Psalm

SO THAT GLORY MAY DWELL IN OUR LAND

PSALM 85

7 Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.
8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
9 Surely salvation is near to those who fear him,
so that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.

Are the elect the only ones that matter? Aren’t others affected as well? Is the ministry of God’s Word intended only for the souls of some for eternity? Does the church on earth have no other calling than to awaken faith in those whom God calls through preaching? Shouldn’t we be concerned about reaching the masses? Don’t the state and society matter as well? Does it matter what becomes of Sodom and Gomorrah around us, just as long as the little creek that is the church stays pure and trickles along between its banks?

“No, not at all,” exclaims the psalmist in response. “That’s not the extent of things at all, not by a long way. That’s part of the picture, to be sure, but it’s not the heart of the matter. What it comes down to, and this is true for all generations, is that God receive his glory and that he be feared.”

You may not push the elect to the foreground. The electing God is in the foreground, and he remains there eternally. He is the glorious, almighty, and living God, the spring and fountain of all that’s good. He’s the overflowing source of all that lives, whether in nature or by grace.

Do you suppose that it’s enough if only the elect benefit and if those that aren’t do not? If so, you’d be standing in the way of God receiving the glory that is rightfully his. Then you’d be not the least bit worried about what goes on outside the circle of the Lord’s people.

But if you regain the right perspective and see that the elect have a subordinate importance, you’ll give more weight to everything around you. You’ll also come to appreciate once more that God is above all and that the honor of his name is the only measure of all things. Self-centeredness falls away rather automatically.

If I’m a Father, the Lord says through Malachi, where is the honor due to me? And if I’m the Lord, where am I feared? What father is not affected by his children’s scandalous conduct or when his good name is discredited by the terrible way they live? And how can Almighty God look on with indifference when a country here and a group of people over there cause enormous damage and behave like animals? They are the most exceptional of all his creatures, yet they debase precisely what’s exceptional about themselves!

God lives. He reigns. Moment by moment he is also the Almighty God who has called into existence every tribe, city, village, household, and person. He not only created them, but he also sustains them and allows them to go on living by his powerful Word.

He alone is the God who is generous, gracious, and favorably disposed. He feeds and sustains every city and village. He makes corn grow in the fields. He protects people by his laws and comes to them through the preaching of his Word.

Would it really matter, then, to such a God how things are going, what’s happening, or whether honor or scandal prevails as long as the people of the Lord are doing well?

No, I tell you, that’s getting it backward. That amounts to saying God exists for the elect, when in fact his Word instructs us so clearly and firmly that both the elect and all his other creatures only exist for his sake.

Causing all other creatures to exist and upholding them in their existence, especially all peoples and nations, entire cities as well as hamlets and villages, serves a purpose. This is not only a future purpose but a present one. It’s a purpose for today, for the time in which we are living. And what else could that purpose be than that the Lord God be glorified by all those cities and towns and villages?

If attention were focused only on the elect, you’d necessarily miss the life going on in the entire world. Then the entire world isn’t needed for the preaching of the Word. Once impacted by it, the souls of those responding to it are never finished with him who is their Fountain of Salvation.

The world is still there with all its treasures, its rich flourishing of life, its natural beauty, and all its developments in human affairs. All of this is significant to the Lord. These are not simply toys with which the ungodly amuse themselves before having their last meal and leaving for hell. All of these are treasures given by God—the silver and gold as well as the rich flourishing of life in art and science. God created it all. It belongs to him. He is worthy of it. To regard all of this rich, full, shining reality apart from God is to hold a very impoverished view of who he is.

No, this is the same God who at one time paid special attention to Nineveh, that enormous city with many people and much livestock. The same God is still the owner because he formed all this. He possesses it because he upholds it. He rules it because he determines its destiny. He is this same God for every country and region, every people and nation, every city and village, every hamlet and neighborhood and settlement. Even in the remotest of places, no tenant farmer can be living in such isolation that this holy, glorious God does not claim his glory from that little patch of ground and the people living there.

Things need to be done properly. Light needs to shine in the darkness. Proper order and conditions need to govern human customs. Life’s clockwork must run daily according to God’s ordinances, and it must be properly rewound every evening through prayer and the confession of sins.

Passions erupt in every home. Sin churns in every village. Injustice erupts and rises to the top in every city. Ungodliness pulses through the veins of people’s everyday living. But in these cases, here is where God’s honor comes to expression. His name restrains those passions, reins in those sins, curtails injustice, and bridles ungodliness. It’s to God’s glory that the people in that house talk together again, that things are under control in that village, that justice is administered in that city, and that good laws are written for the country. This is a credit to him, strengthens his rights, and gives God victory over Satan’s terribly unholy power. It’s to his honor most of all that where he extends his blessing day and night, he is thanked in city and countryside for his great compassion.

This is how every father needs to see things in his own home. He shouldn’t only be asking how his children can be converted. Above all, he should be asking how his entire home can give glory to God.

As king in his home, he needs to say with David: “I will walk through my home with an upright heart. Whoever practices deceit will not remain in my house. The crooked heart I will keep far from me; the wicked I will not acknowledge.”

This is how the mayor of every city and town must be an aggressive enemy of all injustice and root out all ungodliness. A private home is not his responsibility. In the home, the father is the mayor. But on the streets and with respect to all things public, the mayor must contend for God’s honor. He must do so whether the law requires this or whether it does not. God Almighty will require from him the honor of his city or town. All drunkenness, dishonesty, lewdness, scandal, bitterness, and outbursts of hellish anger must be excluded from public life by him, or he will answer for it.

Likewise the king stands before God. What the father is called to do in his home and the mayor is called to do in his city or town, the king is required to do for the entire country and all the people. He is God’s minister, the servant God has designated to see that God is honored in his country and that glory rises to the living God from the hearts of his people.

This is what the biblical Word teaches us.
This is what the Reformers clearly grasped.
This is what is still laid on the hearts of all Reformed people.
That’s why we tolerate no yielding on this matter by our fatherland or its people.
If this were about us, we could. Because it is about God’s honor, we cannot!

Abraham Kuyper, Ever in Thy Sight: 31 Devotions on the Psalms

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