Summoned To United Praise

November 2, 1997 / No. 2861

The greatest union which is possible among men and women is when they are united to praise and to glorify God. This is the union that is called for in Psalm 34:3. We read: “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” The union that is contemplated in that verse is a union of those in whom exists the throbbing desire to magnify and exalt Jehovah God, the desire to praise Jehovah out of a personal and true experience of gracious salvation. That is the greatest union known, the greatest possible union, the union that is perfected in heaven. It is a gathering together, a coming together, into one for this purpose: to glorify God.

Many are the issues or causes which call men together in unity. It may be politics, or similar social views. It may be business, the same goals in economics, or sports, the love of hunting or basketball. These are earthly, temporal, and vanishing unities. Other unions are more intense. There may be unions out of a similar experience of death, illness, or sorrow, out of which people form organizations and clubs whereby they draw together in their common experience. These unions, too, apart from saving union to God, are empty unions and must leave a person unsatisfied.

This is the true union, the highest level of unity: when we are united in praising God out of a personal experience of His grace and power in delivering us from all our fears, when we are united to praise God. Then every self-serving purpose is lost. Then sinful divisions fade and become shameful, in the union of united praise to God.

Psalm 34 was written by David after he had changed his behavior before Achish, king of Gath, who then drove him away. It was a time in his life when he was fleeing from Saul. In a moment of desperation and panic he had gone to hide himself among the Philistines. When his presence was reported to the king, Achish sent for him. David then appeared wild-eyed, with spit running down upon his beard. He scribbled upon the walls, playing the madman. Achish sent him away in scorn.

It was then, while David was waiting for friends and family to join him at the cave of Adullum, that he wrote the 34th Psalm. Strikingly, he weaved none of the details of his escape into the narrative, but dwells on the grand fact of being heard in the hour of his peril. He does not foolishly brag of the details of his sin, but he writes of the mercy of God in granting him an undeserved deliverance. He vows that he will bless the Lord. He will do so constantly. He says, “At all times” (v. 1). He shall do so openly. God’s praise shall be in his mouth. And he will do so heartily-that is, his soul will make its boast in the Lord (v. 2).

Then he calls upon others to unite with him in order that with one stream of glorious praise the people of God may join to praise the living God. Out of a profound, personal awareness of gracious deliverance; out of an unfailing understanding of God’s faithfulness, mixed with an understanding of his own sinfulness, he says: Join with me, will you not? Let us unite together in glorifying God.

That is the highest possible union: when we participate in united praise.

Magnify the Lord with me. Let us exalt His name together, we read. To magnify means “to make great.” Even you children who may be listening know of a magnifying lens on a telescope or a microscope. A magnifying lens takes the little dot in the night sky and shows you that, in reality, it is the red planet, Mars, or the rings of Saturn, or some beautiful nebula in space.

To exalt means “to lift up,” to lift up something in order to show its beauty and preciousness, as something that is worthy to be admired.

Magnify the Lord, exalt His name!

When it is said that we must magnify and exalt the Lord, that does not mean that we make God glorious and bigger and greater than He is, that we add to Him. We cannot do that! Jehovah God is infinite. The Scriptures say: “God is great” (Job 36:26). They say: “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised” (Ps. 48:1). Further, the psalmist says in Psalm 135:5, “For I know that the LORD is great.” No, the magnifying and exalting takes place in us. To magnify the Lord means that fresh, deeper, true revelations are made to our eye of faith of all that God is and of all that God has done for us. You see, the restriction is in our eye and in our heart. It is not that God must be enlarged. But our hearts must be enlarged. Our eye is narrow. We have tunnel-vision and our eyes need to be opened before the majesty of God in order that we might take in the vast panorama and vistas of God. We limit God; that is our sin. We stumble and stagger as blind men and women before the awesome radiance of the holy God. And our little faith draws up restrictions upon God. We say His arm is short and cannot save when the ugly shamefulness of sin breaks over our hearts. We say His ear is impaired, He cannot hear my cries for help. We say His wisdom is limited because the way in which He leads us is all wrong.

You see, God is great. He is infinitely exalted. He is beyond all ability to take in His majesty, the excellence of His own person. But we, cumbered by our sin and faithlessness and pride, are those who stand before God and do not understand His majesty and greatness. To magnify the Lord means that that is changed in our hearts and our hearts are made open to glorify Him for who He is. It means that we have, then, a deep, personal, fresh, penetrating understanding of the greatness of the living God. And this takes place out of the experience of His gracious goodness when He delivers us from our sins. When the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, opens our eyes to see the mercy and lovingkindness of God, the sheer amazing grace of God to sinners such as we are, then we magnify the Lord for who He is and for what He has done. One can glorify God only out of a daily, deep, profound understanding of salvation by grace alone.

This was David’s experience. David, as I said, had been desperate in panic. He latched hold of the first plan of escape that came to mind, throwing aside all thoughts of faith, any idea of trusting in God. He decided he would do whatever it would take to secure his deliverance, even if it meant pretending that he was insane. God was gone from his thoughts. All he could think of was “What will I do? I must do something.” Now, brought back to spiritual awareness, he sees that God had been gracious and it was God who had delivered him. And seeing that gracious deliverance of one so unworthy, he says, “Will you not join with me in magnifying God?”

You see, to praise God is not something that we drum up with liturgical innovations, that is, with innovations in worship services whereby we say, “We want to praise God, so we ought to clap and sway and chant or hear emotional stories and then wait for the Spirit to fill us with some kind of ecstasy.” No, to magnify God arises out of the heart which is personally aware, deeply aware, of salvation by grace alone. When one understands, in the light of his own folly and willfulness and pride, his own self-centeredness, his own sin, that God, nevertheless, in an unfathomed love and faithfulness has saved him in Christ and has kept him, then one magnifies God. Exactly when one is brought to know his littleness, his nothingness, his sinfulness, and then seeing God’s grace and power, he exalts the name of the Lord.

It all comes down to the cross, you see? Grace gives us to see that we were redeemed with the precious blood of the Son of God upon Calvary’s cross. We see the grace of God in giving His Son to die the death that we, vile and evil haters of God, deserve. We see Jehovah, the I AM THAT I AM, to whom nothing can be added, and who would have done no injustice if He had made me a monument to His justice by consigning me to the eternal flames of hell-this God has had mercy, He has given His Son, He has forgiven me. Then when that truth dawns upon our hearts-our own nothingness and God’s pure graciousness, lovingkindness, and mercy-when that shines into our eye of faith, we say: “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together.”

But what you and I must see today is that this urgent desire to magnify and to exalt God serves as the principle of unity among the people of God. What is it that unites the saints who are in heaven? Do you picture the saints in heaven in any sense divided among themselves, serving cross-purposes, trying to get ahead of one another, trying to outshine the other? You say: No, no! But what is the principle of the unity of the saints in heaven? What holds them in a blissful love for each other and ties them in most exquisite communion? Well, you would say, would you not, they glorify God. They are all before His throne and all self-interest and sin has been swallowed in one heart-throbbing desire: Glory to God in the highest! How shall my soul give worthy praise to Thee? That is their unity: to magnify God. As one beautiful chorus with every member concentrating on the same wonderful note of divine grace, they shout and sing: To God be glory for ever!

That is the unity of the saints on earth as well. The unity of the saints on earth is: God and His glory. Knowing who He is and His glory in salvation.

Notice that the emphasis on unity is the common thread of magnifying God in our text: “Magnify the LORD with me, let us exalt his name together.” David does not look at praising God as something which each one retreats into his own corner to do. David is not thinking that we simply draw up our own little partitions in the church and then within those partitions we glorify God. Oh, no! We must do this together. This is the power of unity. This is the secret of the communion of the saints. They are joined with one desire: to magnify the God of pure grace.

Now if you have been following carefully and if you have been thinking this word of God through, then you will understand that any system of theology which detracts from the glory of God, to the measure that it detracts from the glory of God, to that measure it is an attack upon the unity of the saints. Whenever a system of theology, that is, a system of religious belief, begins to give glory to man (for instance, begins to say that the salvation of the sinner is due to the act of the sinner; God cannot save the sinner unless that sinner first contributes his own willingness) and thus brings the glory of salvation to man, to that measure the unity of the church is hindered. The unity of the church is on one note: To God alone be the glory in my salvation.

That also means that to the measure that pride shows itself in our relationships as brothers and sisters, to that measure, too, we cannot enjoy the unity of the saints. The glory of God is our unity. That means that when we walk in our proud ways and are not humbled before the matchless Jehovah, our unity in the church of Jesus Christ must suffer. And to the measure that God’s grace gives us to bow before God and confess: “Great and terrible art Thou out of Thy holy temple, wonderful is Thy grace to me an unworthy sinner,” to that measure we stand united.

We experience this, too, do we not? When brethren in the church fall out, when there are mis-communications among Christians and pre-judgments, when minor issues become major issues and words begin to fly and feelings are heated, when there are hard, bitter feelings and discord, then, when one rushes in among all of that and says: “My brethren, this cannot be of us. Is God glorified this way?”-then brethren are humbled and say, “Yes, we must repent, for God must be glorified.”

You have perhaps thought that you will not forgive your brother. Perhaps you are going to hold the chip on your shoulder, you are going to let your heart be hard. Then the Word of God comes to you today: “Is God glorified that way?” Then, in very deep shame you repent of that hardness to your brother and you say, “Let us exalt His name together.”

This can happen in marriage. There can be bickering and distance. Let us call it what it is: sinful pride. Then, at last, husband and wife come together and they say, “Honey, look what we have become. Look at what our bickering is telling our children. Look at what our bickering is telling others of our God. God cannot be glorified this way.” When the glory of God is first in our souls, unity among brethren follows.

I want to apply that just for a moment to you young people in your dating and in your plans for marriage. There is much that is made today of compatibility. Can you get along with each other? Do you have the same background, the same social standing, the same personality? Most often, I think, Christian couples will tell you that the longer they are married, the more they discover that, by nature, they have more differences than they at first realized. This is compatibility: that you are united to glorify God. This means that you are suited for each other; when you are sold out to do one thing and to accomplish one thing in your life: to magnify God out of a personal experience of His saving grace. That is intimate union, that is lasting union. You must not unite, marry, or even date on the basis of form, face, or figure. The only unity among human beings which is permanent and intimate is the unity in which believers join to praise God. Unite in this principle: may God be glorified in us. If you do not, then your union is going to break apart. It may be over finances. It may be because another girl comes along with a better figure. Or it may be death. But it will break. But not this union, not when you are united to praise God. Shall we not say this: O, let us magnify the Lord! This is the duty of all of our life.

It may be, for some people, very quaint when the old catechism gives its first question and answer. But the old catechism had it right. “What is the chief duty of man? To know God and glorify Him forever.” That is your duty. That must be your constant, heartfelt duty every day. You must magnify Him in your heart, in your motives, in your words, in your goals, in every part of your life, your life in its totality. When at last that life comes to an end, this is what must be said of your life: he glorified God in his life.

What will be said of you? That you were a good business man? That you kept your figure? That you owned a five-bedroom house-drove a new car-were a White Sox fan? Is that what will be said of you? If that is all, then it adds up to nothing, and you will go to the flames of hell for the greatest of all sins: failure to glorify the God of heaven. Proud, unbelieving, and self-serving.

It is our duty to magnify the Lord always. David, in the quietness of the cave of Adullum, had a great deal of thinking to do. He turned over in his mind his recent conduct and it brought tears to his eyes. He was led to see the glory of God in God’s wonderful grace-something that he had lost sight of. And seeing that wonderful grace of God, his heart burst within him to praise God and to call others to join him in this sacred duty.

When we glorify God, then we are one. We are truly one when we bow our heads before the God of grace.

Let us pray.
Father, we pray that Thou wilt teach us these living principles. Wilt Thou give us to know Thee in Thy grace to sinners in order that we might magnify Thee from one heart and from one soul. Amen.