by Arthur W. Pink
Philologos Religious Online Books
Studies in the Scriptures
by Arthur W. Pink
PERSONAL OWNING OF GOD.
“Ascribe ye greatness unto our God” (Deut. 32:3). Having considered the application of this unto the nation, let us ponder its varied implication unto the individual believer. We begin by drawing an inference—if greatness is to be ascribed unto God, then obviously it is to be withheld from the creature. The Lord God alone is truly great and therefore no worm of the earth is entitled to the least share in the honour of that mighty attribute. Did not the Lord Jesus emphasize this truth when addressing the rich young man? “Good Master,” he said to Him because he regarded Christ only as an excellent human Teacher. Christ replied, “There is none good but one, that is, God” (Matt. 19:17). So there is none great but one—the Almighty. “To God only wise, be glory” (Rom. 16:27): there is none wise but one—the omniscient Lord. O what arrogance to arrogate unto ourselves that which pertains alone unto Deity!
Ours is supremely an age of bombast and impiety. Man is inflated by a sense of his own importance. One vies with another in seeking the homage of his fellows. From motives of self interest or from a spirit of sycophancy many are willing to fawn upon some creature who is but of yesterday and flatter him by calling him “great” and giving to him the most imposing titles. Nor is this evil confined to the commercial and political world. How nauseating the arrogant titles assumed by Papist priests, and how horrible the blasphemy of their dupes found in worship before the arch-priest of Italy! Nor is this evil spirit of placing ecclesiastical dignitaries on a pedestal and rendering homage to them by any means absent from “Protestant” circles. Much need is there, then, in this day to press the exhortation, “Ascribe ye greatness unto our God” and to Him alone, for He will not share His glory with another. Let us point out some of the ways in which this may be done.
By worshipping Him decorously. By this we do not mean that costly buildings must be erected or that they need to be richly furnished and an elaborate and imposing ritual instituted. No, that were to ascribe littleness to God, as though He could be attracted by outward show and pleased with the baubles which amuse children. “The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48), for “the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee” (1 Kings 8:27). “God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24): that is, from the heart, in sincerity: it is the homage of the soul He requires. “The LORD is great, and greatly to be praised” (Psa. 96:4): but the very fact He is so high above us requires that we take our place in the dust at His feet. “O come let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psa. 95:6). Let us in deep humility yet fervent gratitude adore Him and return thanks for all His manifold mercies. “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all about Him” (Psa. 89:7).
By trembling at His Word. It is much to be thankful for, if by grace we receive that Word for what it actually is, namely, a Divine revelation. Yea, it is cause for deep gratitude if we accept the Holy Scriptures not as cunningly devised fables nor even as the product of good and wise men but as the living oracles of Jehovah—as an inerrent communication of His heart, His mind and His will to us. If we truly believe God's Word, we shall stand in awe of it, for it is “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). The Word of Truth contains not good advice which we may accept or refuse as we feel disposed, but the mandates of the Almighty which we ignore at our peril. Yea, which we refuse to our certain and eternal undoing. The Scriptures come unto us clothed with all the authority of the King of kings and therefore implicit obedience to their precepts is demanded of us. Said the Lord Jesus, “The Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). It is therefore the part of wisdom to measure ourselves by it and conform to its requirements. O that we may be among those who “tremble at God's Word” (Isa. 66:2).
By counting on His power. We profess to believe that He is the Almighty, yet no sooner are we in straits, faced with obstacles and brought to our wit's end, than we act as though God were as feeble and helpless as ourselves. No circumstances can baffle Him who is clothed with might, no situation defy the Maker and Sustainer of the universe. He has but to speak and it is done, to command and it standeth fast (Psa. 33:9). But alas, unbelief darkens the mind and beclouds the vision so that we are no longer able to see the absolute sufficiency of Him with whom we have to do. Caleb and Joshua ascribed greatness unto their God when they said to the unbelieving nation “the LORD is with us: fear them not” (Num. 14:9)—with their eyes on Him the Canaanite giants and walled cities dismayed them not! When in a tight place look for the Lord to show Himself strong on your behalf; when you are come to the end of your own resources, count on Elijah's God working miracles for you; when Satan tempts you to doubt, say, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
By relying on His goodness. The greatness of God consists not only of the majesty of His being and the infinitude of His power, but also in that He is the sum of all moral and spiritual excellence. “Thou art good, and doest good” (Psa. 119:68): nothing must be allowed to cast doubt upon that grand fact. The Divine goodness is God's acting kindly and benevolently, ministering to our welfare. Assurance thereof enables the believer to declare, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up” (Psa. 27:10). God is “abundant in goodness” (Exo. 34:6), and unlike that of man's, which is often “as a morning cloud and as the early dew (which) goeth away” (Hosea 6:4), it “endureth continually” (Psa. 52:1). An unshaken confidence in God's goodness lies at the foundation of our trust, love and hope in Him. In the darkest hour we may count our blessings and know that all things are being made to work together for our good. “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble” (Nahum 1:7). O that we may be among those who “delight themselves in His great goodness” (Neh. 9:25).
By honouring His mercy. God is “plenteous in mercy” (Psa. 103:8). “Thy mercy is great above the heavens” (Psa. 108:4). Nor is it of brief duration: “His mercy is everlasting” (Psa. 100:5). These are most precious statements and faith needs to be mixed with them when the soul is overwhelmed by a sense of guilt. If the believer has fallen by the wayside and is horrified and in anguish at so foully defiling his garments, unbelief will say his case is hopeless. If he has transgressed against light and warnings, perverted privileges, and disgraced the cause of Christ, Satan will tell him his iniquities are too great to be pardoned. But Satan lies. Then is the time to ascribe greatness unto God by honouring His mercy, This is what David said: “O LORD, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great” (Psa. 25:11). So far from belittling his sin, he acknowledged the enormity of it and pressed it as the urgency of his case—like one saying, Give me food, for I am starving. Do you feel as though you are full of sin? remember Christ is “full of grace” (John 1:14). Plead Isaiah 1:18. Limit not the great God, but trust in the abundance of His mercy.
By reckoning on His faithfulness. Did you not begin by coming to a great Saviour, though you felt yourself to be the vilest of the vile? Did He turn you away? Nor will He now if you cast yourself at His feet. “But I have abused His goodness, misused His mercies and sinned more grievously than in my unregenerate days—what hope can there be for me?” you ask. What hope?—this: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).” But my trouble,” says another, “is the matter of temporal supplies: my health is gone, my loved ones are dead, old age and starvation stare me in the face.” Ah, but He who has cared for you thus long will not suffer you to sink at the last—“His compassions fail not . . . great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22, 23). “Our fathers trusted in Thee: they trusted, and Thou didst, deliver them. They cried unto Thee, and were delivered; they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded” (Psa. 22:4, 5). The godly in former ages committed themselves to God in their trials, and He did not put them to confusion—and this should encourage us. “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain thee” (Psa. 55:22). “He is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10:23).
By taking refuge in His immutability. The Lord is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Here is a stable rock on which to rest amid the changing billows of the sea of life. What awful alterations we are now witnessing in the world. Peace has given place to war, order to chaos, happiness to misery. The homes of millions cruelly broken up, the plans and prospects of countless young lives rudely shattered, kingdoms overthrown, the most stable and ancient institutions are now in the melting pot. But none of this has affected God: it will never have to be said of Him that He began to build and was unable to finish. He is still on the throne “working all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11). It is this which enables faith to say, “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psa. 46:2). It is this which assures the believer that no matter how he may waver or professing Christians apostatize, he shall not perish: “I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). It is this which causes the Christian to rely on the Divine promises: the knowledge that with God “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).—A.W.P.