Delighting in the Greatness of God

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness . . . (1 Chronicles 16:29 ESV)

In his book “Providence,” John Piper tackles the question of why it is good that God desires to receive praise from his creation, while the same desire in human beings would be considered egotistical.

He first answers the question qualitatively. He writes that God’s “. . . glory is of infinite value. It is infinitely beautiful. Therefore, God, in all his glory, will prove to be more satisfying than anything or anyone else.”[1] Then to illustrate, Piper tells how C. S. Lewis discovered that “. . . all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise . . . we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”[2]  So, the call to “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name” (1 Chronicles 16:29) is a call to enjoy the perfections of God and to freely express that enjoyment.

Walter Chalmers Smith has given us a beautiful means of expressing our enjoyment and praise of God with his hymn Immortal, Invisible. This hymn guides us to particularly praise God for four attributes which belong to God alone – or as the theologians describe them, God’s incommunicable attributes. First is God’s attribute of being eternal.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise;
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes;
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days;
Almighty, victorious – Thy great name we praise.

“God has no beginning or end and is in no way bound by time, although he sees events and acts in his world in time . . . Those who trust the God of eternity can know peace, rest, and comfort in the busyness of life and despite impending death, for God keeps them in safety and joy forever.”[3]  Therefore, the psalmist writes:

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2 ESV)

The second stanza of Smith’s hymn speaks of God as being independent.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light;
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might.
Thy justice, like mountains high soaring above;
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

“God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy. God never experiences need, so serving God should never be motivated by the thought that he needs us. He is the provider in everything.”[4] As the apostle Paul noted when addressing the people of Athens:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25 ESV)

Paul’s words lead us to the third stanza of the hymn, which gives praise to God as the unchangeable giver of life to all.

To all, life Thou givest – to both great and small.
In all life, Thou livest – the true Life of all.
Thy wisdom so boundless, Thy mercy so free;
Eternal Thy goodness, for naught changeth Thee.

God is immutable. “He is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises . . . God can always be trusted because he always keeps his word and is never capricious or moody.”[5]  He says through the prophet Malachi:

For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6 ESV)

And this eternal, independent, and immutable God is omnipresent. He is everywhere at once, receiving the adoration of angelic beings and the praise of his people on earth, which is celebrated in the hymn’s final stanza.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight.
All praise we would render – O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.

“God is present everywhere with his whole being. God can be sought anywhere regardless of place. Believers should never feel lonely, and the wicked should never feel safe.”[6] As God says through Jeremiah:

Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him, declares the LORD? Do I not fill heaven and earth? (Jeremiah 23:23-24 ESV)

Immortal. Invisible. Eternal. Independent. Immutable. Omnipresent. Just. Good. Loving. The Essence and Giver of life. The list could go on and on. Hymns like this one from Walter Chalmers Smith, and the words that fill holy Scripture, keep us mindful of how God’s glory is of infinite value and beauty. May our enjoyment of the beauties of God lead us to daily – moment by moment – “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.”


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[1] Piper, John. Providence. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Publishers, 2020, p. 53.
[2] Piper, Ibid., p. 54.
[3] ESV Study Bible
[4] ESV Study Bible
[5] ESV Study Bible
[6] ESV Study Bible

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Filed under Daily Living, Hymn devotional, Knowing God, Praise, Worship

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