The Chief End

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Original photo by Suri 

Daily Devotions with the Reformers, Psalm 138:1-8

From the Reformer

Today all sorts of subjects are eagerly pursued; but the knowledge of God is neglected. We see with what zeal everyone follows his own interests, while scarcely one man in a hundred deigns to devote half an hour a day to the knowledge of God. And from pride arises men’s second mistake: they think the knowledge of God to be a common possession. So we see why the prophet used two verbs to name the same thing: he wanted to arouse greater zeal in men, since he saw that all were so lazy in the pursuit of this knowledge. Yet to know God is man’s chief end, and justifies his existence. Even if a hundred lives were ours, this one aim would be sufficient for them all. But, as I said, men despise the thing which should be preferred above all else.

—John Calvin, Commentaries

Pulling It Together

The man was obviously angry; it was plainly written on his face. Speaking to other people was a struggle; eye contact was almost impossible and fleeting if it happened. His child was at his side was essentially ignored. He simply, was not a happy human being. Yet it was his right to pursue happiness. To that end, he took matters into his own hands and, in a rage, assaulted his wife. The result was that he lost his job, his home, his wife, his child, and his what little happiness he had known.

This man is you. He is me. If you look closely, you can see that he is all of us. We take matters into our own hands and attempt to beat happiness out of this life. The man in our story continued to assault life at the expense of his own happiness, as well as the joy of those around him. In the struggle to enjoy self apart from God there is no true or lasting happiness.

Still, God never wearies; he will “not forsake the work of [his] hands.” The Westminster Catechism states that “our chief end is twofold: to glorify God forever [and] to enjoy God forever.” It is our purpose in living. To the extent that we do not glorify God, to that extent we will not enjoy him.  And to the extent that we deviate from this dual “chief end,” to that extent we will be unhappy. Who would have thought that seeking to enjoy Another would make one glad? In the enjoyment of God we find joy for ourselves. It was an unexpected move on God’s part when he died to make us happy.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers

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