The Lord Is Great and Does Wondrous Things
There is none like thee among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like thine. All the nations thou hast made shall come and bow down before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great and doest wondrous things, thou alone art God.
The text has three verses 8, 9, and 10. Verse 10 says, "For you are great and do wondrous things, you alone are God." Notice it is given as a reason ("For you are great . . . "). When you say, "I bought a bagel, for I was hungry," you mean that your hunger was the reason you bought the bagel. So when David says, "For you are great and do wondrous things," he means that God's greatness is the reason for verse 9—that "all the nations will come and bow down before him and glorify him." And his greatness is the reason for verse 8 too—that there is none like him among the gods, nor any works like his. In other words, God's greatness makes him stronger than all the gods of the universe and God's greatness makes him stronger than all the nations of the world. He rules the gods and he rules the nations, FOR (because) he is great and does wondrous things; he alone is God. God over all gods and God over all nations.
The Greatness of God Is Central to All Life
One of the things that your pastor, Brent, and I have in common is the overwhelming persuasion that God is great. God is very great, and his greatness is unsearchable. But not only that. Every pastor and every Christian would agree with that—that God is great. What Brent and I believe is that this is central to all of life. This is relevant to everything we think and feel and do. The unparalleled, incomparable, unequalled, unrivaled greatness of God is utterly important in the ministry—in building a church and caring for people and spreading the gospel. We believe that, even when people don't know it, what they need most and are most starved for is a vision of an awesomely great God, and fellowship with an infinitely great God.
The Greatness of God Is Utterly Relevant
It is utterly relevant for everything in life.
- If we saw the
greatness of God, we would not be so greedy and covetous.
- If we saw
the greatness of God, our eyes wouldn't stray after lustful images
- If we saw the greatness of God, we wouldn't get angry
at our children so easily.
- If we saw the greatness of God, we
wouldn't pout and get hurt so easily in our marriages.
- If we saw
the greatness of God, we wouldn't worry about our looks so much.
we saw the greatness of God, we wouldn't spend time watching
mindless and sordid and defiling television programs.
- If we saw the
greatness of God, we wouldn't get so discouraged with the evil and
godlessness of our culture.
- If we saw the greatness of God, we wouldn't give in to our appetites and overeat in boredom and depression.
And there are a hundred other unforeseen good effects that would come into our lives if we could keep the greatness of God in the front of our minds and be gripped by his awesome reality. In other words, just like the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, if we saw the greatness of God—the glory of God—we would be changed from one degree of glory to the next.
Have You Seen the Greatness of God?
What the Seward neighborhood needs more than anything else from Immanuel Baptist Church is to see the glory of God. And don't think that your smallness is an obstacle to that. A telescope is a very small instrument, but it helps people see stupendous realities in the sky. God loves to magnify his greatness by shining through vessels of clay. "My power is made perfect in weakness," Jesus said. The issue is not smallness. The issue is: have you seen the greatness of God? Have you been taken captive as it were by the glory of his power and knowledge and love, in such a way that all human power and all human knowledge and all human love lose the power of their attraction? That's the issue of your impact in this neighborhood and on the mission field. Have you seen the greatness of God?
So let me point to the two ways that God's greatness is shown in this text and illustrate it from what God is doing, and is willing to do right here.
God Is Greater Than All the Gods
First, from verse 8 the greatness of God makes him greater than all the gods. "There is none like thee among the gods, O Lord." I take this very seriously. 1 Corinthians 8:5 says that there are many gods and many lords. Paul means that there are demons, evil spirits (1 Corinthians 10:20). Satan himself is called the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4) or the "god of this world" (John 12:31). Therefore I take David to mean here that God is greater than all angels, all demons, all evil spirits, all principalities and powers and world rulers of this present darkness, all spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
1 John 5:19 says that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. But 1 John 4:4 says, "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." And 1 John 3:8 says that "the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil." And Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples . . . "
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him,
His rage we can endure,
For, lo, his doom is sure,
One little word will fell him.
The sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—can rout the devil and all the gods who serve him.
Breaking the Captivity of Arroyo Seco
For example, one report from Lausanne II went like this: in the fall of 1984 a group of pastors and leaders from the San Nicolas/Rosario area of Argentina gathered to discuss and pray about spiritual warfare. The gathering was prompted by the realization that 109 towns within 100 miles of their training center had no Christian witness. They did some preliminary studies and discovered that the town of Arroyo Seco appeared to be the seat of satanic activity in the region.
Years before a well-known warlock (sorcerer) by the name of Mr. Meregildo operated out of that town. He was so famous and his cures so dramatic that people would trek to Arroyo Seco from overseas for his services. Before he died, he evidently passed his powers on to 12 disciples. Three times a church was established in Arroyo Seco and three times it closed down in the face of severe spiritual opposition.
After several days of Bible study and prayer, the pastors and leaders came together in one accord and placed the entire area under spiritual authority. A few of them traveled to Arroyo Seco. Positioning themselves across the street from the headquarters of Mr. Meregildo's followers, they served an eviction notice on the forces of evil. They announced to them that they were defeated and that Jesus Christ would attract many to himself now that the church was united and had pledged to proclaim him. Less than three years later, 82 of those towns had evangelical churches in them. An unverified report indicates that as of today, all of them have a church or a Christian witness.
I don't think we have begun to discover what God would be willing to do if we focused in a concerted way of praying and resisting the devil in specific neighborhoods. It seems likely to me from Daniel 10 and from the experience of many today, that the spiritual hosts of darkness are assigned to areas: countries, cities, neighborhoods to darken them in various ways and hold them captive to the world and make them unresponsive to the gospel. This captivity can be broken.
Other Examples of God's Power in Spiritual Warfare
For example, Loren Cunningham, general director of Youth With A Mission, described his experience in praying and fasting for three days with 12 co-workers in 1973. As they prayed, the Lord revealed that they should pray for the downfall of a demonic force identified to them as the "prince of Greece." The same day in New Zealand and Europe, YWAM groups received a similar word from God. All three groups obeyed and came against this principality. Within 24 hours, a political coup changed the government of Greece, bringing greater freedom for mission activity in the country.
An example closer to home: our cluster in the Phillips neighborhood stretches from Chicago Avenue to Hiawatha and from I-94 to Franklin Avenue. We have been praying for it in a more or less regular way for about two years—that God would release it from the powers of darkness and remove evil and make the people open to spiritual things. In that time we have seen the Franklin porn theater close; Addison's bar; Arthur's bar; Bliss' Liquor; and Snyder's Liquor is about to be closed. Recently two child snatchings were stopped just in time by the police. New homes are being started in a very deteriorating area. I believe this is owing to the power of God in response to prayer and spiritual warfare. The same thing can happen here as you pray against the gods of indifference and fear and isolation and suspicion.
"There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like thine." God is great above all gods. He can and will do things beyond what you are able to ask or think if you will gird yourself with his armor and do battle against the enemy.
God Will Win Worshipers from All Nations
The second way that this text shows the greatness of God is in verse 9: "All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name."
The Great Commission Cannot Fail
Whenever I get discouraged in the ministry, I turn to a passage like this and remind myself—preach to myself—that I am on God's side and God cannot lose. He is greater than all the nations and will exert his greatness to bring the nations to himself. The Great Commission cannot fail. Verse 9 is not a maybe or a possibility. It is a certainty. "All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you."
Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to the nations. Then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). It will happen.
Psalm 22:27–28 says, "All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations." In other words, God is great. And his greatness is so great that he cannot lose. He cannot be denied his inheritance (Psalm 2:8). "I will build my church," Jesus said, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
God's Sovereign Moving in Eastern Europe
The stories of God's sovereign moving among the nations today are breathtaking. The USSR and the Eastern Bloc are open and hungry for the gospel. How did this come about? The prayer force that mounted against the strongholds of communism in the late 1980s was overwhelming. I think the publication of Patrick Johnstone's fourth edition of Operation World (1988) had a large part in stirring up global prayer for mission breakthroughs. God was touching people in remarkable ways to trust him for something dramatic.
For example, Dick Eastman, president of Every Home for Christ, early in 1988 felt led by God to take a team of intercessors throughout Eastern Europe. Their mission was to confront the strongholds of communism. In obedience to God's leading, they carried out a prayer walk around the Politbureau building in Bucharest, Romania, where less than two years later, Ceausescu made his last stand after pridefully announcing his regime would last for a thousand years. He and his wife were shot on Christmas Day 1989 after 25 years of oppressive rule.
While in Berlin, God led Dick Eastman to go out with a German friend in the middle of the night to face that still forbidding wall. Moved in intercessory prayer, they both laid their hands on the wall and prayed, "In the name of Jesus, come down!" The wall was opened November 1989.
God's Sovereign Moving Around the World
My own experience of God's moving in response to prayer is a great encouragement to me. When the eastern bloc countries gave up their Marxist hostilities to democracy and religion, I began to pray for Albania and North Korea and Mongolia and Cuba. These just seemed to be there in my prayer life again and again.
Since then I have read of North Korean Universities asking for Western professors to come teach Christianity; permission being given for the Jesus Film to be translated and shown in Mongolia; Albania loosening its ban on religious meetings; and parts of Cuba experiencing remarkable revival.
Spreading flame: Before 1988, the Protestant church in Cuba had between 100,000 and 250,000 believers. Today, after three years of revival, hundreds of thousands have been drawn into the church and attendance could be as high as one million. An observer says there may be 6,000 house churches formed by the end of the year. (From p. 1 of Pulse, Feb. 22, 1991, vol. 26, no. 4, taken from News Network International.)
Jesus Will Not Be Denied the Reward of His Suffering
The point is that God is building his church around the world with absolute certainty. "All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, and glorify your name" (v. 9). There is no nation, no people that will be unreached and unresponsive. The great scene of heaven shows the elders worshiping with this song of triumph to Christ:
Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
It is going to happen. Jesus will not be denied the reward of his suffering! You are a part of something that cannot fail.
God's Work in the American Church
And there are reasons to believe that God is not done reviving and reforming and empowering and using the American church.
During a ten week period, March 18–May 27, 1990, God poured out his Spirit in a remarkable way on Alliance, Nebraska. It is a railroad town in western Nebraska with a stretched population of 9,000 people. In 1987 Paul Harvey said it had the highest per capita use of drugs in the U.S.
Pastors from five or six churches had met for prayer for 15 months asking God to cleanse and revive the church and pour out his Spirit on the community. A simple eight-day evangelistic crusade was held, co-sponsored by the Evangelical Free church and the Baptist church of Alliance.
The response was unprecedented as God began to move on the community. Attendance reached 5,000 and 900 people made professions of faith in Christ. The meetings were extended and special follow-up efforts were put together to cope with the unexpected response. (See Evangelical Beacon, January 1991.)
If God came to the greater Twin Cities with power and blessing in the same proportion, 200,000 people would make professions of faith, and over 1,000,000 would attends special services.
At that point neither Bethlehem nor Immanuel would be sufficient to contain the fruit of God's power.
This is not a mere dream. This is a possibility that many people believe God wills to do in answer to persistent, concerted, believing prayer and faithful labor in the truth of the gospel. I encourage you to be the focus of this power in the Seward neighborhood.
God is great and does wondrous things: he is more powerful than all the gods and he is more powerful than all the nations. The gods will be defeated and the nations with come and bow down and give him glory. On God's side you cannot lose.
©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org