We are all prone to glory stealing. Somebody says something really funny. We quote it and don’t give them credit. Someone has a great idea-by the time it comes out of our mouth, it’s ours. We climb the ladder of success and forget key people who put rungs in that ladder for us. We are all prone to glory stealing.
We’ve gotten too good at stealing God’s glory. We wake up, and somehow assume we got ourselves through the night. We take a hot shower, eat a hot meal, enjoy a warm home…and assume that we gave ourselves the health and presence of mind to work and earn a living, to pay our bills. We write a blog and think somehow we made ourselves smart enough to put words into sentences. Down deep we are convicted felons, glory thieves.
In Psalm 115, the Psalmist talks to 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.” (verse 1) The Psalmist makes clear that it is because of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness that we have what we have and can do what we can do.
But life takes a dark and downward turn when we steal God’s glory–we give it to someone or something else. We make idols. John Calvin said that “man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols.” When we make idols, verse 2 of Psalm 115 becomes the norm for our lives: “Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens, he does all that he pleases.” We could ask, “Why should (my friends, my family, my coworkers, my neighbors) say, “Where is his God? Where is her God?”
Our friends, family and neighbors ask, “where is their God,” because we make idols. Verses 4-8 describe those idols:
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. (Psalm 115: 4-8, ESV)
Idols cannot talk to you, see you, hear you, smell you, feel you, or come to you. They are immobile, inoperable, incapable substitutes for God. Whether your idol is your child, your grandchild, your job, your appearance, your health, your reputation, your athletic ability, your intellectual capacity, your choice drug, sex, food or your wealth–it is mute, blind, deaf–insensitive. Idols are merciless, autocratic, demanding, unrelenting nothingness disguised by shiny silver and glistening gold. When we trust them, we become like them. We become merciless, autocratic, demanding, unrelenting nothingness disguised by shiny silver and glistening gold.
Idols desensitize, depersonalize, devalue, debilitate, dehumanize.
“O Israel,” the Psalmist writes, “trust in the Lord!” I implore you (and me too) to put my name in the next few lines:
O (your name here), trust in the Lord. He is your help and your shield.
Three times this is repeated. God is not mute. He is not deaf. He can come to you. And he will. Ask the prodigal son. He wasted his inheritance on idols–shiny silver and glistening gold–and ended up eating pig slop. When he “came to his senses” he remembered his father. He ran home. But he could not get all the way home because his father ran to meet him, embraced him–pig slop and all–and threw a party. That’s the rest of this Psalm!
The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great. May the Lord give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth! (Psalm 115:12-15, ESV)
As you read this, whoever you are, wherever you are, you may have eaten from the proverbial pig pen last night. You have a Father, sitting on his front porch, looking longingly down the road waiting for you to come home. He has not forgotten you, and he won’t.