Psalm 115

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, October 7, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As I’ve been writing through the psalms this year, you may be wondering how I choose which psalms to write about and which to skip. While they’re all wonderful writings, I’m only going through about a third of them, 52 out of the 150 there are. Sometimes it was that there was something interesting about the psalm that I wanted to know more about. Sometimes a particular verse or phrase would catch my eye. In other cases, the reason is that psalm or a verse in it means something significant to me. Psalm 115 is one of those psalms.

The significant part of this psalm to me is verse 1: “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” This was the chosen theme verse for my graduation from Winebrenner Theological Seminary with my M.Div degree in 2010. Along with that, we had the song “Not to Us” by Chris Tomlin as our theme song. All of us graduates had accomplished something great - earning a theological degree - but we wanted the focus to be on God’s accomplishments, not our own. It was only through God working in each of our lives that we earned our degrees.

Also, Psalm 115:1 is a verse that I’ve memorized in the original Hebrew. Memorizing Bible verses can be difficult enough in your native language, but it takes some extra work to memorize them in another language. I have the Hebrew text of it written on a notecard under my computer monitor where I work so it’s always in front of me. It helps me remember that I’m not working as an engineer for my own glory, but for the glory of God.

All that being said, while this verse means a lot to me personally, there is much more to this psalm. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and the Vulgate (Latin translation of the Bible), Psalm 114 (which I wrote about last week) and Psalm 115 are actually all one psalm. While they do go together in some respects, most scholars agree that their genres are too different for them to be one psalm together. Psalm 114 is focused on what God did for Israel in the exodus, while 115 is much more varied in its language.

Verses 2-8 show the difference between the one true God and the idols of other nations. God is in heaven and has power to do what He wants to do for His good purposes. Idols are completely powerless because they are fake. They may have eyes, mouths, hands, etc. but they are all useless because they are not even living beings and they don’t have any power. The psalmist calls out all who worship those idols as being as false as they are.

On the contrary in verses 9-11, the one true God is our help and our shield and everyone should worship Him. Each of these verses contains repetition for emphasis on this fact. Trust in the Lord, and He will help you. Abandon the worship of anything false and trade for worship of the true God. He’s not powerless like any idol you could worship, but He is the one who is all-powerful! Three times it is written to trust in the Lord, and three times we are assured of His power and protection in our lives.

In verses 12-13, we see three blessings of God called out. He will bless Israel, He will bless the house of Aaron, and He will bless all those who fear Him. The distinction of Israel and the house of Aaron signifies that this applies to both the priests and everyone else. We are included in “those who fear the Lord” when we have faith in Him. Fear doesn’t just mean being afraid of something, but it also means being in awe of the majesty of God. When we truly understand just a piece of who God is, we should both be terrified that He could strike us down at any time as well as being in awe at His majesty, power, and love for us.

Verses 14-15 spell out the blessing for God’s people: “May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Because God has power and is sovereign over all of creation, He causes blessings for those who follow Him. We know that He can provide these blessings because of verse 16: “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind.” God has ownership over the heavens and the earth, though He has given mankind the earth to manage and live on.

Finally, the psalm ends in verses 17-18 with praise of God. It clarifies that it is not the dead who will praise God but those who are alive - that’s us! We are called to praise God, both now and forevermore.

What are you doing in your life to give God the glory, rather than receiving it yourself? Are you living out worship of the one true God, or are you worshiping idols - not necessarily some little statue, but anything else besides God? Are you placing your trust in God and receiving His blessings? How are you showing God the praise He truly deserves? I encourage you to ponder these questions this week.

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