Mahatma Ghandi was an Indian mystic who said that he greatly admired Jesus Christ. He wished that Christians would implement Christ's words. He thought that He embraced many of Christ's ideals. Indeed, he was willing to see Jesus as being equal with Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Zoroaster, and other leaders of religions. That sounds very open minded, but what he could not tolerate (no open mindedness here) was Christ's Words, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me." That is so exclusive. That is so politically incorrect. That statement ruled out all other religions and as Peter stated it in Acts 4:12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." All the world is called to bow before the Lordshp of Christ. All the world is called to give God glory through Him. Ghandi couldn't do that, so he emphatically said, “I cannot accord to Christ a solitary throne, for I believe God has been incarnated again and again.” Ghandi was quite willing to have Jesus on a throne side by side with other thrones and authorities, but he was not willing for Jesus to have a solitary throne - to be the only Lord and the only Savior and the only Mediator to God.
This Psalm considers such pluralism to be blasphemy against God. In contrast, David's heart-passion is given in verse 5, where he says, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth.” Two weeks ago we made that verse our testimony in the song, "Above all Powers." Our testimony was that Jesus must be "above all powers, above all kings, above all nature and all created things; above all wisdom and all the ways of man, all were Yours before the world began. Above all kingdoms, above all thrones, above all wonders the world has ever known; above all wealth and treasures of the earth, there's no way to measure what You're worth." And that is what our heart desires, right? It makes our hearts well up in praise when we sing that song.
But our life does not always match up with our testimony, does it? When Christ shines the spotlight of His convictions in our hearts, we often close the door to conviction, which is demoting Christ from His throne. When we read convicting Scripture and give excuses, we are demoting God. Even Peter talked back to Christ on occasion. When God gave Him the vision of the unclean animals coming down from heaven in a sheet, and God said, "Arise, Peter. Kill and eat." What was Peter's response? It was, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." Though he thought he had grounds to do so, he had set his opinion above Jesus, not Jesus above his opinion, and he received a well-deserved rebuke. If Christ were truly Lord in that moment, Peter would not have contradicted Jesus by saying, "Not so, Lord!" Or as some translated it, "Surely not, Lord!" Well, the "Lord" and the "Surely not" don't square with each other. And it is important when we come to the Lord's Table that we come with a sincere desire that the Triune God be exalted above all of us and all of our desires and opinions.
I have Facebook friends who just this past week have said in effect, "Surely not" to numerous Scriptures. As feminized as the "Adam and Eve Declaration" is, there was one statement in it that offended one of those feminists. It said, "We affirm that faithful husbands are the covenantal heads of Christian households." When there was outcry from some in the group, one of the authors of it said that "head" just meant "source" and did not imply authority. But even as weak as they watered that statement down, and even though it is a phrase from Scripture, this one gal in effect said, "Surely not, or I'm out of here." Someone posted Hebrews 13:17 as proving that elders do have some authority in the church. It reads,
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
He just pointed out the words "obey" and "those who rule over you" with no commentary. And he was instantly demonized as a patriarch and addicted to power, and they then proceeded to interpret that verse to mean the opposite of what it says. Strangely they were reacting to quoted Scripture, not to any interpretation given of that Scripture. They were triggered by the Scripture itself.
Others are more subtle. They use sophisticated hermeneutics to keep certain laws restricted to Old Testament times and making them no longer relevant to our lives. We have seen the feminists keep other kinds of laws out of their lives. And then the LGBT movement has followed with their own hermeneutic of Scripture. We have seen Marxist hermeneutics which stop people's ears to passages that speak against state theft and redistribution. We have seen various psychological approaches to Scripture that soften Christ's call to crucifixion and make it instead an easy bed of self-fulfillment. All of these movements are making a man-made hermeneutics above God's Word, and above God, and above Jesus, while pretending to honor Jesus as Ghandi did.
Though Spurgeon said this about another verse in another Psalm, I think it applies here. He said,
[God] is no petty deity, presiding, as the heathen imagine their gods to do, over some one nation, or one department of nature. Jehovah is great in power and dominion... "He is to be feared above all gods."
So this verse presents two things before our eyes with respect to God's glory. Verse 5 presents a theology of God's glory being above everything else and secondly there is a personal commitment to pursue God's glory by submitting to His will.
How far should God's glory go? It should be more important to us than heaven itself. "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens." Our heart's passion should be to see God elevated when we see the clouds and the birds in the first heaven, called "the atmosphere." When we look at the discoveries of astronomy in the second heaven, that too should instantly draw our hearts to exalt God as being so much more than those amazing stars. Even atheists stand in awe at how puny the universe makes us feel. They realize that we are a speck on a planet, and our huge planet is pretty small when compared to our solar system, and our solar system is just a tiny speck in our Milky Way galaxy. And even though our Milky Way galaxy has somewhere between 100 and 400 billion stars in it and would take over 100,000 years to travel across if we traveled as fast as the speed of light, yet this vast galaxy known as the Milky Way is just a tiny dot in a universe that as of this year seems to have at least one hundred billion galaxies in it. Yet God is exalted above that and worthy of our devotion and obedience. And as much as we look forward to the glories of the third heaven (and it is called third heaven because it is even more glorious and high than the one hundred billion galaxies), that glorious gift of heaven, which will be our home, is less (is far less) than the gift of knowing God and being drawn into His presence. How do you view God? Is He indeed exalted above the heavens?
But he goes on to say, "Let Your glory be above all the earth." The most exalted things in life are nothing compared to God and should not take the place of God. But it is often the trivial things of life that occupy our attention and pull our allegiance away from God. It is often the puny things of life that make us compromise. We put the pull of relatives and friends above Jesus. Smart-phones, cars, beauty, brains can all make us think of ourselves as more important than God - which is ridiculous when you think about it. And when you think of how you put the esteem of others above God's esteem, it is silly. Yet we do it don't we?
And so it takes a commitment of our will (what Scripture speaks of as the obedience of faith) to appropriate Christ's grace so that we are enabled to exalt the Father just as Jesus exalts the Father. Not only does the Psalmist say "Be exalted" and "Let Your glory be" (so there is a commitment there) but in verse 7 he makes a commitment to have a steadfast heart to pursue the Lord in this way. And as we come to the Lord's Table, I would encourage you to make that your commitment as well.