Chapter 3.   God moved His people to glorify Him.

As stated above, there are two conditions necessary in order for God to secure the end for which He created mankind, which is His glory. First, He must perform deeds which are indisputably deserving of glory. We looked at a number of examples of such deeds done in the past in chapter 2. Second, He must enable people to see and be willing to acknowledge that He is the one who deserves credit for them. There is a sense in which we observed that fact in the accounts discussed in chapter 2. If God had not moved those individuals to glorify Him, they would not have done so. Then why devote another chapter to discussing God’s work in the hearts of people as He moves them to willingly ascribe to Him the credit that is His due? I have two reasons for doing so. First, I want to show Biblical examples of people seeing the amazing works of God, but refusing to give Him glory. These examples provide a contrast against which to view my second reason. That reason is the examples I will cite showing the strong desire of people to give God the glory He is due. The examples provided in chapter 2 highlighted the magnificence of God’s works. The examples we will examine in this chapter highlight the inner motivations of the people involved.

Before we look at the examples, however, we will look at a few instances in which people were not willing to give God glory. We have already seen one of them in Chapter 1. It was found in Romans 1:20-27, where mankind was unwilling to glorify God as God and has been reaping the consequences ever since. They had seen, in nature, powerful evidences of God’s power and deity. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor [glorify] him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:20–21, ESV) The problem was not in the availability or strength of the evidence. The problem was the human heart.

Another example is found in the ministry of Jesus. It involved people who were healed but did not glorify God as they should have. Luke records the event in which ten lepers were healed by the Lord and then walked away. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”” (Luke 17:15–18, NASB95 ) Again, the miracle was amazing. The deliverance the nine other lepers experienced was life changing. The problem was the ingratitude of the nine for the kindness of God. These two examples remind us that it is possible to see God’s glory manifested in miraculous ways and then take those acts for granted and not give Him the credit He deserves. The implication that flows out of Jesus’ question is that the others who had been healed should have taken the time and effort to give God the credit for the blessing of healing that they had received. To omit doing so was to deny Him the praise (glory) He should have been given.

A third example is in Revelation. In this case the response of the people mentioned is one of outright rebellion. Following horrendous judgment after horrendous judgment poured out on the earth, some people did give glory to God. “And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13, ESV) However, after still more horrendous judgments others did not repent. John tells us, “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.” (Revelation 16:9, ESV) This is an indication of the hatred and hard hearts of these people.

So, why do some people give God glory while others do not? Why do some people adamantly refuse to give God glory while others do so willingly, if not joyfully or enthusiastically? Paul gives us the answer in Philippians. After calling his readers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, he writes, “[F]or it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV) Human beings who do give God glory do so because God has been working in their hearts moving them to be willing to do so.

He commissioned angels to acknowledge the birth of the promised Savior.

The first people to hear of the birth of Jesus were shepherds out on the hills near Bethlehem. The news came to them from one angel who was then joined by many others. “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”” (Luke 2:10–14, ESV) The angels were uniting in expressing the wish that, as a result of the coming of the Messiah, God would be glorified in heaven, and that on earth there would be peace among people with whom God is pleased. It could also be a statement that those things are true. They knew that the mighty Creator of the universe had somehow taken the form of a helpless baby, and that the wonderful plan of salvation, conceived in eternity past and prepared for throughout the preceding centuries, was at that time actually beginning to be executed. The promised and long-expected Messiah had been born. The most important event in all of history had commenced. The angelic host was not only willing, but exuberant, in their desire to glorify God by giving Him honor and praise for what He was doing.

He enabled people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and respond to Him accordingly.

 Years later, when Jesus entered Jerusalem for His Triumphal Entry the crowd was saying something that included an element that was very similar to what the angels had said at Jesus’ birth. “As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”” (Luke 19:37–38, ESV) Since “heaven” and “the highest” appear to be parallel, I take it that they both refer to the same thing. These people did not know what the angels knew at Jesus’ birth, but they knew about the miracles Jesus had done combined with prophecies of the works which the Messiah would perform (such as Isaiah 35:5-6), and they undoubtedly knew Zechariah 9:9. For reasons such as these, these people were expressing a sentiment very much like that of the angels in Luke 2:14. They were praising God because they believed that the promised Messiah had arrived. The one the nation had longed for had finally come. Again, honor and praise are involved in their desire that God would be glorified. So far, angels and people have expressed the desire that, in heaven and everywhere on earth, God would be glorified; that is, given credit for what He was doing.

Numerous doxologies in the New Testament express the desire that God would be glorified. On seven different occasions Paul writes a doxology in which he expresses the wish that God’s glory (praise, honor) would endure forever.[1] Hebrews, 1 Peter, Jude, and Revelation also contain similar doxologies.[2] All of these passages deserve careful consideration but we will look at just three of them, two written by Paul and one by John.

God enabled Paul to see how He was bringing salvation to Gentiles while still preserving a special role for Israel and moved him to compose a doxology in praise of His wise plan.

In Romans 9-11, Paul gives a brief survey of Israel’s role in God’s plan of redemption. In chapter 9, after expressing his own profound love for his fellow Israelites, he reviews the privileges Israel has enjoyed. Then he explains that many Gentiles achieved a righteous standing because they believed in the Messiah, while many Israelites did not receive a righteous standing because they did not believe in Him. In chapter 10, after expressing his love for Israel again, he supports his position that people are made right with God solely on the basis of faith. Then, in chapter 11, he addresses Gentiles, explaining to them that God has not forsaken His people, Israel. “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”.” (Romans 11:25–26, ESV)  At the conclusion of this wonderful summary of God’s plan for the nation of Israel is his beautiful doxology summarizing God’s absolute supremacy: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36, ESV) Leon Morris comments on the first half of this verse, “The meaning is nicely expressed in Moffatt’s translation “All comes from him, all lives by him, all ends in him.” Paul is speaking of God as the Originator, the Sustainer, and the Goal of all creation.”[3] God had planned the partial hardening of Israel with the result of Jesus’ being rejected, dying for sinners, and the spread of the gospel to Gentiles. But that hardening will only last for a time, after which Israel will turn to the Messiah. As Paul thinks of the wisdom and sovereignty of God demonstrated in this plan, he responds spontaneously with a doxology. He wishes that God would receive glory, honor, praise (different terms meaning nearly the same thing but used for emphasis) forever. If we think about what Paul has described in the context, how can we respond any differently? “That God is to receive glory means that he alone is worthy to receive credit for the successful accomplishment of redemptive history.”[4]

God helped Paul to recognize that He had converted the “foremost of sinners” to show that none are beyond His reach. The result was Paul’s doxology.

Early in his first letter to his young protégé, Timothy, Paul offers praise to God for his salvation and transformation. He proclaims that, in his case God has changed the “foremost” of sinners into His ambassador. He then declares that God did this with him so that in Paul God would have an eloquent example of the change God can bring about in anyone’s life, even if he or she is a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.”  He concludes his rehearsal of the enormous change that God had brought about in his life with this beautiful doxology:  “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17, ESV) Paul did his best to put into words a description of the greatness and majesty of the God who had wrought such a radical transformation in his life. He acknowledged God’s power and then expressed the desire that He would receive honor and glory (probably a hendiadys, both terms being near synonyms here) forever and ever. When we consider the way God showed His grace and sovereignty in the transformation of Saul of Tarsus into Paul the Apostle, how can we respond any differently? It was extremely important to Paul that God would receive the credit He so richly deserved for what He did for him.

He revealed to John some of the wonderful aspects of our salvation which involved how He loved, redeemed, and exalted guilty, vile, and hopeless sinners, again resulting in a doxology.

It was also important to John that the Lord would be glorified. At the end of his introductory greeting in the Revelation John wrote a doxology: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5–6, ESV) The stated basis for this doxology is much briefer than those of Paul noted above, but that brevity does not indicate unimportance. What John includes in this doxology is of immense importance. John says our Lord loves us. The wonder of that fact can easily be taken for granted if we forget that He loved us even while we were His enemies. (Romans 5:8-10) He has freed us from our sins. (Romans 6:14) We are free from their power over us and free from the penalty for them. He did this by shedding His blood for us. (Romans 5:8) He has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father. (1 Peter 2:9) Translations vary as to their understanding of these terms, but in any case, the point is that we have a very high status and we are authorized to serve as priests serving God. That is an enormous privilege. When John thought about the power and grace of God that were demonstrated in the salvation that has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ, it is not a surprise that he would break out into the doxology we read in verses 5-6. Acknowledging what He has done by giving Him glory and recognizing His dominion are appropriate responses to all His great works.

Taken together these three doxologies are a powerful testimony of the wonderful works of God and the intense desire of New Testament writers to give Him the glory for what He has done. Over and over again, God’s people express the desire that He would be glorified everywhere and forever.

God enabled His people to see His glory as important enough to be a basis for prayer.

Another evidence of the fact that God has placed within the hearts of His people the desire to glorify Him is the fact that they have seen it as a basis on which prayer was offered. “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” (Psalm 79:9, ESV) In verses 1-7, the Psalmist laments the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of her enemies and pleads with God for deliverance. Next in verse 8, he asks God to forget her former sins.  Then in verse 9, he calls out to the Lord as the “God of our salvation” and asks Him to deliver the nation for the glory of His name. Unquestionably, Asaph, whom the superscription names as the author, is concerned for the deliverance of his people, but that is not his only motivation. If granted, Israel would praise God for His forgiveness and deliverance, and the surrounding nations would also see the power of God. Moses had based His plea that God would not destroy Israel because of their disobedience, on the same premise (see Exodus 32:11). The word “glorify” was not used in that context, though the idea is certainly there.

God moved His people to progress from gratitude to a determination to glorify Him.

In Psalm 86, David thought about God’s sovereignty and consequent ultimate victory. On the basis of that recollection he was convinced that God would meet his current need. With that in mind, David asked God to teach him how to be obedient. As David thought about God’s character and faithfulness, the spontaneous response of his heart was, “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12, ESV). It is no wonder that he purposed to glorify the Lord’s name (by honoring it) forever. This is the kind of response all of us should have to an awareness of the character and works of our God. Moses, David and Asaph were passionately concerned that God would be glorified.

He moved His people to pray that He would be glorified.

Another way in which we can see the desire of God’s people that He would be glorified is the fact that they prayed that He would be glorified. One prayer to that end is the refrain seen in Psalm 57:5 & 11. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (ESV) The superscription of this Psalm tells us that it was written by David when he hid from Saul in a cave.   Verses 1-4 and 6-10 of this Psalm contain cries for God to deliver David from his enemies interspersed with expressions of trust in God’s faithfulness. Both of these sections conclude with an expression of desire that God’s glory would be over all the earth. It seems as though, as David thinks of his immediate need for deliverance, his mind goes to a future time when such deliverance will no longer be necessary, and he expresses his desire for that day to come. The very same refrain is found in Psalm 108:5, as David prays that the Lord of all the earth would fulfill His covenant promises to him (vss. 6-9). I think the motivation for David’s desire for God’s glory to be over all the earth here is because he knows that when that occurs, David will no longer need to fear his adversaries.

Psalm 115 begins with a prayer that God would glorify Himself. “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, ESV) This desire introduces the rest of the Psalm. Verses 3-8 of this Psalm give reasons why God deserves to be glorified. He is completely sovereign (3b). Conversely, the idols worshipped by others are lifeless. Idolatry is utterly foolish. Having demonstrated the inability of idols to do anything, the Psalmist calls Israel to trust in the LORD (vss. 9-15). He closes with an assertion that he and his fellow Israelites will bless the LORD forever (vss. 16-18). As the Psalmist considers the love and faithfulness of God combined with His great power, especially in contrast with lifeless idols, he asks God to glorify Himself, to make sure He is given the credit for being who He is and for doing what He has done. That way, the nation will see the reason for trusting in the LORD, and his people will be motivated to bless His name forever. What could be more important to us than that God glorifies Himself so that we see Him clearly and respond appropriately?

Conclusion.

The chief end of man is indeed to glorify God (and enjoy Him forever). In the past, he has performed many deeds and has revealed His matchless attributes. They all demonstrate that He deserves the credit/glory for them. He still uses some of those ways to show that He deserves glory. Furthermore, He has worked in the hearts of people enabling them to observe what He has done and moving them to delight to give Him the credit that He is due. What are some ways in which the Bible teaches that we today can glorify God? We will look at some answers to that question in the next chapter.


[1] Romans 11:36; 16:27; Galatians 1:3-5; Ephesians 3:20-21; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:18

[2] Hebrews 13:20-21; 2 Peter 3:17-18; Jude 24-25; Revelation 1:6

[3] Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 429). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.

[4] Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 194). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.