Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Has God Magnified His Word Above His Name?

This morning I was reading Psalm 138 and came across an intriguing statement: "You have magnified Your word above all Your name."

If you think through the implications of this statement, then you can see why it’s so intriguing. God’s name speaks of His great power and majesty, His perfect character and utter holiness. His is the name which is above every name (Phil. 2:9). Since God’s name represents His person, how can anything – including God’s word – be magnified above His name?

To answer this question, we must go to the context in which this statement occurs. Psalm 138 is written by David, after having been delivered from a difficult or perilous situation. Here are the first three verses of the psalm in their entirety:

I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
In the day when I cried out,
You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul.

So the context has to do with God’s faithfulness to His servant. Other gods (notice the small ‘g’) are everywhere, but David worships the one true God - the God who has been true to His word. God did not only do what He said He would do, but a whole lot more. Through the abundant fulfillment of His promise to David, God showed Himself to be more than what David had already thought Him to be.

Along these same lines, it may also be said that this demonstration of God’s faithfulness surpassed all previous revelation concerning Himself. This would be very consistent with David’s prayer in 2 Samuel 7, which he gave after receiving the Davidic promise. In verses 21-22, David prayed, "For Your word’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them. Therefore You are great, O Lord God. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears." God, through His faithfulness, showed Himself to be even greater than that which had been previously revealed to His people. In this way, He magnified His word above all His name.

There’s a third and final sense in which this statement might be interpreted, and this is in reference to Christ Himself. What if this statement, like so many others in the Psalms, is Messianic in nature? That is to say, perhaps it has an immediate reference and application to David’s present circumstances as well as an ultimate reference and application to the Lord Jesus Christ. If "Your Word" in Psalm 138:2 refers to the Incarnate Word, then it means that God has magnified His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, above every other manifestation of Himself. Consider the following Scriptures:

John 1:14, 18 - "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."

Colossians 1:15 - "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."

Hebrews 1:1-4 - ""God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. . . who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."

The name of Jesus Christ is indeed the name "that is above every name" (Phil. 2:9). Now this is pretty exciting stuff, but it gets better! Second Corinthians 3:18 says, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." The mirror is the Word of God. As we go to the Bible, we see Jesus revealed in all His splendor. We don’t see Jesus simply in the light of His moral beauty – and certainly not His manly beauty (Isa. 53:2) – but in His present glory, exalted at the Father's right hand (Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:15-18; 1 Tim. 6:15-16; Heb. 1:1-13; Rev. 1).

If all this were not astounding enough, there is yet another glorious reality expressed in 2 Corinthians 3:18. Did you catch it? Paul says that as we behold the glory of Christ in Scripture, we "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." Herein lies the secret to Christian holiness: Preoccupation with Christ as revealed in Scripture. The more we truly come to know Him, the more we become truly like Him.

Granted, this transformation is not automatic or immediate, but gradual. As we let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16), our lives increasingly reflect His glory. What a great incentive to study God’s Word! May we give ourselves to this worthy endeavor, knowing that God has exalted His Word above all His name!


Anonymous said...

In the Bible, God is gradually unfolding his revelation. Moses asked God what His name was, and the reply was: "I AM WHO I AM". This conveys a truth that God is the only God - and that you cannot put a name on God to possess Him, such as Baal.

David had noted that he lived in a house, but the ark of God dwelled in curtains. God said that Solomon would build a house for his name (a new revelation). But even more gloriously, God said that the Messiah would descend from David. This is an amazing revelation of God that gave us a look at Him never previously seen.

When Jesus came, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:10-12 says "He was in the world, and world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe upon his name."

So, in Jesus, God was revealed to the world, but He was a humble servant, and the world currently has the option of accepting or rejecting him.

There is a revelation yet to come, when Jesus will be revealed in all his power and glory. He will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

So, I think that in Psalm 138, David is giving thanks to God for revealing to him that Solomon will build a temple, and that the Messiah will come through him. David feels it a priviledge that God would choose him to magnify our ability to see God, i.e. by revealing more of Himself to us. David knows that this God didn't do this often, that He is one person in millions to be so blessed.

In other words, God brought out His magnifying glass and showed David aspects of His glory that had not been shown previously, aspects that Moses for example had not seen.

Matt Fletcher said...

Very good insight. Yes, if we assume that Psalm 138 is tied into 2 Samuel 7, then that would be a very plausible interpretation. Thanks for sharing your insight!

Anonymous said...

Herein lies the secret to Christian holiness: Preoccupation with Christ as revealed in Scripture. The more we truly come to know Him, the more we become truly like Him.

Paul said, [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] Phil 3:10 AMP

Even in prison at the end of his life, Paul was preocupied with knowing Christ. You said it well. Your words have encouraged me even though you may have forgotten you penned them. -- Jim Parker, Orlando FL

Matt Fletcher said...

Wow, thank you, Jim. It's hard to believe I posted that article nearly a year ago. In reading it again, I caught a sense of the exhilaration I sensed that morning in my spirit as I swam in the cool, refreshing water of God's holy Word. May the Lord's blessings rest upon you as you seek to know and love Him better each and every day.

Alex said...

First class Amen