportunity. “[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 NRSV).
I meet God only in my weakness. I enter the Kingdom only as a dependent child would. When I am weak, then I am strong.
O Lord God,
may all glory go to your name.
Free me from the desire for glory and reputation.
Free me from self-justification.
Free me from the excuses I make
for myself… for my church… for my nation.
Grant me grace
to accept that my only justification is by faith,
the only holiness I will ever know
is by Your grace and power.
Uphold me by Your powerful hand.
I desire that You would be glorified in & through my life. Amen.