Ascribe

Psalm 96

The first time the word appears is in the early parts of Genesis.

“Come,” the people say to one another. Let’s build this great building. Let’s do this big thing. Let’s make a name for ourselves.

They are strong, and it only leaves them wanting for more power.

------ The next time the word appears is many years down the road, also in Genesis.

“Give,” Jacob says to Laban. Give me Rachel so I may have sex with her. You are holding her back. It is time to honor your promise.

He has worked for what he desires and he can’t wait any longer to get it.

------ This word appears again in Psalm 96.

Ascribe,” the Psalmist tells us. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.

God does not desire an ascription of glory because He is narcissist, and doesn’t want to share His attention with anyone else.

Nor does God desire the ascription of glory because He is self-conscious, and needs the affirmation that comes with praise in order to feel good about Himself.

One definition of “ascribe” in English is ‘to think of as belonging.”

God desires for us to ascribe to Him the glory due His name because that is where the glory belongs.

When we ascribe glory to ourselves, we drown in the waters of desire, as we seek to quench our insatiable thirsts for more and better and bigger.

------ This Psalm is not a demand. It’s an invitation.

It is an invitation that welcomes us each day to live differently than we did the day before.

It is an invitation to feel God’s mercies in a fresh way. To give up the shackles of striving and pushing our way into getting others to ascribe us the value we want. To live in the freedom of giving God the glory He deserves.

1 Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his[a] holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. 13 Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.

- Psalm 96


That was my reflection on Psalm 96. Link up with your thoughts below. Stop back next week for a reflection on Psalm 97.

Glory for the Outcasts

fireplace

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"To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain." - Exodus  24:17

"When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it." -2 Chronicles 7:1-2

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'" -Luke 2:8-12

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In Luke 2, when an angel appears to shepherds, we are not surprised they were terrified. That not only seems to be the common response to angels, but also the way we would likely feel in the same circumstance.

But I wonder if not only the angel scared the shepherds, but by the other thing the text mentions. The thing not pictured in our nativity scenes because there’s no easy way to depict it: the glory of the Lord.

The glory of the Lord surrounded the shepherds. Original readers would have been shocked by the scene that has become so familiar to us.

The glory of the Lord rarely appeared to people. And when it did, it was frightening in its otherness. When the glory of the Lord appeared in the temple, the priests dared not even enter. When the glory of the Lord appeared on the mountain, the Israelites compared it to a consuming fire.

And now this fire, this otherness, this glory, was surrounding shepherds.

Shepherds, who were considered religious outcasts. Whose profession made it virtually impossible to follow the oppressively detailed religious laws. Whose 24-7 in the field duties kept them away from religious festivals.

Shepherds, who were lowly.  Whose job kept them away from society and gave them little money in return. Whose responsibilities took ruggedness and grit.

At the birth of Jesus, God tore the curtain between heaven and earth and ripped apart human expectations of who was worthy to be in His presence.

God sent His glory to outcasts. His fire was no longer restricted to the mountaintop or the most holy place; it was sent to warm the hearts of all.

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Loving God, remind us how Christ broke through the divide. Bring us into Your presence. Help us know how we are loved and welcomed there, no matter what. May we embody that same kind of welcoming. May we bring those who are feeling on the outside this Christmas into our homes and churches so that they may see their place in Your story, too. Amen.

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Glory in the Highest- Chris Tomlin


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

Admiration, Psalm 29, and the Christian Celebrity Sub-Culture

I am writing this from a hotel room, in between days of the Catalyst conference. Catalyst is a great conference. After one day’s content, I am feeling inspired and convicted and energized and overwhelmed and excited. I am honored to be here.

In part, that’s because of the admiration I have for the people who have been on stage. They are amazing people that God has used in fantastic ways. It is wonderful to hear stories of their experiences and tidbits of their wisdom.

This admiration, though, comes with a risk: ascribing glory to the wrong place.

These leaders have become famous, at least in the Christian sub-culture. This can be dangerous for both them and us. Because once you have felt the spotlight, there is an allure to keep it. And once you have seen the spotlight, there is an allure to seek it.

Psalm 29 is a great reminder of where the glory belongs.

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. –Psalm 29:1-2

I love the word “ascribe.” In Hebrew, it’s “yahab” which could also be translated give, provide, or grant. All of those words contain intentionality.

Choose to give the Lord the glory.

Remember that these great works have been done through Him, by His strength and according to His purposes.

Know that the real splendor isn’t in the works of these people, but in the holy and amazing God from which those works were birthed.

It gets confusing sometimes when we appraise the work of humans. There is a divine mystery in the interplay between human will and God’s sovereignty and between human strength and God’s power. We are, in fact, playing a role.

When God acts through us, it can be both invigorating and exhausting. It is good to encourage each other, and give one another pats on the back for jobs well done.

The problem comes when we don’t recognize our wandering from encouragement to glorification.

This Psalm reminds us that glory belongs with God alone. To help us, it gives an example of something God is involved in that has nothing to do with human strength: a thunderstorm. The lightning flashes, the thunder rolls, and we feel in our bones that what is happening is beyond the power of human beings.

It is the voice of the Lord.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. – Psalm 29:3-4, 7 

I am influenced by many human voices. But none of them compare to the power and majesty contained in the voice my God.

I can admire humans. And receive wisdom and inspiration from their voices. But in the midst of listening to them, I need to consciously ascribe to the Lord the glory due His Name. I need to remember the real source of power and good in this world is the one who had the authority to create it in the first place.

This has been a great Psalm to be running through my thoughts today. I think tomorrow I will continue to repeat it in my head as I take notes with my hands:

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.