Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Why Idolatry Is Ridiculous

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds us idolatry is ridiculous.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Romans 1 says they worshiped the creature. They made images, like four-footed beasts and creeping things. How weird is that—to praise things you can squish?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of Seeking Him, for Wednesday, October 3, 2018.

Nancy is continuing in a series called, "Hallelujah: A Praise Celebration." She begins by telling the story of a friend who praised the Lord in the darkest days of treatments for leukemia. Since the time she recorded this, Scott went home to be with the Lord, and is now worshiping his Savior like never before. Let’s listen.

Nancy: I had a moving experience recently when I went to visit a friend in the hospital in Grand Rapids, a place where some of you are from. This couple are dear friends of mine. The man serves on our advisory board at Revive Our Hearts. Scott is his name; Karen is hers.

A couple of years ago Scott was diagnosed with leukemia and has been in a battle for his life. He went through one bone marrow transplant then had a relapse, and the cancer came back. And so he was getting ready to have another bone marrow transplant. And what they have to do is give you so much chemo to kill the cancer cells (if I understand this correctly) that it takes you right to the point of death, like just right there without killing you.

I got to the hospital room right when he was at that very, very low point. I didn't realize how sick he was. I knew he was struggling, but he was trembling, just shaking. He had blankets all over—mounds of blankets—but still just trembling, shivering, and could hardly talk. I was never really able to have a conversation during the hour or two that I was there visiting with his sweet wife and mother and daughter.

And yet, every once in a while as we were carrying on our conversation quietly on the other side of the room, Scott would . . . He was moaning; he's groaning. I mean, this is a sick, sick man who, all through this experience, has been determined that he was going to embrace this, not as an enemy but as a servant of God in his life, to provoke him to gratitude for God, to walk through this with a grateful heart.

It's been amazing to watch this, but this was the sickest I'd ever seen him. And the only intelligible thing, pretty much the only intelligible thing he said during that whole time I was in there, he would come out with two phrases repeatedly—barely understandable.

Here's the first one: "God is so good. God is so good."

And then the second phrase he would say: "We have so much to be thankful for. We have so much to be thankful for."

Now, I've never seen anyone that sick saying those phrases. "God is so good. We have so much to be thankful for." The man was shaking. He's feeling like he's about to die. And he's saying, "God is so good. We have so much to be thankful for."

We're looking this week at one of the psalms that reminds us how much we have to be thankful for, in every season, in every situation of life.

I left that room more convinced of the goodness of God and more convinced of how much I have to be thankful for, though I'm so often forgetful of how much I have to be thankful for. Is it just me, or do you go there, too? It took a man who was wiped out from chemo and leukemia to remind me, we do have so much to be thankful for.

And this psalm, Psalm 113 that we're looking at this week, reminds us of that. Let me read the psalm, and then I want us to focus on the middle stanzas, verses 4–6, today. But let me read the whole psalm so you get it in context.

Now remember, these are the Hallel Psalms—hallelujah—which in English is praise the Lord.

Hallelujah, praise the Lord. Verse 1:

Praise the LORD!
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
  praise the name of the LORD!
Blessed be the name of the LORD 
  from this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
[whether you're in your home, your work place, your church, a hospital bed—everywhere—from the rising of the sun to its setting) 
  the name of the Lord is to be praised! (vv. 1–3)

And then the stanza we want to look at today:

The LORD is high above all nations,
  and his glory above the heavens!
Who is like the LORD our God,
  who is seated on high,
  who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? (vv. 4–6)

And then the final stanza we'll look at in the next session:

He raises the poor from the dust
  and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
  to make them sit with princes,
  with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
  making her the joyous mother of children (vv. 7–9).

Say the last phrase with me: "Praise the Lord!" Which in Hebrew would be:

Audience: Hallelujah!

Nancy: Hallelujah!

Now, as we look at verses 4–6 here: "The LORD is high above all nations! Who is like the LORD our God?"

God deserves our praise. That's my big take-away from this whole psalm. God is worthy of our praise. Praise is due to the Lord. We owe it to Him. His name is great. It is holy. It is set apart. It is exalted. It is powerful. It is the Name above every name. God is worthy of our praise.

Now, in our natural, fallen human condition, we naturally want praise for ourselves. We seek praise. We're praise seekers rather than praise givers, naturally. So we want to be praised for our abilities, our efforts, our achievements, the things we do to serve others that nobody seems to see or notice. We want to be praised for beauty, or we sometimes want to praise other creatures. We want to praise things that we can see, that we can touch, that we can admire.

But to have praise that is directed Godward, not self-ward, not other-ward, not outward, but upward, requires changing the focus from ourselves or from others and giving it to the One who most deserves our praise. It takes faith, because we're praising someone we can't see. We're praising someone we can't touch. We're having to lift ourselves up out of our natural, selfish, egotistical, self-absorbed lifestyles and hearts and say, "This isn't about me. Life is not about me. It's about Him. It's about God."

And to praise Him requires changing our focus. It requires repentance. What is repentance? It's turning around from the way we naturally think, the way we naturally go, and going a different direction.

So praise requires repentance, worship, reshaped priorities—different priorities. Not any longer worshiping the creature, as we are prone to do, and as those who don't know Christ do. Romans 1 says they worship the creature. They made images, like four-footed beasts and creeping things. How weird is that—to praise things you can squish? They worship the creature. And, by the way, all of us can be squished. Right? Because God is great!

So to praise ourselves, to worship a four-footed creature, to worship a creeping thing, this is ludicrous. And repentance and worship, true worship, lift our focus and our gaze and redirect our priorities to worship, not the creature, not the creation, but the Creator.

Now, there's a sense in which it's appropriate for us to admire, to offer praise for things that are exceptional and extraordinary to the extent that they reflect the beauty and the wonder of who God is. His creation is beautiful because He's a beautiful God.

I love watching these Michigan sunsets. I love going to Lake Michigan and seeing just that never-ending (so it seems) expanse of water. I love it in the winter. I love it in every season. I love it when it's covered with ice. I love it when it's a little bit warmer (three weeks a year). I love those Lake Michigan sunsets in the summer. They're extraordinary. They're exceptional. And it's good to lift up praise to God for that which we can see that stirs up praise that He has created.

Sometimes we admire, we praise, in a sense, a magnificent piece of art or jewelry, or a great meal. Something that someone has made requires artistry and handiwork, and it's beautiful. We say, "Wow! That's beautiful." And that's appropriate, but only insofar as it reminds us to praise the God who gave ability and talent to people to make things like this.

I sent an email to one of our staff gals last week. She had just done a great job on a piece she had written, and I said, "Great job, Paula. You've done a great job on this." I wanted to praise her for a job well done, for above and beyond achievement.

But all of this, in ourselves or others, should point us to the One who is worthy of all our praise. Who more than the Lord deserves to be praised for doing exceptional things, for doing above and beyond work (though nothing is above and beyond God), but so far above and beyond anything we can conceive?

So as we behold Him, as we fix our eyes on Him, as we behold His name, His character, His ways, His deeds, that elicits praise from our hearts. To see Him is to admire Him. In the same way that to see that beautiful sunset is to admire it, to see God is to admire Him, if your heart is humble. Otherwise, you're going to be seeing yourself and admiring yourself.

But how can a person who has eyesight stand before an awesome sunset, no matter how many times we've seen it before, and not go, "Ooo! Aaah! That's amazing!"? And how can we stand before a God of holiness and power and wisdom and grace and love, and our hearts and our mouths not be filled with praise?

We fail to praise Him because our eyes are closed. If I stand at Lake Michigan and I close my eyes, I'm not going to see the sunset. It's not going to elicit awe. But if I open my eyes, I'll see what everyone else is seeing. It's amazing at sunset. Everyone comes out along Lake Michigan. They've got their cameras. They're oooing and aaahing. And I'm going, "They're all coming to behold the glory of the Lord—they just don't know that's what they're beholding.

If you belong to God, you have eyes to see His wonders and His glories. But if we don't have sight or we close our eyes and we can't see, then what happens is that our problems or ourselves or other people or our circumstances will loom larger in our eyes than God does. And then we become consumed with ourselves, consumed with our circumstances, rather than with God because we forget; we don't see how great and awesome and wonderful He is.

Now, in verse 4 of this passage, we see first that God is high up.

"The LORD is high above all nations." He is the sovereign, the ruler over the whole earth, even over those nations that reject Him—which is most nations on the face of the earth. Very few nations—including ours anymore—acknowledge that God is sovereign, that He is high above all nations. Our nation used to acknowledge that in some sort of official and public way. No more.

There are nations of the earth that decidedly reject God, but the Lord is still high above all nations. He is sovereign. His glory is above the heavens. He is even sovereign over the highest thing we can imagine or conceive of or see—the heavens. He's higher than that. His glory is above all of that.

Nahum chapter 1, verse 3 tells us that "the clouds are the dust of his feet."

The clouds! Those awesome, huge, beautiful, billowing clouds, they're the dust of His feet. The Lord is high. He's lifted.

And verse 5 says, "Who is like the LORD our God. (I'm going to come back to that phrase in just a moment because it's so important.) But, "Who is like the LORD our God who is seated on high?"

This is the exaltation of God. He is high. He is lifted up. And the basis for our praise is that there is no one else like Him. There is no one higher than He. There is no one as high as He. There is no one close. He is unique. He has no equals. He has no peers. He has no superiors. There are no close seconds. "Who is like the LORD our God?"

There is no one as high as God. He has no equals. He has no peers. He has no superiors. There are no close seconds.

He's seated on His throne. He's high. He's exalted. He's ruling. He's reigning. He's sovereign over all the affairs of this world, over every kingdom, every ruler, every power. He's high and lifted up. And if that won't make you worship, then you just don't have eyes to see.

Now, this high and lifted and exalted God is something else. He does something else. He looks down. He condescends. That word is taken from two words, two Latin words: Con—with; descend—to come down. He comes down with us. How amazing is that? This high, this lifted up, this exalted God humbles Himself.

Verse 6 says, "He looks far down." Verses 4 and 5 were all about up. Verse 6, it's down. "He looks far down on the heavens and the earth."

Some of your translations say, "He humbles himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth."

God humbles Himself. He stoops down. He condescends to look on the things that are on this earth (well, that's understandable), but He even has to stoop way down to look on the things that are in heaven. That's a high and lifted up God who condescends.

Here's another translation of verse 6. It says, "He stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth" (HCSB). I love that. 

Here are a couple other paraphrases of that verse. One from 1839. John Keble says:

Exalting still his holy place
Low bending still his eye of grace,
In heaven above [where he sits],
In earth below [to which he stoops].

Both places. Another paraphrase says,

Who is like Yahweh our God?—
  enthroned so high, he needs to stoop
  to see the sky and earth! (JB Phillips)

So high that He has to stoop to see what's in heaven and what's on earth. He's so high that the heavens below Him can barely be seen. That's how high He is.

Charles Spurgeon says, "He dwells so far on high that even to observe heavenly things he must humble himself."

You see this theme in the Scripture, Isaiah chapter 57, verse 15: "For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place.'"

That's what we've been reading about in Psalm 113. He's high. He's lifted up. He's exalted. His glory is above the heavens. But where else does He dwell? God has two addresses. First is that high and holy place, but where else does God live, according to Isaiah 57? Here's the God stooping down. He says, "I also dwell with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit."

He condescends. He descends down to be with those who are lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. That's what we celebrate at Christmas—the Incarnation of Christ, the high and exalted, lifted up One, the Holy One who inhabits eternity. That's His address.

He comes. He gets in the body of a baby. He takes on human flesh. He condescends to be with us, to live our life, to die our death. He humbles Himself. His exaltation, yes, but His humiliation also. He stoops down. He humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in earth.

And so, let me go back to that phrase in verse 5: "Who is like the LORD our God?"

Now, that happens to be the very middle phrase of this entire psalm. If you count from the top and the bottom, and you get to the middle, here's the middle phrase. I think that's significant because this is really the theme of this song. "Who is like the LORD our God?"

"Who is like the LORD our God" Who is like Him in His being lifted up? Who is as high as He is? Who is exalted as He is? Who is as powerful as He is? Who is as sovereign as He is?

What's the answer?

Audience: No one!

Nancy: What's the answer?

Audience: (Louder) No one!

Nancy: No one! "Who is like the LORD our God?" But also, "Who is like the LORD our God, who stoops (who humbles Himself, who comes down to be with His sinful, fallen, enemy creatures who hate Him, who despise Him, who reject Him, who will crucify Him)? Who is like the LORD our God?"


Audience: (LOUDER) No one!

Nancy: No one! No one!

Turn in your Bible to the book of Isaiah, chapter 43. You see this theme running all through the book of Isaiah, and I want us to take a little detour there right now. I'm just going to show you a few examples, but as you read the book of Isaiah, beginning at about chapter 40 through the end of Isaiah, you'll see this recurring many times. Let me give you a few examples.

Chapter 43 of Isaiah, verse 10. I'm just going to read several of these to you and let you follow along. Isaiah 43:10:

Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 

Amen? Hallelujah! Look at chapter 44 of Isaiah, verse 6. 

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen" (vv. 6–7).

You think you're so smart? You think you're God? I've been telling you for a long time what's going to happen, and it all comes to pass. You think you're God? You tell me what's going to happen. You prophesy and have it all be fulfilled accurately. "Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen."

Verse 8, Isaiah 44:

Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.

Not one! "Who is like the LORD our God?" No one! No one!

Look at Isaiah 45, beginning in verse 5. And, again, as you read through Isaiah, you'll see this again and again. It's precious! It's something we need to anchor our hearts, and this will keep us from fear. This will give us joy. This will be a cause and a reason for praise, for Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

Isaiah 45, verse 5:

I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.

This sounds a little repetitive. Why do you think God inspired the Scripture to say this over and over and over again? I'll tell you one reason is because we forget over and over and over again. We need to be reminded over and over and over again. "Besides me there is no God."

"I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west." Did you see that in Psalm 113? "From the rising of the sun to the going down, the Lord's name is to be praised." God says in Isaiah 45 here,

[I want] people to know from the rising of the sun and from the west that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other (v. 6).

Now, I'll tell you, this is at the heart of political incorrectness in the Scripture. The world does not embrace this. Non-believers do not embrace this. Some so-called Christians don't embrace this. They think, Oh yes, I'm a Christian, but all these other religions, you know, all roads lead to Rome, all religions lead to God.

NO! There is no God besides Jehovah. There's none like Him. There is none who saves. There is none who redeems. There is none that is holy. There is none who is exalted as He is. There is no other sovereign. God, Jehovah is the one and only God of the universe. And He has given us the one and only way to come to Him, and that's through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior. There is none like Him.

There is no other way. Every other religion in this world is false and will lead people away from God, to hell, to a Christ-less eternity. I think we get backed into a corner sometimes because we don't know all this apologetic stuff, and we don't know how to talk to these people. I know that's hard.

I've talked with people who deeply believe and have sincerely held beliefs that are not in accordance with God's Word. But the fact is, they're wrong! And God's goal is that through us, we would make known from east to west, in every nation, among all peoples of the earth for the glory of the one and only God that there is no God like Jehovah.

Audience: Amen!

Nancy: He wants that to be known in your workplace. He wants that to be known in your home. You don't strong-arm people into believing that. The Holy Spirit has to open their eyes to see it. He has to give them faith. He has to give them repentance.

But what would it be like if those of us who proclaim the name of Jesus actually lived as if we believe He is great and there is no one like Him? What if we worshiped Him in Spirit and in truth? What if we couldn't keep ourselves from talking about Him? Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! What if we were living that way of life, boasting in Him, shining a light on Him, showing Him to be brilliant and beautiful and great?

Do you not think that maybe some people around us would say, "They really believe that! That's not a religion to them. That's real."

He wants the world to know, and He wants them to know through us.

Well, you see this heart all through the Scripture. Psalm 40:

You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! (v. 5)

Micah chapter 7, (I love this verse!) verse 18:

Who is a God like you (What is it about this God that's unique? Well, here's something), pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.

Who is a God like You, Oh Lord? Who can forgive sin? Who can pass over our iniquities? I'll tell you: Only one God, and it's the One who didn't pass over the sin, but put our sin on His Son Jesus Christ and then rejected and killed His Son, put Him to death for our sin. That's the God who can pass over our sin. That's the God who can pardon our iniquities. He can pardon us because He put the penalty for our iniquities on His Son, Jesus Christ.

Who is a God like You, Oh Lord? Who is a God who does not retain anger forever, who delights in steadfast love? No one, Lord, but You!

And so we ourselves the question: Who is like the Lord our God?

Well, we can say, "No one!" But let me flesh out that answer just a little bit.

Your husband is not like the Lord. Now, you say, "I knew that!" Well, listen, when you married him, you kind of thought He was. Right? At his best, he's not like the Lord—and nor are you, by the way. Remember that.

Your parents, as much as you might have hope or expectation for them parenting well, they're not like the Lord. They may try to be. I have godly parents who so wanted to be like the Lord, and in many ways were, but just a faint, feeble light compared to the brilliance and the beauty of Jehovah.

Your children are not God. Don't treat them like a god. Don't make them to be God in your life. You can live without your children. You can't live without God.

Your pastor is not God. He may be great in preaching the Word. He may love Christ. He may be a faithful man of the Word—praise God if he is—but he's not God. He will fail. No ministry leader, no speaker on radio—me—nobody who teaches the Word of God to you, we are not God. Don't treat us like God. Don't lift us up to the place that belongs only to God.

If you're going to be quoting somebody, don't be saying, "Miss Nancy says . . ." You need to be saying, "Here's what God says . . ." And to the extent I quote Him, you can quote me, but it's all because I'm quoting Him. Okay?

Your youth pastor—he's not God. Your boss is not God. You are not God. You're not your own God. You cannot be. That's a burden you can't bear. That's a burden you can't put on others to bear.

And, by the way, Psalm 50, verse 21, gives a little bit of a twist on this thought. It's an indictment on the wicked. It says: "You thought that I was one like yourself." That's the flipside of idolatry. Rather than trying to make something common to be a god, we also try and pull God down and make Him like one of us. Don't do that. He's not like us. He's high and exalted. He's high above—He's seated. And He looks far down—He stoops. He's exalted, and He condescends.

  • How high is your God?
  • How big is your God?
  • How great is your God?
  • How humble is your God?
  • How gracious and merciful is your God?

​Praise Him! Worship Him!

Say, "Hallelujah!" Amen.

Leslie: Who is like the Lord our God? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us why God is worthy of our worship in a series called, "Hallelujah!: A Praise Celebration."

We were all created to worship. There are so many temptations to worship other things besides our Creator, who deserves all our worship. We want to help you to choose to seek the Lord, to look to Him as the object of your praise. Every year, Revive Our Hearts creates a new wall calendar for our listeners. And this year’s theme is from a book Nancy helped write, Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.

Each month features a short quote from the book along with a scripture passage that will challenge you to pause and examine your heart. We’d like to send you this beautifully designed calendar when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. You can make that gift online at, or you can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959 and ask for the 2019 wall calendar.

Think about a time in your life when you were hurting and in need. Jesus knows how you felt in that moment because He's experienced need and hurt. And because of what Jesus has done, your need and your hurt can be an occasion to give thanks. We’re going to talk more about that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth gives all praise to Jesus, the name above every name. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.