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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 115

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

1. The need for God to vindicate Himself 115:1-2

The psalmist called on God to glorify Himself for His own sake, in contrast to glorifying His people. Evidently the pagan nations were ridiculing Yahweh for His inactivity.

The Christian statesman William Wilberforce marked the passing of his bill to abolish the slave trade in England by meditating on Psalms 115:1. [Note: Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p. 404.]

Verses 1-18

Psalms 115

This anonymous psalm instructs God’s people to trust in the Lord rather than in idols.

"Psalms 115 is one psalm with Psalms 114 in the LXX and the Vulgate. However, there is little doubt that they form two separate psalms. The motifs and genre of the psalms are too different. Psalms 114 is in the form of a hymn describing the wonder of Israel’s redemption from Egypt, whereas the literary forms of Psalms 115 are quite varied and include lament, liturgy, and confidence.

"Psalms 115 may be classified as a psalm of communal confidence. The psalms of communal confidence are closely related to communal thanksgiving songs and to communal laments. The psalms of communal confidence convey a sense of need as well as a deep trust in the Lord’s ability to take care of the needs of the people. There are three such psalms (115, 125, 129)." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 719. Cf. Bullock, p. 175.]

Other scholars see Psalms 46 as one of these psalms and exclude Psalms 115. [Note: E.g., H. Kraus, Psalmen 1:iii.]

Verses 3-8

2. The contrast between Yahweh and the idols 115:3-8

Israel’s God was not on earth, as the idols were. He is in heaven, and He does whatever He pleases. The psalmist did not mean that Yahweh is capricious but that He is a free agent, independent of the actions of His worshippers. God is sovereign. In contrast, the gods Israel’s neighbors worshipped were human products made, in some cases, out of metal, even though costly metal. They had some of the attributes of human beings but were totally impotent and lifeless. All human beings tend to become like their God or gods. Idol worshippers become as powerless as their gods.

"Ultimately divine revelation is the difference between the religions of man and the true religion of the Lord." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 721.]

Verses 9-11

3. The need for God’s people to trust Him 115:9-11

The psalmist called on all the Israelites to trust in the true God, rather than idols, because He alone can help and defend people. He addressed this charge to all Israel, then the priests who were mainly responsible for the purity of Israel’s worship, and then all God-fearing people. He used repetition to impress the importance of trusting in the Lord on the reader.

Verses 12-15

Trust leads to blessing for all people. The writer made this connection by repeating the same groups (cf. Psalms 115:10-11 a and . Psa_115:12-13 a). In bestowing blessing, God does not allow worldly greatness to influence Him; He is gracious to all. The psalmist wished God’s blessing on all His people. Since He made heaven and earth, He is able to bless, and His blessing can be abundant.

Verses 12-18

4. The result of trusting in the Lord 115:12-18

Verses 16-18

The heavens are the Lord’s domain, not that of pagan gods. He owns them, and He has given the earth to man for his habitation. It is important for God’s people to praise Him while they live on the earth. After they die they cannot worship Him as they do now and so draw others to honor Him. Consequently the writer said he and the rest of the godly would bless the Lord forever. The final line calls everyone to praise Him.

The contrasts between the true God and idols are indeed great. God’s people should review and appreciate these differences, and in this way worship Yahweh for His unique individuality (cf. Exodus 20:3).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 115". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-115.html. 2012.
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