Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1)
Upon the passing of his bill to abolish the British slave trade, at the pinnacle of his life’s work, after years of exhaustive warring in parliament, William Wilberforce marked his momentous victory by meditation on one verse. As the dust settled, he went to raise this banner to his Lord: Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.
“All praise, all praise, . . . Jesus, you alone deserve all praise,” sung his heart.
Do we sing this from day to day? Whether or not we become as eminent as Wilberforce — whether we parent or study or compete in athletics, or whatever we do — we can seek to give Christ the praise in all things. Or as Paul said, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). This, after all, is safe for us.
He Will Share His Glory with No Other
Glory and praise can be dangerous. Those who built a tower for their own name at Babel were scattered in judgment. Pharoah, who tried to exalt himself above the Lord, asking who Yahweh was that he should serve him, was pummeled. Nebuchadnezzar, the king who thought himself a god, lost his reason and ate grass like an ox for his refusal to adopt this verse as his own.
Two different men, displaying two very different responses to human praise, illustrate this further: Peter, who adopted this lyric over his life, and Herod, who decidedly did not. Both are recorded for us by Luke in the book of Acts.
On the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” (Acts 10:24–26)
On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.(Acts 12:21–23)
Peter, when a man meant to worship him, raised him to his feet, reminding him that he is a man, not God. All praise and all worship ought to go to God alone. Not to him, not to him be the glory, in other words.
Herod, on the other hand, had no such reservations. He, in his royal robes, delivered his fine oratory to them to exclamations of, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Did Herod smile? Did he bathe in the glory? Well, immediately God sent an angel to strike him dead where he sat, because he did not give God the glory. As worms feasted upon his corpse, the scene reminded everyone present that God is the God who says, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11).
For the Sake of Your Steadfast Love
This song in Psalm 115 was sung at Passover. Seems entirely fitting.
There is one who came to be the Passover Lamb, who would be the supreme manifestation of God in his steadfast love and truth. These weren’t abstract qualities — they were manifest in a person (John 1:14). And he came. And he died a horrific death, suffering under the wrath of God that those behind the blood-stained doors might be safe.
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
Only one name — and it is not ours. Campaigning for our name will help no one eternally. We are not worthy to open the scroll, nor are we able to pull Excalibur from the stone (Revelation 5). When we insist on us being seen and celebrated, we detract from the only one who provides life, joy, and hope.
Our joy and purpose here below is to adopt this as the anthem of our lives: “Lord, not to me, not to me, but to your name give glory!”