By John Piper
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! (Psalm 96:7)
Here’s at least part of the experience that the psalmist is referring to when he says, “Ascribe [= give] to the Lord strength.” What are we doing when we “Ascribe to the Lord strength”?
First, by God’s grace, we give attention to God and see that he is strong. We give heed to his strength. Then we give our approval to the greatness of his strength. We give due regard to its worth.
We find his strength to be wonderful. But what makes this wonder that we experience a “giving” kind of wonder — “Give to the Lord strength!” — is that we are especially glad that the greatness of the strength is his and not ours.
We feel a profound fitness in the fact that he is infinitely strong, and we are not. We love the fact that this is so. We do not envy God for his strength. We are not covetous of his power. We are full of joy that all strength is his.
Everything in us rejoices to go out of ourselves and behold this power — as if we had arrived at the celebration of the victory of a distance runner who had beaten us in the race, and we found our greatest joy in admiring his strength, rather than resenting our loss.
We find the deepest meaning in life when our hearts freely go out of ourselves to admire God’s power, rather than turning inward to boast in our own — or even think about our own. We discover something overwhelming: It is profoundly satisfying not to be God, but to give up all thoughts or desires to be God.
In our giving heed to God’s power there rises up in us a realization that God created the universe for this: so that we could have the supremely satisfying experience of not being God, but admiring the Godness of God — the strength of God. There settles over us a peaceful realization that admiration of the infinite is the final, all-satisfying end of all things.
We tremble at the slightest temptation to claim any power as coming from us. God has made us weak to protect us from this: “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Oh, what love this is, that God would protect us from replacing the everlasting heights of admiring his power with the futile attempt to boast in our own! It is a great gladness not to be, but rather to see, God!