The Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 115:1-18 (Psalms 115:1-18)

Metrically, the psalm falls into four stanzas or strophes—the first of three verses ( Psalms 115:1-3 ), and the other three of five verses each ( Psalms 115:4-8 ; 9-13; 14-18).

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Psalms 115:1 (Psalms 115:1)

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give glory. God is prayed to help Israel, but not for their sakes, not to cover them with glory—rather for his own sake, that glory may rest on his Name, and himself , among the nations. For thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. In order to be true to his qualities of mercifulness and truthfulness.

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Psalms 115:1-11 (Psalms 115:1-11)

True and false worship.

In strong, nervous language we have here presented to us—

I. THE MAJESTY AND THE POWER OF GOD . ( Psalms 115:3 .) The heathen, in their ignorance, want to know where Jehovah is ; they cannot see him. The reply is that he does not dwell in temples made with hands; that he is not confined to one building, larger or smaller; that no earthly trappings or grandeurs in any sacred city give any notion of his state. " Our God is in the heavens;" he dwells in celestial glory; he is high above us; his throne is not found here or there, but everywhere; beneath every sky you may look up and say, "God reigns on high." But not only does majesty belong to him, all power is his. " He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased." The psalmist does not state, but he suggests, that everything the idols could not do was within the power of the living God. He was speaking to men everywhere and at all times—in the sunshine and in the storm, in the dew and in the snow, in the con sciences of men, in the words of his prophets, in the divinely given Law. He saw all things and all men: " His eyes beheld, and his eyelids tried, the children of men." He heard everything; to his ears came the faintest whisper that proceeded from the lip. of the lowliest, as well as the songs of the great congregation. He wrought every thing; his hands fashioned us ourselves, and made all things about and above and beneath us: he "lays his hand upon us," to inspire and renew us. And though it never pleases God, and never can please him, to do anything that is unholy or unjust or unkind, yet is there no limit to his power. "All things are possible" to him. The spheres of nature, providence, and grace supply ample evidence that apparent impossibilities give way before his Divine wisdom and overcoming might.

II. THE FOLLY AND THE DOOM OF THE IDOLATER . ( Psalms 115:2 , Psalms 115:4-8 .)

1. He thinks that God cannot be anywhere because his eyes have not rested on his form ( Psalms 115:2 ).

2. He continues to worship an image which owes its existence to his own cunning ( Psalms 115:4 ), and which cannot use its own organs ( Psalms 115:4-7 ), which are helpless and powerless (see Isaiah 44:9-20 ).

3. He is destined to be miserably disappointed in the object of his trust; he will gain no help in his time of need, and, being thus unbefriended, he will himself lose heart and strength; the impotence of the idol will be conveyed to its deluded worshipper.

4. He will become like his idol in the moral character he ascribes to the deity. "Like priest, like people" is not so true an adage as "Like god, like people." Men always tend to become such, in character and life, as is the deity they adore.

III. THE PRIVILEGE AND THE DUTY OF THE DEVOUT . ( Psalms 115:9-11 .) The worshippers of the true and living God:

1. Have at their right hand an Almighty Friend, one who

2. Should place in him an unfaltering trust. It becomes all the people of God ( Psalms 115:9 ), especially all those who hold any position of prominence in Israel ( Psalms 115:10 ), and particularly those who know and who declare themselves to be his servants, to put their trust in him. It is a painful spectacle when the avowed children of God begin, even at the very outbreak of trouble, to show signs of agitation and alarm. That does not "become the gospel" ( Philippians 1:27 ); it does not "become saints" ( Ephesians 5:3 ). It is unworthy of those to whom Christ has spoken such words as those he uttered ( Matthew 6:25-34 ; Matthew 28:20 ; John 14:1 , John 14:2 , John 14:21-23 ).

IV. PIETY IN ITS MATURITY . ( Psalms 115:1 .) We may begin our Christian life by an earnest craving for the salvation of our own soul. Later on, when we have learnt some thing of the wisdom which is in Christ, we make our personal hope second and subordinate to the glory of Christ. We pray that his great and holy Name may be magnified. We are willing to be nothing, that he may be all in all.

1. Because of all that we have experienced of his mercy and his truth—the mercy that redeemed and restored us, the truth that has nourished and strengthened us—we long and pray for this.

2. In order that his mercy and his truth may be extended to every land and every home, this is our prayer. We may test the progress we have made in our Christian course by the unselfishness, the Christwardness, of our devotion.

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Psalms 115:1-18 (Psalms 115:1-18)

The heathen taunt, and what came of it.

To Israel, recently returned from exile, that taunt still seemed to sound in their ears. In this psalm, apparently a liturgical one, and used at high festivals in the service of the second temple, the mocking question of those who had held them in captivity—"Where is now their God?" was yet audible, through the keenness with which it was remembered. The sting and anguish of it still rankled in their hearts; and this psalm is the result of it. Consider, then—

I. THE MOCKING QUESTION OF THE HEATHEN , "Where is now," etc.? This, no doubt, was often asked. They had heard of the ancient glories of Israel, and the wonderful works God had done for them; but what a contrast was now presented—the abject condition into which Israel had fallen! And the character of the people also, as a whole, won scant respect. It was but a remnant, an elect few, that cherished the sacred memories of the past, and who were prepared, when opportunity came, to go back to their own land. But to the faithful few the question was full of pain. And here, in this psalm, we see—


1. It humbled them before God. Psalms 115:1 is a confession of their own unworthiness, that no glory was due to them. And today, when the world mocks and scorns as it does, the people of God may well make like confession and similar disclaimer of all merit. Had the Church been different, the world would not have mocked as it does.

2. It led them to God to seek his aid , that this mockery on the part of the heathen should cease ( Psalms 115:2 ). They desired that God would manifest his glory, and so silence the heathen scorn. And this is the need of the Church today. Let God be seen in our midst, and the taunt of the world will sink into silence.

3. Submission to God ' s will . ( Psalms 115:3 .) They knew that God was in the heavens, possessed of all power, wisdom, holiness; and whatever he pleased could only be right. It was not for them to dictate, but only to submit. They could trust him, that in due time he would interpose.

4. Scorn of idols and those who worshipped them . ( Psalms 115:4-8 .) The very brightness of their conception of God showed up all the more the darkness of ignorance in which the heathen lived. And the psalm pours out its sacred scorn of these mere dolls before which the heathen bowed down. Hence the scathing sarcasm and concentrated con tempt of these memorable verses. But has the day passed when men's "idols are silver and gold"? Is not that the exact description of ourselves as a nation? Do not we worship silver and gold? Would that we could but catch the contagion of the contempt which pervades these verses for our idols of today! We need to, and shall have to; and if we will not learn by gentle means, God will have to purge us of our idolatry by methods sharp and terrible, like as those by which Israel was brought to a better mind.

5. Earnest endeavor to arouse one another to trust only and altogether in God . ( Psalms 115:12-15 .) Would that the world's contempt of Christians today led them thus earnestly to stir one another up to a more completely God-surrendered life!

6. Renewed assurance of the grace and goodness of the Lord in his faithful people. ( Psalms 115:12-15 .) This follows on—it always does—earnest endeavor to deepen the hold of God on the hearts of others. Our own hearts come to be filled with deep and blessed sense of God's love, and the witness of the Spirit is beard full and clear within.

7. Fresh consecration to God . This seems to be the force of the concluding verses of the psalm ( Psalms 115:16-18 ). The Lord in the heavens is sure to do his part; but we are here to do ours. Our time, however, is but short, for we are hastening to the grave where the dead are, and where none can praise God; therefore let us use our time well; and, God helping us, we will ( Psalms 115:18 ).


1. How completely was the heart of Israel turned round! Their besetting sin before the Exile had been idolatry and departure from God. But now! God knows how to turn our hearts altogether to himself.

2. The contrast of the Christian ' s faith as to the life after this with the faith of Israel . Theirs is dark, ours is bright.—S.C.

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Psalms 115:1 (Psalms 115:1)

Honor in honoring God.

This psalm evidently belongs to the time when the restoration from Babylon was only partially accomplished. The little colony settled in Jerusalem and the district immediately round the city, were the scorn of the neighboring petty nations, which were all heathen, and of the Samaritans, whose assistance in building Jehovah's temple they, perhaps unwisely, had refused. This psalm in a way meets scorn with scorn. Jehovah's people scorn the idol-worship of the nations, and the idol-nations scorn the insignificance of the company that talked so grandly about restoring the kingdom of David. But that is the darker side of the psalm. It is better to see that the scorn was but an unworthy expression of a state of mind and feeling that was good and right. Among the restored exiles there was great zeal for God, great jealousy for the honor of Jehovah; and it was this that made them refuse association with the semi-heathen Samaritans, and think so scornfully of the idol-worshippers. Not limiting ourselves to the state of mind of him who wrote, and those who sang, this psalm, let us regard the psalm as expressing generally the humble, loyal, zealous feeling of all true Jehovah-worshippers, and then three things are suggested.

I. PUTTING OUR HONOR ASIDE . "Not unto us … give glory." It is a universal experience that when God is really apprehended, self goes into the second place. It must be so. God can be in no place but the first. In the sphere of morals it is true that the most miserable of men is he who is anxious about his own dignity. He will turn everything into offence. In the sphere of religion it is true that the first sign of regeneration is the humility that claims nothing for self. "Not by works of righteousness which we had done;" "Not of works, lest any man should boast."

II. SEEKING GOD 'S HONOR . "Unto thy Name give the praise." Dr. Chalmers spoke of "the expulsive power of a new affection." It is fully true of the soul's affection for God. It expels self and everything else, and compels a man to set God's honor first, to live for God (compare St. Paul's exclamation, "To me to live is Christ"). God's honor is sought by being good and by doing good; in relations, worship, and work. This aim glorifies all forms of life.


1. The very effort to seek God's honor cultures us in the character that wins for us honor.

2. And God makes the honor of men come to us as his benediction. on our loyalty.—R.T.

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Psalms 115:1-18 (Psalms 115:1-18)

The honor due to God.

A call to the God of Israel, the living God, to rescue the honor of his Name from the reproach of the heathen.

I. GOD IS WORTHY OF THE HIGHEST HONOR . In contrast to heathen idols.

1. Because of his loving-kindness or mercy . ( Psalms 115:1 .)

2. Because of his truth or faith fullness . ( Psalms 115:1 .) Emphatically "truth and grace came by Jesus Christ."

3. Though invisible , he reigns and rules from the exalted heaven . ( Psalms 115:3 .) The idols are earthly things, and have no power.

4. God is omnipotent , able to execute his own will . ( Psalms 115:3 .) The idols are dead things, with no will; and their worshippers become as dead as they are.

II. GOD IS WORTHY OF TRUST . ( Psalms 115:9-14 .)

1. Because he is the Helper and Defender of those who trust in him . ( Psalms 115:9-11 .)

2. Because his past goodness is the pledge for future blessing . ( Psalms 115:12-14 .) He will bless and multiply both the great and the small together.


1. As the Creator of heaven and earth . ( Psalms 115:15 .) And the heavens are for the dwelling-place of Jehovah.

2. Because he hath given the earth to men for their possession .

3. God must be praised now and forever—before we go down into the silence of Hades . ( Psalms 115:17 , Psalms 115:18 .) "The Old Testament," says Delitzsch, "knows nothing of a heavenly exclusion that praises God without intermission, consisting not merely of angels, but also of the spirits of all men who die in the faith" (but see Psalms 103:20-22 ).—S.

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