To God be the glory

1 Chronicles 29:10-13 –  To God be the glory, by Rev. Colin Pretorius.

(The eighth sermon in a series on the Lord’s Prayer.)

Since the middle of March we’ve been working our way through the magnificent and encom­passing prayer that Jesus taught His disciples. As we listened to the words of Jesus as we find them in the gospel according to Matthew, we’ve heard about the manner in which we should approach the heavenly Father in prayer. We’ve learnt that we are able to approach Him in faith and confidence, but also with awe and reverence. Jesus has also taught us what we are to pray for. And when we look at the structure of the prayer, we see that it is like a ladder. It’s like a lad­der with six rungs, with the first three rungs being anchored in heaven and the bottom three rungs anchored on earth. What I mean by that is that the first three petitions are directed to or focused on God – so the top three rungs on the ladder have to do with God’s name, with His king­dom and with His will. The next three rungs descend to the earth, as we start praying for our daily needs, for forgiveness and a forgiving heart and then lastly we petition God for His pro­tection, protection against being overwhelmed by temptation and for deliverance from evil.

Now I don’t know if you noticed it when we read the passage in Matthew that there seems to be something missing from it. As we’ve come to know it in the Heidelberg Catechism in Q&A 119, in our green Book of Forms, and even in song, this final part of the Lord’s Prayer is “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever, Amen”. But this isn’t in Matthew’s gospel in the translations we normally use. (It does appear in the King James version,[1] and the NASB shows it as not occurring in the earliest manuscripts)[2]. It doesn’t appear in the gospel of Luke either. So it wouldn’t be strange to wonder why we have this last part in our prayer books and songs and our liturgies. We’ll dig into this a bit deeper shortly, but let me put it to you this way – the doxology expresses what is perfectly scriptural and it ties together the elements of the prayer. It gives us the reason why we are to pray in this way. To use the illustration of the lad­der, we can say that the doxology is the foundation of the prayer-ladder. It ties the prayer to­gether. It is the basis for the prayer. God’s glory and power and kingdom is the foundation on which the ladder stands.

But before we look at the meaning of the doxology itself let’s look briefly at why we have it as part of the Lord’s Prayer.

The manuscripts which are closest to the time of Jesus do not have the doxology. The earliest references to it can be found in what is known as the “Didache” or the teaching of the 12 apos­tles.   But the fact that the doxology doesn’t appear in the gospels of Matthew or Luke doesn’t mean that such doxologies are unbiblical.  Just to assure you: you do not have to be concerned that these churches added anything to Scripture. You see, the principles behind this doxology are completely biblical. And they didn’t originate with the New Testament church. No, they go way back in the Old Testament, not just to the exile or to the prophets like Amos, Hosea or Isaiah. They go back to David, the king whom we also know as the man after God’s own heart. Our passage for today is 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 and it’s set against the backdrop of the work on God’s temple. Funds had to be raised for this work and everyone had given willingly for that work. Now King David was address­ing them, giving praise to the Lord who had brought them to that point. Listen to David’s words:

Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

Yours is the power, David says. Yours is the glory. Yours is the kingdom! Although the words are in a different order, that sounds very familiar, doesn’t it! One can see where the early Christian church most likely got the words from for the doxology that they used as an ending to the Lord’s Prayer. Of course the Lord’s Prayer isn’t the only prayer with such a doxology. Doxologies were a common way of concluding prayer. Listen for instance to the following two doxologies that we find in the New Testament. Paul writes to the believers in Rome:[3]

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

And John writes the following in the book of Revelation:[4]

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!

Doxologies are songs of praise to our Lord and God. They give voice to our acclamation of our Lord in all His majestic glory. Following the early Christian church, we start the Lord’s Prayer praying for His name to be hallowed and we continue that theme of praise and glorification in the doxology. Our expression of praise and adoration begins with a passionate declaration of God’s sovereignty when we confess that all power belongs to God.

[1] Matthew 6:13, NKJV, AV (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.; Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.), 1995.

[2] Matthew 6:13, NASB 1995.

[3] Romans 11:36.

[4] Revelation 5:13.