1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
What is the most important thing in all the universe and beyond? What is most important to God? These questions are not asked often enough, and their answers are not generally given clearly enough. So, let me make it clear, even if it may confuse some. God’s top priority is not the good of mankind or my general happiness. God’s top priority is God’s own glory.
Look above at verse 2. God has exalted above all things his name and his word. There you have it. What has God lifted higher than anything else? It is not that God has lifted higher than all things that I be happy, that the lost be saved, or that the government allow prayer back in schools. God is not exalting that I be made wealthy, that I live my best life now, or that the needy be fed. God’s number one priority is himself.
Of course, to the uninitiated, this concepts seems utterly evil and selfish. Hold on a moment, though, as that is an incorrect assessment. That God is the number one priority in the universe is clear from the verses above; but this does not mean that God is somehow uncaring about other important things. God cares very much about the salvation of the lost, about the wellbeing of his children, and about whether or not the nations honor him. God cares greatly about the hungry being fed and the poor being cared for. Those things are simply not number one on his list.
Remember that the first of the Ten Commandments is that we must not have any gods before the one true God. God will not allow us to worship, to set as the highest priority and offer devotion to, something that is less than him. God is the highest, the greatest, the most glorious being in existence. If God were to allow us to worship something less would be for him to allow us to love something infinitely less worthy, infinitely less beautiful, infinitely less satisfying than he is. For God to allow us to worship something less than him or for him to set something less important than him as the number one priority of the universe would be for him not to love us but actually to hate us, as he would be allowing us to try to find our satisfaction in something that cannot satisfy. allowing us to waste our lives in futility instead of giving us the best would not be loving, and this is why God must make himself the number one thing in the universe and beyond.
So, is it offensive that God has exalted above all things his name and his word? It will offend those who think that they should be the center of the universe and that God should be displaced. But for the person who recognizes that God is the greatest, the highest, the most worthy, God’s centrality is a great gift from him. God allows us to find joy in his glory, and this joy is the joy that, unlike any other, can fully satisfy our souls.
So, would you like to be happy? If so, stop fighting against the fact that God is the number one priority of the universe. Instead, find out how marvelous it is to see God’s glory, his beauty, his majesty. God created you to display his glory (that’s part of what it means to be made in God’s image). You will never be truly happy until you are doing what you were created to do. So, as John Piper has argued in so many beautiful ways, make it the focus of your life to seek your own happiness in the one way that will truly satisfy your soul: find your joy in the glory of God. As Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”