Is God For Us or For Himself?
I would like to try to persuade you that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever. Or to put it another way: the chief end of God is to enjoy glorifying himself.
The reason this may sound strange is that we tend to be more familiar with our duties than with God’s designs. We know why we exist – to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But why does God exist? What should he love with all his heart and soul and mind and strength? Whom should he worship? Or will we deny him that highest of pleasures? It matters a lot what God’s ultimate allegiance is to!
If you asked my four sons, “What’s the most important thing to your dad?” and they said, “I don’t know,” I’d be really disappointed. But if they said, “I don’t care,” I’d be crushed – and angry. It ought to matter to a son what a father regards as ultimately important. It ought to matter a lot to us what God is committed to with all his heart and soul and mind and strength. What is the impulse that drives the Almighty? What does he pursue in all his plans?
God did not leave us to guess in this affair. He answers the question at every point in redemptive history from creation to consummation. Let’s survey some of the high points to see what he says.
Why did God create us? Isaiah 43:6-7, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth (says the Lord), everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.”
Why did God choose a people for himself and make Israel his possession? Jeremiah 13:11, “I made the whole house of Israel … cling to me, says the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise and a glory.”
Why did God rescue them from bondage in Egypt? Psalm 106:7-8, “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider thy wonderful works…but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake that he might make known his mighty power.”
Why did God spare them again and again in the wilderness? Ezekiel 20:14, “I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.”
Why didn’t God cast away his people when they rejected him as king and asked for a king like the nations? 1 Samuel 12:20-22, “Fear not, you have done all this evil yet do not turn aside from following the Lord … For the Lord will not cast away his people for his great name’s sake.”
Why did God use his sovereign power to bring back his people from exile after punishing four generations of sin? Isaiah (48:9,11) put it like this, “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you … For my own sake, for my own sake I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”
Ezekiel 36:22-23,32 puts it like this: “Thus says the Lord God, ‘It is not for your sake, 0 house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name … And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name … and the nations will know that I am the Lord. It is not for your sake that I will act,’ says the Lord God. Let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, 0 house of Israel.’ ”
Why did the Son of God come to earth and to his final decisive hour? John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee.” A beautiful conspiracy to glorify the Godhead in all the work of redemption!
And why will Jesus come again in the great day of consummation? 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10, “Those who do not obey the gospel will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at in all who have believed… ”
From beginning to end, the driving impulse of God’s heart is to be praised for his glory. From creation to consummation his ultimate allegiance is to himself. His unwavering purpose in all he does is to exalt the honor of his name and to be marveled at for his grace and power. He is infinitely jealous for his reputation. “For my own sake, for my own sake I act,” says the Lord. “My glory I will not give to another!”
My experience in preaching and teaching is that American evangelicals receive this truth with some skepticism if they receive it at all. None of my sons has ever brought home a Sunday school paper with the lesson title: “God loves himself more than he loves you.” But it is profoundly true, and so generation after generation of evangelicals grow up picturing themselves at the center of God’s universe.
I am going to make the assumption, though, that the vast majority of you do not want to usurp God’s place at the center of his universe. You probably have two other objections coming to your minds against making God so self-centered. One is that we don’t like people who act that way, and the other is that the Bible teaches that we shouldn’t act that way. I’ll try to answer these two objections, and in doing so, I hope I can also show why God’s commitment to his own glory is immensely relevant for your life.