Steal Not God’s Glory
The prayer of Daniel which appears in the ninth chapter of the Book is one of the most precious segments of Holy Writ. It is simply loaded with jewel upon jewel of truth for the believer. O, the richness and the depth and the great value and the tremendous benefit for us as saints to examine carefully the petitions of a man who really means business about reaching his God in prayer --a man like Daniel.
Oh, how good our God has been to us in giving us His marvelous Word to guide and instruct us in righteousness. Praise His Name! We, His children, have no excuse for not knowing the mind of God. Never! We have His printed Word and His blessed Holy Spirit to discern for us the truths that we read in that Word. What a God! What a Savior!
I should like to direct our attention in this writing to verse 15: "And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought Thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten Thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly."
Up to this point in his prayer Daniel has stated clearly in his address to the Lord that he and his people have been wrong--have been unrighteous and disobedient in His sight. That theme certainly doesn’t stop in the remainder of his prayer. But it is interesting that in verse 15 here Daniel "reminds" the Lord that He had delivered His own people out of bondage--out of the punishment of slavery in the past. For indeed, God had "brought His people forth out of the land of Egypt" some 1000 or so years prior to the Babylonian Captivity here.
Daniel’s appeal is, "Lord, we know we have sinned and done wickedly in Thy sight! We know that we deserve nothing good from Thee and that we can never hope to earn our way to freedom. But we appeal to Thee, God, not on the basis of what justice calls for. Lord God, if You give us what we should justly receive we are hopeless...we are helpless...we are lost! Our only hope is in Thy grace and Thy mercy! Show us again Thy mercy--not Thy justice."
Do you see that? For God to serve justice in man’s plight He should give us all death! Sin against a perfect, holy and righteous God always calls for the death penalty. For justice to be served in our condition--i.e., with regard to the estate of all mankind--I say, if justice were to be served, ALL--no exceptions, would receive the death penalty. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
But He Who did not deserve death bore it unjustly in His own body for us. "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree..." (1 Peter 2:24). Have you ever contemplated that? Do you realize God had to be unfair to Himself for us? It is the only way man could hope to be rescued. It had to be. The One infinitely perfect--the ONLY One undeserving of death had to unjustly suffer the price of death for us. He had to put Himself to death for us!
The only One that "Justice" said should NOT die, mercy said must die if even one unjust person were to be spared the death penalty. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God..." (1 Peter 3:18). "Not by works of righteousness which we have done...," because we have not done righteousness, "but according to His mercy He saved us..." (Titus 3:5).
O, people that we would see the vast difference between "justice" and "mercy." With "justice" only we are lost! But with the "mercy" of a loving God we are justified! That which the repentant sinner is NOT--just--he becomes in the sight of God because of the infinite price a God of mercy set and paid Himself. And when the Almighty God looks now at the one "in Christ" He looks at one that He judges to be as perfect as His own Son (2 Corinthians 5:21). What a truth! What an overwhelming truth! It simply staggers the mind when we try to take it all in.
So it is in this 15th verse of Daniel 9. "We have sinned," says Daniel. "No question about that. We have sinned and we have done wickedly." He does not for a moment in this verse nor in the entire prayer even suggest that God was wrong in meting out the punishment that He did upon His people. But Daniel does make reference, doesn’t he, to his forefathers who about a millennium earlier had similarly sinned and similarly were undeserving of deliverance? They didn’t deserve deliverance. Yet God in mercy brought them "forth out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 20:2).
God’s Name to Be Honored
I would like to deal now at some length with that phrase in Daniel 9:15, "...and hast gotten thee renown."
In a previous writing on this great prayer of the prophet we saw that the prayer was going to be very revealing, very much an exposé of ourselves to ourselves, an exposé of the Church to herself. This is the direction I want to take at this point. We have indeed come again to just such an exposé in the clause, "and has gotten thee renown," as we shall soon see.
"Renown," meaning widespread and high repute; fame, or as the margin my Bible and possibly yours, too, renders the clause, "hast made thee a name."
I submit to you, reader, that one of the great tragedies of the Church in the recent decades of this century has been her bold exploitation of the name of God, her unashamed plundering of the glory that belongs exclusively to God and which God has clearly stated in His own Word He will retain for Himself and not share with any other. "I am the Lord: that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another..." and "Let them give glory unto the Lord..." He said in Isaiah 42:8 and 12.
In his book, The Spiritual Man, Volume 1, Watchman Nee states: "Carnal Christians tend to show off their differences and superiorities in clothing, speech, or deeds. They desire to shock people into a recognition of all their undertakings." (Page 153). I would submit to you, reader, that in recent decades in the contemporary Church there has occurred a robbery of the glory of the Lord possibly unparalleled in Church History. The Church in this hour has pursued the ways of the world in her so-called worship of the Lord! She has sought out men of many letters, many carnal accomplishments, men of recognition and importance, men with impressive backgrounds and impressive credentials humanly speaking, those with great charisma and significant talent, the "well-travelled," the "well-informed." We have placed these men on a pedestal and in so doing have absolutely stolen the honor due the Lord only and placed it upon the head of a man. This shameful robbery of God’s glory and disrespect for His holiness has moved across the Church in every area but probably most conspicuously in her music.
First of all we must be absolutely honest with one another and admit flatly that the vast majority of the music of the Church composed in recent years--we are speaking now of the idiom itself, that is, the style of the music--is precisely identical to that of the world. (This, by the way, has not been by happenstance but rather by design, a problem which we will not pursue in this writing at this time.) It will not be denied by any honest-thinking person that contemporary "Christian" music (CCM as it is referred to) is now almost without exception the music of the world. There is no difference whatever. The Church has simply "married" the world in the field of contemporary "Christian" music.
So-called "Christian" music in the Church of the nineties, indeed of the past three to four decades, has degenerated to where it is indistinguishable from the music of the Devil’s world. Satan’s efforts to merge the godless music of his world with the music of the Church have been totally successful! With little or no resistance from the Church the sensual sound of the dance floor and bar room and the blasphemous sound of rock and rap and the disco have permeated the Church.
This is as far as I will go at this time in dealing with a discussion of the music itself, music that clearly carries a carnal, godless message all its own.
But let us consider now the lyric, the actual words that accompany the ungodly music. Very often the lyric is light, meaningless, and indeed, sometimes even blasphemous in content. We’ll look at an example of this in a moment. Of course, this is understandable, isn’t it, in a day when "gospel music" is big business and the faster one can grind out another song to a spiritually diseased Church the more money is to be made. The result is hundreds and hundreds of songs containing virtually meaningless and frivolous messages in the lyrics that are not messages at all.
Oh, for the hymn writer of past generations who was moved in the depths of his or her heart with a message from the Throne that had to be unburdened and found that unburdening through the composition of the great and glorious hymns of old! Listen to A. W. Tozer’s observations here:
"Many of our popular songs and choruses in praise of Christ are hollow and unconvincing. Some are even shocking in their amorous endearments, and strike a reverent soul as being a kind of flattery offered to One with whom neither composer nor singer is acquainted. The whole thing is in the mood of a love ditty, the only difference being the substitution of the name of Christ for that of the earthly loved." (From That Incredible Christian, Page 129.) How accurate! How insightful from this 20th century prophet! Here is an example of that to which the brother is referring; this is an excerpt from a popular, so-called contemporary "Christian" song:
"So many nights I’d sit by the window
Waiting for someone to sing me his song.
Alone in the dark but, now You’ve come along.
Could it be finally I’m turning for home?
Finally a chance to say, ‘Hey! I love You!’"
Here is an example from another song:
"I know the voice, I know the touch,
Lover of my soul,
I need the voice, I need the touch, etc."
Dear reader, I submit to you that music in the Church today many, many times has degenerated into nothing more than a platform upon which the "artist," the "performer," if you please, can show off and take for himself glory due exclusively to God.
Recently I was in the music department of a "Christian" book store. As I was browsing through the supply of contemporary Christian music (most of it new releases) something struck me. Something caught my eye. I began noticing that on the face of these books of Christian music often was the pose of the artist or artists involved in the composition or frequent performance of the music. So out of curiosity I decided I would look at the cover of 100 of these new songs.
Out of the 100 books I just examined at random 94 of them displayed in bright, flamboyant color-photography the picture of a performer or group of performers or the composer of the music in various, unmistakably glamorous poses.
Please keep in mind that we are dealing now with the clause in Daniel 9:15, "and hast gotten thee a name" or "hast made thee a name." I suggest to you that there are thousands of professing Christians in this hour who are making or desiring to make themselves a name in "contemporary Christian music." Music in the modern day church is most frequently little more than a bold, shameless display of showmanship and self-glorying and self-promoting. Allow me again to quote from the pen of Tozer. He says, "Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice." (From The Pursuit of God, Page 45).
I could hardly believe my ears not long ago when I happened to hear a so-called "Christian" disc jockey say on the air that a certain female "gospel" singer had really "made a name for herself" with a certain album she had recorded. Let me go on record and state simply that this is blasphemy. It is stealing from God glory that is due Him alone.
John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). This whole thing simply continues to escalate and to carry with it a naive Church that follows blindly along in this carnal, godless trend, a Church that thinks nothing apparently of one "name-making artist" who, using her popularity and fame in the Christian community as a springboard, has catapulted herself into the secular field of popular music and is clearly recognized now as one of the "successful," famous celebrities of the godless, immoral entertainment community. She has made the "crossover" clear and simple.
Yes, I’m certain there are those who would say to me, "You know, Jim, you’re too critical. You have a critical spirit. You’re judgmental. You ought not make such judgmental statements about people in the Church."
Well, if that be the case, if a person would be convinced that I’m being judgmental I think I might as well go a step further and suggest to you that I’m not so certain, I have my problems recognizing many "Christian performers," "Christian celebrities" (what incredible contradictions in terms!), as blood-bought believers. I must admit to you that it is most difficult for me to detect hardly an element of the seed of righteousness in scores of these professing saints, people who know the language but lack the evidence of the Spirit’s presence in them, people who (if you will permit me to quote Brother Tozer once again) are "...theological saints who can and must be proved to be saints by an appeal to the Greek original," saints, he says, "for whom we need to run to the concordance for authentication of their sainthood." (Paths to Power, Page 5).
O, dear reader, please understand the sense in which I express these observations to you, my words that would appear judgmental and condemning. They are not said for the purpose of being judgmental in the sense of condemning ourselves, the Church, but only for the purpose of calling us all to our senses, calling us back to a full recognition of what it means to worship God and Him alone. How we need to fall on our faces before a holy God and beg Him to return us again to exalting Him alone in the music of the Church. "Turn Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old" (Lamentations 5:21).
How gratifying it was to hear that contemporary Christian music singer, Steve Camp, has recently given some indication that there may be a reversal of the persistent ungodly trend in the music of the Church of our day and that there may be a move toward regaining our senses in this serious problem. In an idea similar to that of Luther’s 99 Theses, Mr. Camp has published what he calls his 107 Theses countering the Christian music of the hour which of course, he himself has been party to in the past.
He says, "Early in my own musical journey I wrote songs that neither represented good music nor precise theology." Then he adds this poignant, timely remark, "Gospel music today has become music for the moment but not for eternity." How significant a statement! Predictably, Mr. Camp’s strongly-worded theses are being called "judgmental" by many music executives who have grave concerns about a return to godliness and spiritual sanity that would threaten to hamper their multimillion dollar "gospel" music industry. But may I say that I for one, strongly agree with Brother Steve’s timely observation that "Gospel music today has become music for the moment but not for eternity."
O, that the eternal God would cause us all to see as believers, as God’s precious brood, that our goal, our pursuit in this short stay on His planet, the thing for which we have all been born, and then born again, is that the Lord God Jehovah might use us to make a name for HIMSELF! Daniel said it. "O, Lord God, that hast brought Thy people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, AND HAST GOTTEN THEE RENOWN--[HAST MADE THEE A NAME!]" (Dan. 9:15). Do we realize, fellow believer, this is why we are here --to know Him and to make Him known!
Do you know that everything God does in His universe with things and with people He does for His own name’s sake? You and I weren’t even saved for our own benefit but for His name’s sake. I like the way John MacArthur put it in one of his sermons. He said, "Salvation is primarily for the honor of the Son, not the honor of the sinner. The purpose here is not to save you so you could have a happy life--that’s a by-product. The purpose here is to save you so that you could praise the Son for ever and ever and ever." (From Sermon, "Who Chose Whom" by John MacArthur).
"Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy name’s sake..." (Ezekiel 36:22). "Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known" (Psalm 106:8). "I, even I, am He that blotteth out Thy transgressions for Mine own sake" (Isaiah 43:25). "For Mine own sake will I defer Mine anger" (Isaiah 48:9). "Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 38:23).
When you hear declarations like those, they are so profound, so powerful and overwhelming, you wonder, don’t you, how we can ever dare to seek any of the glory that belongs to God! To seek to steal from Him one fraction of His mighty honor and majesty is a frightening thing to even contemplate. It makes us want to cry out to God Almighty to protect us from our own self-praise and self-seeking, and to deliver us from ourselves, and to do it all for His name’s sake!
We identify with the psalmist who pleaded with his God, "Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, FOR THY NAME’S SAKE" (Psalm 79:9).
– J. N. J.