I was not much into pop music in 1972, but a Carly Simon song that came out that year really grabbed me, for some reason. The chorus was:

You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you,
Don’t you?
Don’t you?

It’s been a mystery since then whom Carly had in mind when she wrote that song. She’s played off questions about this and, at 71 years of age, she still won’t reveal who her “vain” lover was.

I believe the song’s lyrics stuck with me because I knew people who thought every song was about them. In fact, on further reflection, I’ve come to realize that every one of us is “vain” enough to view him or herself as the central character in life’s drama. It’s natural for me to see things through my eyes, with my primary concern being how I am affected. I’m so vain.

Psalm 148 reminds me that the song is not about me:
  Praise the Lord from the heavens;
                praise him in the heights!
            Praise him, all his angels;
                praise him, all his host!

            Praise him, sun and moon;
                praise him, all you shining stars!
            Praise him, you highest heavens,
                and you waters above the heavens!

            Let them praise the name of the Lord,
                for he commanded and they were created.
            He established them forever and ever;
                he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

            Praise the Lord from the earth,
                you sea monsters and all deeps,
            fire and hail, snow and frost,
                stormy wind fulfilling his command!

            Mountains and all hills,
                fruit trees and all cedars!

            Wild animals and all cattle,
                creeping things and flying birds!

            Kings of the earth and all peoples,
                princes and all rulers of the earth!
            Young men and women alike,
                old and young together!

            Let them praise the name of the Lord,
                for his name alone is exalted;
                his glory is above earth and heaven.
            He has raised up a horn for his people,
                praise for all his faithful,
                for the people of Israel who are close to him.
            Praise the Lord!

One commentator has entitled this psalm “A Universal Choir.” First there is the heavenly section of the choir, including everything from angels and heights and heavenly host, to the sun, moon and stars. If he were writing today, the psalmist would have included galaxies, black holes and curved space. Added to this is the earthly section of the choir. Dramatically, the author begins with the scariest and darkest realities, sea monsters and all deeps. Then he lists the forces of nature that intimidate us, fire, hail, snow, frost and stormy wind. Then he moves to the familiar realities of mountains, hills, fruit trees and cedars and to the myriads of animals, cattle, creeping things and flying birds that inhabit them. All are called upon to join in a great orchestra of intense praise to the Creator God of the Universe. Finally, every human being on earth is enlisted to be part of the choir, from kings, princes and rulers, men and women, young and old. No one is left out of this massive choir of humanity praising God.

So, what does the life of an individual human person mean? Nothing, except to be a very tiny part of the great symphony of praise to the Creator. If you think you’re the center of the meaning of it all, then “You’re so vain; you probably think this song is about you!”

Just when we feel we’ve been crushed into abject humility, mercilessly put in our place, by the repeated lines of this psalm, we are surprised by its ending:

            He has raised up a horn for his people,
                praise for all his faithful,
                for the people of Israel who are close to him.

Once we face reality and get over ourselves, God reaches down, past the galaxies, the solar system, the angels and  heavenly hosts, the mountains, trees and myriad living things, and fixes his love on on us, his insignificant, undeserving creatures, calls us his people, brings us close to him. The surprise of salvation!

Stop being so vain, get over yourself and accept his love. The song is about him, not you.

— Pastor George Van Alstine