READ: Psalm 86
THINK: “Dieu seul est grand.”
Inflammatory and brilliant words, unexpected yet spoken with boldness and firm conviction by Jean-Baptiste Massillon at a time when a nation needed to hear them. King Louis XIV died in September of 1715 after ruling France for over 70 years, the longest reign of any European monarch. He governed with absolute power and brought wealth, art, and splendor to his kingdom. His accomplishments led him to adopt the nickname Louis the Great, and he preferred that everyone address him by that title. His funeral was a huge ordeal, held in a magnificent cathedral outside Paris that was lit only by a single candle sitting alongside Louis the Great’s ornate coffin. When the time came for Massillon to give his funeral message he stood up, walked to the candle, reached out and extinguished the flame, and declared “Only God is great.”
It’s so easy to get caught up in praising the “greatness” of our fellow mortals. Some of them have done impressive things. And we consider them to be great thinkers, great actors, great inventors, great artists, great athletes, great leaders, great achievers in many endeavors. It’s easy for us to put them on pedestals as though they are, somehow, superhuman. But the truth is that they aren’t. Their greatest accomplishments, on top of being a gift from God, pale in comparison to God.
So do ours. I think that another major temptation for all of us is to get caught up in our own greatness. To start believing our own hype, to become enamored with our own legacy, and to expect – much like King Louis XIV did – that we will be seen and treated as great by those around us. And when this happens we quickly get caught up in the comparison trap of looking down on others and feeling superior to them while failing to recognize our utter failure before the greatness of God.
The beauty of David’s prayer is that he had every reason to be like Louis. He was a “great” king by any measure, an incredible gifted warrior, leader, musician, poet, ruler, and more. This guy was more worthy of being on a pedestal than anybody. Yet here he is, in Psalm 86, saying “I am poor and needy” and crying out for God’s help and God’s greatness to come through in his own weakness. David remembered that God is great, and he alone is God. He alone is great enough to meet all of our needs, to rescue us from the brokenness of our world, to forgive all of our sins, to conquer death, and to set all things right and make all things new.
PRAY: Praise God today! Praise him for his greatness. Repent for putting other people in his place. Repent for putting yourself in his place. Humble yourself before him like David did, and reread Psalm 86 as your own prayer to God.