by Arthur W. Pink
“Ascribe ye greatness unto our God” (Deut. 32:3). Great indeed is the Lord, yea, “His greatness is unsearchable” (Psa. 145:3). Before Him “the nations are as a drop of a bucket and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” “All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted to Him less than nothing and vanity” (Isa. 40:15, 17). “The pillars of Heaven tremble and are astonished at His reproof. He divideth the sea with His power, and by His understanding He smiteth through the proud. Lo, these are parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him!” (Job 26:11, 12, 14).
Listen to His own challenge: “To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one faileth” (Isa. 40:25, 26). Hear again His own affirmation, “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me” (Isa. 45:5). “He is wise in heart and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against Him and hath prospered? Which removeth the mountains, and they know not; which overturneth them in His anger . . . Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number” (Job 9:4, 5, 10).
“In His times He shall show who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen nor can see; to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Tim. 6:15, 16). Because God is so excellent and exalted His requirement is “ascribe ye greatness unto” Him. He requires that His majesty be recognized, His authority owned, His wisdom sought, His glory be made our supreme aim and endeavour. Our homage, our allegiance, our submission are His due. His claims upon us are paramount. He made us and can destroy us. We are entirely at His disposal, to be dealt with as He pleases. And none can say to Him, Nay.
“Ascribe ye greatness unto our God.” He is the One who “doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Dan. 4:35). He is the One by whom “kings reign and princes decree justice” (Prov. 8:15). He alone can do us good, supply our needs, preserve our lives. He is the One before whom all must yet appear and give account of their stewardship. “Ascribe ye greatness unto our God”: those words were addressed unto a nation: it is an exhortation which is not confined to the regenerate but applies to all men at large. Let us point out some of the principal ways by which a nation ascribes greatness unto God—not only in words, but in a practical manner.
By owning His Word. It is in the Holy Scriptures that the character of the Lord God is most fully revealed and wherein His perfections are set forth. All the wisdom, morality, righteousness and benevolence which are to be found among men have issued from that Sacred Fount. If greatness is to be ascribed unto God then His Holy Word must be given the first place in the counsels of government, in the home and in the schools. Our children must be made acquainted with His ineffable holiness, His mighty works, His acts of judgment upon sin, that they may be warned against offending Him. Those who honour His Word, He honours. When an African chief inquired of Queen Victoria the secret of Britain’s greatness she pointed to the Bible lying on her table.
By revering His Sabbath. To ascribe greatness to our God is the first and chief design of this ordinance, for it is an acknowledgement of Him as the Maker of Heaven and earth. By keeping the Sabbath holy unto the Lord we own His proprietorship over our souls, our bodies and our time. Observe both the order and the reason in, “Ye shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:30)—those who desecrate the Sabbath only mock God when they pretend to worship Him. The Sabbath Day Psalm (92: see title) opens with, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord and to sing praise unto Thy name, O Most High.” They who keep the Sabbath “honour Him” (Isa. 58:13), knowing Him as “the LORD their God” (Ezek. 20:20).
By owning His Holiness. This is the principal jewel in the crown of His perfections. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. He is ineffably pure, without spot or blemish. His wisdom is a holy wisdom, His power is a holy power, His love is a holy love. He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13). “The LORD is righteous in all His ways and holy in all His works” (Psa. 145:17). Therefore is He “angry with the wicked every day” (Psa. 7:11), and therefore sin must be put away from us if we are to enjoy His blessing—“your sins have withholden good things from you”( Jer. 5:25). If we as a nation would ascribe greatness unto our God we must humble ourselves before Him, confess our sins, and reform our ways.
By acknowledging His judgments. Because God is holy He refuses to wink at sin, yet because He is merciful forgiveness is granted to those who repent and confess their sins. But where a people instead of forsaking their wickedness continue sinning with a high hand and brazen forehead, then the Lord pours out His indignation upon them. He will not be mocked with impunity but gives proof of His displeasure. Plagues are sent, peace is taken away, all the miseries of war are experienced. Nevertheless He will stay His hand if His rod is acknowledged. Even when Pharaoh said, “I have sinned against the LORD . . . entreat the LORD your God that He may take away from me this death” (Exo. 10:16, 17), the plague was stayed. If we would ascribe greatness unto our God we must acknowledge, “I know O LORD, that Thy judgments are right, and Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me” (Psa. 119:75).
By seeking His guidance. The first recorded failure of Israel in the Wilderness was, “They made haste, they forgot His works, they waited not for His counsel” (Psa. 106:13). The finest equipped army, the ablest leadership, the most thoroughly prepared plan of campaign are not sufficient to ensure success. Unless wisdom be given from above all human schemes and efforts are likely to come to nothing. Joshua was imposed upon by the Gibeonites because he “asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord” (9:14). Greatness is ascribed unto the Lord God when our leaders confess their insufficiency and seek help from Above. David was an experienced and successful warrior, but observe how again and again he “enquired of the Lord” (1 Sam. 23:2, 4; 30:8; 2 Sam. 2:1; 5:19, 23).
By relying on His Power. It is not sufficient to seek Divine guidance, there must also be dependence upon His power. “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host” (Psa. 33:16). “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but victory is of the LORD” (Prov. 21:31). “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One” (Isa. 31:1). In the heyday of success Napoleon said, “God is on the side of those with the biggest battalions,” but he learned otherwise before the end of his career. We ascribe greatness unto our God when we trust in the might which He supplies.
By recognizing His Providences. Events do not happen by chance: the history of a nation, like the life of an individual, is ordered by the Lord. He is the One who sets up and casts down, gives and withholds. The weather is regulated by Him, the crops are determined by His good pleasure. It is nothing but atheism or infidelity to deny God’s oversight of all the affairs of earth. If, then, greatness is to be ascribed unto our God, recognition must be made of His good hand and thanksgiving returned for all His mercies. “Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the Heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and Thou art exalted as Head above all” (1 Chron. 29:11).
In proportion as these seven things have characterized the national life of Great Britain, of her Colonies, of the U.S.A.—has greatness been ascribed unto the Lord God, and to the same degree has He honoured those who honoured Him. Conversely it is equally true that the measure in which these seven things have not marked our national life—as material interests, the love of pleasure, a pagan mode of life, the setting up of idols have crowded out that which was due unto Him—instead of His smile we have experienced His frown.
Originally edited by Emmett O'Donnell for Mt. Zion Publications, a ministry of Mt. Zion Bible Church, 2603 West Wright St., Pensacola, FL 32505. www.mountzion.org