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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Preached At:Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church
 London, Ontario
Title:To God Be the Glory!
Text:LD 47 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Glory of the Father

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 66:1,2                                                                                      

Reading – Psalm 19; Psalm 29

Psalm 46:1,2,4,5

Sermon – Lord’s Day 47

Psalm 29:1,2,3

Hymn 5:1,4 [after Apostles’ Creed]

Hymn 84:1,2,3,4
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, sometimes we use words of which we don’t really know the meaning. We might talk about “inflation,” or “trans-fats,” or “global warming,” just because everyone else is. But if someone asked us to really define those terms, we have a hard time. We could have a vague sense of what they are, but we don’t have a firm grasp on their meaning.

Also when it comes to the language of our faith, we run into this problem. For here too, there are words that everyone is using. We hear them mentioned in sermons. We read them in the Scriptures. We come across them at Bible study. Words like “atonement,” and “covenant,” and “propitiation.” We might have a vague sense of what these words mean, but we couldn’t really define them if we were asked.

A particular word in this category is one we say almost every day. We even say it while we’re doing a very important activity: while we’re praying to the God of heaven and earth! The word is this: “Hallowed.” As in, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your Name.” What does that really mean? What are you doing when you “hallow” something, when you pray that the Father’s Name “be hallowed?” The Oxford Dictionary tells me this, “Hallow: verb; to make something holy, to honour something as holy.”

Well, scratch meaning #1 off the list: We know that God is holy already; He doesn’t need us to make him holy. But to honour Him as holy—now we’re getting warmer! As we begin our prayer, this prayer for every day, we ask that God might be recognized and honoured for who He is, glorified as the holy Lord.

Come to think of it, “holy” is another word we might have to define. By this we mean that God is set apart in his glory. He is unique in his majesty. He stands alone in his surpassing greatness, so much so that He is praised in heaven as three times “holy.” That’s the God we’re allowed to call upon. And that’s the God who calls us to hallow his Name. “Sanctify, glorify and praise me,” says the LORD, “Do so in your prayers, and do so in all your life.” That’s something to think about. That’s a word to ponder. We do so, studying Lord’s Day 47 in light of Psalm 29:

“Give unto the LORD glory and strength!”

1)     the voice of the LORD

2)     the cry of his people

            1) the LORD’s voice: When you meet some people, one of the things they want to do is give you their business card. “Call me,” they say, and there on the card is all the contact information you could ever want. And on that same business card is their official position and their professional credentials. This fellow’s a mortgage broker with a degree in finance. This one’s a real estate agent with fifteen years of experience. Here’s a furniture salesman who’s been a top producer. These people want you to know them. They don’t mind putting themselves “out there,” because they want you to see that they’re qualified, that they’re dedicated. They want you to know that they’re in fact the ones you should call!

That’s a logical progression: Knowing someone’s qualifications or his credentials inspires your confidence, and it might even lead you to turn to that person for help. And so it is with the LORD. Beloved, we won’t have any confidence in God, if we don’t really know God. We won’t ever turn to God, if we don’t have a sense of what this God can do.

            Therefore this needs to come before anything else in our activity of hallowing God’s Name. As the Catechism says, “Grant us first of all that we may rightly know you” (Q&A 122). We’ll only honour God’s Name when we see how honoured He is already! And for us that’s not an optional exercise. There’s no excuse for failing to hallow! For there can be no questioning of God’s accomplishments or dedication. The LORD has left us his “calling card,” if you will. He hasn’t hesitated to tell us about Himself. We can know God very well, because God speaks to us.

            Now, when we mention God speaking, we might first think of the Bible. The Bible is often called “the Word,” after all—it’s an expression from God’s own mouth, words written down for us by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Word, God speaks to us at length, and He declares to us in no uncertain terms the glory of his Name.

            But there is, of course, another testimony God has given, another “Word” He has spoken. And that is the “Word” of creation. We’re all familiar with the opening of Psalm 19, where David writes those powerful words, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork” (v 1). He says that there’s a speech going on whenever we walk outside, there’s an heavenly oration on the majesty of the LORD. “Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge” (v 2).

            Listen to what the Belgic Confession also says about this testimony of creation, “[These things are] before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly the invisible things of God” (Art. 2). The holy God commends himself to us, in the book of Scripture, and in the book of creation. And what’s most amazing is when you place those two books side by side. With the one we can make sense of the other, with the one we can gain deeper insight into the other. For Scripture teaches us to go out under the night sky. Go out there, and listen carefully, and watch closely, and stand humbly—because this great God, the one who has created and who upholds all things, this great God is also your God and your Saviour, through Jesus Christ!

            With that in mind, we listen to Psalm 29. For if anything resounds in this Psalm, it’s the “voice of the LORD.” Seven times in eleven verses, David tells us what we’re hearing, not only when we open the Scriptures, but whenever we venture out into creation: we are hearing the living voice of God.

            Let’s remember that the one who wrote this Psalm was definitely a man of “the great outdoors.” And he was outdoors, not for leisure and recreation. Outdoors, not for a couple weeks of camping in the security of a motorhome, or under the cover of a plastic tarp. David had to be outside, month after month, tending the flocks and herds of his father on the hillsides of Judea. The writer of this Psalm had lots of time to meditate on the words of the night sky, ample opportunity to listen to “the voice of the LORD.”

            And it wasn’t all peace and tranquility! When we think of the beauty of creation, we might picture a blazing sunset over quiet ocean waters. We might picture the noble mountain peaks, solid and unthreatening. But when you’re outside all the time, not by choice but by necessity, you run into the “other side” of creation. The time will come when that beautiful sky is torn asunder by the power of a violent storm. The time will come when that quiet ocean tosses up its pounding waves. Soon you will see how severe creation can be.

We can well imagine David, the young shepherd boy, cowering in the shelter of a rock, even as massive thunderclaps crashed overhead and rain pelted down. Such events were the most powerful forces known by the ancient peoples: violent thunderstorms, along with rattling earthquakes, and the raging sea. Confronted with such things, the ancients trembled with fear.

And has it really changed today? Today we might point to nuclear bombs and biological weapons as those most powerful agents of death and destruction. And yet far more common, and still terrifying, and just as deadly, are those simple forces of God’s creation: the earthquakes and tsunamis, the hurricanes and the wildfires. Faced with these things, mankind still has to admit that he is powerless, that he can do so little to defend himself.

David might’ve been trembling in the storm, but he was also listening. For this was in fact the voice of the LORD! It was God’s voice, “over the waters” (v 3). It was God’s voice, heard within the thunder. It was the voice of the LORD “breaking the cedars,” even “the mighty cedars of Lebanon” (v 5). It was his voice “shaking the wilderness” (v 8), and “stripping the forests bare” (v 9).

Hear how it’s simply God’s voice, doing it all. Beloved, that’s a voice of great power! Just as at the beginning of time, all God needs to do is speak, and it comes about. God issues his heavenly command, and a massive hurricane rolls toward Florida. God speaks, and the earth under Japan rattles and rolls. God orders from his holy throne, and a tsunami rises out of the ocean. “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty” (v 4).

            These are the fearsome displays of God’s holiness. There aren’t the peaceful creation scenes that we love, but scenes of violence and even death. Yet David gets the message. He hears the voice. He understands that this is our LORD. This is his glory! Yes, these might be terrifying events, and destructive in their results. Yet God is simply showing his Name to be holy! “In all your works,” the Catechism says, “shine forth your almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy, and truth” (Q&A 122).

            That’s a long list of divine credentials. And next to this great God, there can be no competitor. That’s even how David begins his Psalm, by throwing down a challenge to all “the mighty ones” (v 1). Just who are “the mighty ones?” David’s probably referring here to the so-called gods of the surrounding nations, “the mighty ones” that were reputed to do so much.

David pictures, if you will, God among all gods: a heavenly council room, with the LORD surrounded by Baal, and Dagon, and Asherah, and Molech and so many others. These were the gods who were thought to send the rain and the wealth and the military victories. That Canaanite god Baal was even called the “Lord of thunder,” said to be the divine power in every fearsome thunderstorm churning over the hillsides.

            But in the presence of the true God, all these pretenders must bow. They must bow, and they must give God the glory. They must hallow his Name! “Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to his name” (vv 1-2). “Give it to Him,” David says to the mighty ones: “Render to God what is rightfully God’s! Confess that all glory and strength and honour belong to Him alone!”

Yes, even these other gods must hear the voice of the LORD, and they must acknowledge that He is glorious. David sees that in the truest sense, God is holy—He is set apart, without comparison or competitor, unique in his power and wisdom and majesty. His Name is hallowed! So it remains today, beloved: the voice of our God issues from his holy throne. His word goes out, and it is done. And in this way, God is still busy humbling the gods of the nations, still busy shaming the false gods and ridiculing the empty idols. God still brings low whoever puts stock in this world’s security.

Our God humbles the nations and their gods, with tornadoes and typhoons. He does it, with massive earthquakes and fiery volcanoes. But God also humbles the nations and all their gods with recessions and wars and assassinations. He humbles them with horrific plane crashes and fearsome pandemics. “In all his works,” the LORD shows that He alone deserves the honour and praise. Our God shows again and again that He holds this world in his hands, and that He can do with it just as He pleases.

By his works, God is telling us—He is reminding us—that it’s not mighty presidents or prime ministers who get things done. God is telling us that it’s not world banks or international associations that put things on track. It’s not new technology that will save us from disaster, nor is it the human spirit that’ll deliver us from poverty or violent conflict. Don’t trust in these things, and don’t look to them for help. The LORD is telling us that He is God, and Him alone! “Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, give unto the LORD glory and strength.”

Beloved, just as David did, we have to learn to listen. Listen to the voice of the LORD in creation, and listen to his unmistakable voice in this world. Listen, for God is telling us about himself. He is shining forth “in all his works” who He is as God.

And He’s also telling us to do some cross-referencing. God is telling us to place the book of creation alongside the book of Scripture. Place the two beside each other, and see that this awe-inspiring, wonder-working, miracle-performing God, is our God. This glorious LORD of all is our Lord. You and I can depend on his power. You and I can trust in his wisdom. You and I can find refuge in his grace.

2) his people’s cry: In eleven short verses of Psalm 29, we find the name of God almost twenty times. It’s all about the LORD! There’s almost no room left for anyone else. And that’s how it should be. God’s voice vastly overpowers every other voice. Yet there is a human response. It’s so brief, you might even overlook it. In the midst of all that rolling thunder, those breaking cedars, those quaking mountains, those shaking forests—in the midst of all the drama of who God is and what God can do, his people respond. This is what the LORD wants, after all. He left his card, He described his credentials, and He encouraged his people, “Call me.”

That’s what they do. We find it in verse 9, at the same time as a mighty forest is being destroyed. “The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth, and strips the forests bare. And in his temple everyone says, ‘Glory!’” Just imagine that singular cry going up from the multitude in the temple courts. Imagine everyone standing, and crying out as one man: “Glory!”

It’s actually a bit surprising, that this is all they say: “Glory!” After going through a violent thunderstorm, or after watching a volcano erupt on TV, we might use all kinds of words to try and describe it.

But these worshipers knew the truth of Ecclesiastes 5:2, “God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.” They were humbled by God’s majesty, humbled by the works of his hands. They knew that human speech just can’t capture it, that any human response is going to be inadequate. So these worshipers too, simply bow in his presence, and they simply tell of the majesty that is God’s alone: “Glory!”

What do they do, beloved? They hallow God’s Name! They honour the LORD as holy. They give unto Him glory and strength, goodness and righteousness, mercy and truth. They worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. For David, for these temple worshipers—and so for us—the mighty deeds of God should only evoke humble praise for his Name.

For we know him as Lord. We know him as Father. We know that his absolute and everlasting rule is carried out on our behalf! We know that despite all his exalted majesty, He still takes thought for us, his little children. We know that in all his glory, this God is yet committed to our salvation and blessedness. This indeed, is the crowning comfort when so much in this world seems changing and uncertain.

There are storms. There are disasters. There are famines. And not just on a global scale, and not just to the poor people who live far away—these are the things that can happen to us. In our lives, there can be a deep personal discouragement. There can be a time of severe financial hardship. There can be a time of great unrest and concern in the congregation. A period when everything is shifting, when it feels like the very soil beneath our feet is shaking. There can be times when the waves pound your head, day after day.

Even then, this is the voice of the LORD. This is the LORD, issuing his commands from heaven. This is the LORD, fulfilling his plan for our lives, as believers and church. And we might tremble with David while that storm rages and the rain pelts down. We might tremble, but we do so, resting in the shelter of the Rock! For we know that it is our God who is directing all things. We know that “the voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.” We know that just as suddenly as we were plunged into this trouble, so suddenly God can pull us out of it. God simply has to speak, and we’ll be saved. God simply has to speak, and we’ll be restored. And our God will do so—in his time, and in his way.

What then, is our response? Hearing the voice of the LORD, let us cry out, “Glory!” Let us hallow God’s Name! Let us glorify his Name for showing his greatness in all his works. Yes, He shows his greatness not just in the outwardly-pleasing works, the things that make us happy, or in the blessings we want to share with others. We glorify God’s Name for revealing his greatness, even in our storms and disasters, even in our dark and fearful times. For even then, He is our God. Even then, He’s promised never to forsake us.

That’s how the Psalm ends. After listening in on the heavenly council of God among the gods, after watching the weather patterns sweeping across the globe, after monitoring the currents of the seven seas and the shifting of the massive tectonic plates, we zoom in. We zoom in on a very small nation, on an insignificant people. It is the church.

And we see that God still hasn’t forgotten them. In his almighty upholding of the entire universe, He has not once neglected this humble nation that He chose for Himself. For David writes this as a last word, “The LORD will give strength to his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace” (v 11). In short, God generously gives his people everything they could ever ask for: strength for the road ahead, and peace with God up above.

            Notice David says these are “his people,” the LORD’s own possession. That underlines the need for our fitting reply, the need to give a proper answer. Standing in his temple, this is our response: We all cry “Glory! Glory to God!” Today on the Lord’s day, this is what we do: We worship God. But then when we go home, and when we begin a new week of work and study, we need to keep crying out those words. “Glory! Glory to God, in everything I do!”

            Such is the kind of prayer that Jesus teaches us, “Grant us… that we may so direct our whole life—our thoughts, words, and actions—that your Name is not blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised” (Q&A 122).

            For if we really know God, then we need to stand in awe of Him. If we really know God, then the first purpose of our lives needs to be the hallowing his Name. If we really know God, then our first and pressing concern must always be this: How can I bring glory to this almighty God? And how can I do so better? How can I use my gifts, and my opportunities, and my time, and my possessions, my body and my brain, my heart and my soul—how can I, more and more, bring glory to this God, and hallow his Name?

            Beloved, let’s do nothing to win the praise of others. Nothing out of custom or tradition. Nothing just because it’s expected. Let’s do nothing to serve ourselves, or to serve the false gods of this world. But let all the glory be reserved for the one true and living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To Him be the glory, today and forever! Amen. 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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