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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Parnell

Why We Declare God’s Glory (Psalm 96:4-5)

For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. ⁵For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. —Psalm 96:4-5

Verse 3 tells us to declare God’s glory among the nations. But why? The answer is here in verses 4-5. It goes like this:

First, we should declare God’s glory among all the nations because the Lord is great and worthy of all the world’s praise (v. 4a). Next, this is to say, the Lord should be valued more than every other object of affection in this world — “above all gods” (v. 4b). Last, the reason why the Lord deserves this worship is because He is greater than all the idols that litter this world and rob the worship that the He alone deserves (v. 5).

The first two points in verse 4 are summarized simply: the Lord alone deserves our worship. He should be exclusive in our affections and values. The second point in verse 5 explains the reason why the Lord deserves our worship: He is greater than everything else in this world that would steal our affections of which He alone is worthy.

The way this second point is made is by comparing the Lord to these other gods. The gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord, well, the Lord made the heavens.

Not So Simple

This might sound really simple. But the truth is that this truth was rarely lived out in the history of Israel. In fact, the story of Israel through the Old Testament is one riddled with their fundamental inability to live out God’s supremacy. It goes back to Deuteronomy, just before Moses died and the people enter the Promised Land with Joshua. Moses warns the assembly over and over against idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:15–18; 25–26). This warning is the foundational command in the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6–7). In fact, the central, heartbeat truth of Israel’s identity is passionately opposed to the slightest possibility that it’s okay to worship anything else:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).

But Israel did worship other things.

The Horror of Idolatry

Moses later looks to their future and gives the grimmest picture of Israel’s faithlessness (Deuteronomy 32:17–18). Apostasy always leads to idolatry. Turning away from God always leads to worshiping something else. If we forsake the true worship of God then we’ll hoist up false worship for a conjured deity. And we’ll sacrifice to it. Israel slaughtered their children.

As Psalm 106:36 tells us, “They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons.” Notice the interplay here between “idols” and “demons.” See also Deuteronomy 32:17, between “gods” and “demons.” These idols, demons, and gods are all the same. But the gods are not real gods, as the apostle Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 8:4; 10:20; Galatians 4:8). Nevertheless, they get a lot of attention. They receive a lot of fanfare. They did in Israel’s history and in all the nations of the world.

A New Humanity of Worshipers

But the Lord made the heavens. He is the Creator, above all there is. He is totally separate from everything else. And He will make for himself a people who live this out. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Father has made this new people. The mark of this new humanity is their exclusive worship of God. This new Israel worships by the Spirit, glories in Christ Jesus, and puts no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). Or as Paul captures it precisely:

For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.  (1 Corinthians 8:5–6)

As the people who worship the LordHe who is greater than everything else in all the worldwe declare His glory, and His alone, among the nations (Psalm 96:3).


For Reflection

  1. Why should God be praised?

  2. What are the “worthless idols?”

  3. Why should we declare God’s glory among the nations?

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