I don’t know if you are familiar with “The Church of Oprah Winfrey, ”but it is a New Age religion of positive thinking, of forgiveness without atonement (there is no room for the cross of Christ), of acceptance without judgment and meaning without truth.” One of the things that turned her off to the Jesus of the Bible is His desire for praise and glory, considering Him a self-seeking glory hound.
So, just why does God desire our praise and to be glorified? Does that make Him like movie stars and sports heroes and people of position and power who want people to idolize them? Is He like Mohammed Ali who claimed “I Am the Greatest,” and loved the acclaim that came with his boxing success? None of us like people who are “full of themselves,” arrogant, boastful, egocentric. And didn’t Jesus Himself say: “And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and who ever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Mt. 23:12)?
Yet Scripture makes it clear that God’s goal in all He does is to receive praise for the glory of His name. God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah to the Jews said: “For the sake of My name, I delay My wrath, and for My praise, I refrain it for you, in order not to cut you off…For My own sake I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another” (Isa. 48:9-11). The Psalmist, David, prays to God, saying: “There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord; nor are there any works like Yours. All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before You, O Lord; and they shall glorify Your name, for You are great and doest wondrous deeds; You alone are God” (Psa. 86:8-10). The last six chapters of the Book of Psalms are all about praising God: “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven” (148:13). “Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness…Praise Him with the trumpet sound..with the harp and lyre…with timbrel and dancing…with stringed instruments and pipe…and loud cymbals…Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (Psa. 150:1-6).
God’s clear purpose from Scripture is to exalt Himself and His name in the eyes of man. But, His aim to glorify Himself is wholly good and pure—because it is an expression of His love. First of all, He is worthy of all our praise, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Ro. 11:36). When the apostle John was caught up to heaven (Rev. 4:1,2), He saw Christ sitting on the throne and all those around were worshiping Him saying, “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things and because of Thy will they existed and were created…Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 4:11; 5:11). (NOTE: Many years ago I attended “Promise Keepers” at the Seattle Kingdome and got to experience 40,000 men singing “How Great Thou Art”—a foretaste of heaven!)
God’s glory refers to His “eternal (unending) intrinsic (coming from within) perfections (attributes).” He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and is sovereign over all the affairs of His creation—including mankind. He is thus deserving of all our praise and honor. He is also self-sufficient and in need of nothing. We can add nothing to Him that is not already flowing from Him. So, God’s desire to seek His own glory and to be praised by man cannot stem from His need to feel good about Himself or to compensate for some deficiency. People who seek glory and praise are trying to conceal weakness and deficiency and also are concerned only about themselves and not what happens to others. But we read in I Cor. 13:5 that “Love does not seek its own,” so, how is God loving? If God is a God of love (and He is…I Jn. 4:7-10), He must be for us (and He is…Ro. 8:31).
So, is God for Himself or is He for us? YES! Because God is unique as the most glorious of all beings and totally self-sufficient, He must be for Himself in order to be for us. If He were to abandon the goal of His own self-exaltation, we would be the losers. His aim to bring praise to Himself and His aim to bring pleasure to His people are one aim and stand or fall together. In view of God’s infinite beauty, power and wisdom, what would His love to a creature involve? What could God give us to enjoy that would show Him most loving? There is only one possible answer—Himself! If God would give us the best, the most satisfying, the most significant, i.e., perfect love, He must offer us no less than Himself for our contemplation and fellowship and worship. That’s what Psalm 16:11 indicates: “In your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” To be supremely loving, God must give us what will be best for us and delight us most—Himself! How do we respond when we are given something excellent to enjoy? We praise it. We praise what we enjoy, and “the praise is the climax of the joy itself” (C.S. Lewis). It is part of the pleasure. “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment” (John Piper).
“Therefore, if God is truly for us, if He would give us the best and make our joy full, He must make it His aim to win our praise for Himself—not because He needs to shore up some weakness in Himself or compensate for some deficiency, but because He loves us and seeks the fullness of our joy that can only be found in knowing and praising Him” (John Piper). God, then, is the one being in all the universe for whom seeking His own praise is the ultimate loving act. When He does all things “to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12), He offers to us the only thing in all the world that can satisfy our longings. God is for us and therefore has been, is, and always will be, for Himself. Since 1643, Protestants have used the Westminster Larger Catechism as part of their worship. It begins with the question: “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The Answer: “To glorify God, and fully enjoy Him forever” (p. 153).
So, “Praise the Lord! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (Psa. 150:6).