Praise to the Man is a LDS hymn that I was reminded of recently. It’s a hymn that was originally written as a poem right after Joseph Smith, first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was killed. The poet wrote it from the depths of his grief and with great admiration for the man he considered a true modern day prophet of God. It was later set to the music of “Scotland the Brave,” a patriotic Scottish song, and is sung by faithful LDS people to this day.
I can appreciate a song written to honor a person you greatly admire. I’m reminded of the song by Elton John titled “Candle In the Wind” dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, or the song by Vince Gill called “Go Rest High on that Mountain,” devoted to Keith Whitley. Both of these songs are ones I enjoy, and like “Praise to the Man” reflect the deep sorrow and pain the death of the person caused to the artist.
However, as I search the pages of my Bible I am concerned about this type of praise: praise given to a man. Paul actually warns us against giving glory to any man in 1 Corinthians 3:21. Luke recounts in Acts 12 how Herod took glory for himself and was immediately struck dead. Paul seems to be very aware of this and tells us that he, himself is deathly afraid of taking the glory on himself in both 2 Corinthians and Galatians. (In Galatians 6:14 he actually says “but God forbid that I should glory. . .” And, in the book of Romans Paul gives a very stern warning against “changing the image of the incorruptible God into that made like a corruptible man” (Romans 1:23) He actually says those who do this are “fools.”
And really Paul, in his warnings about not glorifying man, but instead giving all glory to God, is quoting what God has said about Himself from the very beginning:
I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another. . . Isaiah. 42:8
If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Malachi 2:2
From Genesis 1:1 we see in scripture how there really is only One ever who is worthy of praise and honor: God Himself. And, the Psalms are full of that praise. Try an experiment: go to Biblegateway.com and search for the keywords glory, and praise. The Bible teaches us that the Heavens declare God’s glory, that man should declare His glory, and that the angels themselves declare His glory. He, and He alone, is worthy of our praise, and to praise and glorify anyone, or anything, else really is biblically speaking, idolatry.
So when we sing or listen to songs that glorify people, we really do need to check our hearts: are we giving someone the praise or glory that rightly belongs to only God? And, are we putting our leaders in the place that rightly belongs to God? Remember what happened to Herod when he allowed that to happen? God hasn’t changed.