Click to donate today!
As for the inner restoration of Israel, the people must confess two sins: murder and adultery (cf. Jn 5:43). The murder is that of Christ (Psalm 109). The adultery is their idolatry with the antichrist. This second we find in this psalm (Psalm 115). The first sin is the transgression against which is warned on the second tablet of the law and the second sin is the transgression, mentioned on the first tablet of the law.
Israel eradicated idolatry after the exile (Hos 3:4). However, because the house is empty, swept and ordered, a new occupant can take up residence there. That occupant will come in enhanced numbers in the end time (Mt 12:43-45). There will be no more idolatry of images, but the idolatry of man, the antichrist (2Thes 2:3-4).
In Psalm 115, and also in Psalm 135, we find a description of idolatry in the past as the reason for the exile. This idolatry is a type of the idolatry with the antichrist in the future. From this, Israel must be cleansed. This is prophetically also the subject of Isaiah 40-48.
All Glory to the LORD Alone
The previous psalm recalls the deliverance from Egypt and the entry into the promised land. For this, and for all that God has given His people, in no way does any man deserve any credit (Psa 115:1). That is why it says “not to us” twice. The Only One to whom glory is due is the LORD. His Name must be glorified, for He has done everything for the benefit of His people. He will not give His glory to another (Isa 42:8; Isa 48:11).
The antichrist is a man. He is the coming false king of Israel, the beast from the earth (Rev 13:11-18). He is going to present himself as God in the new temple in Jerusalem. Satan’s lie that man will be like God (Gen 3:5) now seems to have come true. The image of man demanding worship (Dan 3:1-7) is becoming a reality (Rev 13:15). This is the abomination of destruction, which is the abomination that causes destruction (Mt 24:15). As a result, the measure of man’s sin becomes full and the LORD begins to intervene (cf. Acts 12:21-23).
We must also be aware that all that we have, we have received from Him (1Cor 4:7), for which He deserves all glory. It is theft if we boast of what He has given us and let ourselves be glorified for it as if it were our merit. Everything we do, we should do to His glory (1Cor 10:31).
To Him all glory is due “because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth”. ‘Lovingkindness’ means that the LORD acts according to His covenant and His promise. ‘Truth’ means that God is reliable in this. These two attributes of God are the reason for glorifying the LORD in this psalm.
They have not deserved any of His benefits and blessings that they have received. But He has acted in lovingkindness toward them. Also for His truth He is worthy of being honored. His faithfulness to His promises has brought Him to this act in lovingkindness.
The opponents, the nations, who are idolaters, by asking where their God may be anyway when they are so distressed, want to cast doubt on the presence of God (Psa 115:2; cf. Psa 42:3; 10; Psa 79:10; Joel 2:17; Mic 7:10). After all, His place has been taken by a man, the antichrist. The nations also make their mocking remarks about the absence of God (Isa 36:15; 18-20; Isa 37:10-13; Joel 2:17).
What the psalmist and in him the remnant says to the LORD about this is an expression of their boldness toward God. Surely, He will reveal Himself and put an end to such unfounded questions, wouldn’t He? Moses also said something similar (Num 14:13-16). The nations have often said it, but they will be silenced when God has taken care of His people, redeemed them and brought them into the blessing of the realm of peace.
As boldly as they speak to God to act against the nations because of their mocking question, as boldly they also speak to the people who ask the question. It is not a question to them. Their answer is that their God is in heaven (Psa 115:3), exalted far above man and his blasphemies.
They confess Him as “our God”. It may seem that He is absent, but He is there and He is there for them. That is what faith knows. Faith also knows that He is supreme, that “He does whatever He pleases”. It means that He will send the Son in Whom He has found all His pleasure. We see a type of this in Cyrus, the man of His counsel from a far country, who will deliver His people from their exile (Isa 46:10-11). He acts righteous toward all and in doing so in love toward His people.
The Worthlessness of the Idols
Opposed to the trust in the exalted, almighty God, they now mock in these verses the idols of the nations (Psa 135:15-18; cf. 1Kgs 18:25-29; Isa 44:9-20; Isa 46:6-7; Jer 10:1-9; Hab 2:18-19). Prophetically, we see this in what happens to Herod, who is a type of the antichrist: God judges him by having worms eat him alive (Acts 12:18-23). Normally corpses are eaten by worms only after someone’s death. God also mocks the antichrist by casting him alive into the lake of fire in the future, without first killing him (Rev 19:20).
The people eventually learned that idols are nothing. Those idols may be worth something in terms of the material they are made of, but they are merely “the work of man’s hands” (Psa 115:4). By definition, that means they are worthless in terms of their ability to do anything at all. They look human, but are totally inhuman.
They do have a mouth because the maker of the image engraved it himself (Psa 115:5). But these mute images cannot get their lips to part. Not a word comes out of them, neither to comfort nor to judge. The maker has been able to give the images eyes, but no light in their eyes. There is no vision of the present or of the future. They notice nothing of any human being approaching them. The images are blind as a bat (cf. Gen 16:13; 2Chr 16:9).
And look at their ears (Psa 115:6) They are firmly attached to their head. Sure, they are artfully shaped by human hands. But there is no working eardrum in them. They are stone deaf. You can talk or even shout all you want, but there is no response (cf. Psa 116:2; Psa 65:2; Psa 120:1). There is also a nose put on the head of the image. But whatever incense they bring to the image, it doesn’t sniff it and certainly doesn’t get intoxicated by it.
They also have hands, but they cannot reach them out to help someone (Psa 115:7; cf. Psa 18:17; Jn 10:28). They can’t even feel with them to find something to hold on to. The hands remain motionless at the place where the maker placed them. The same is true of their feet. They cannot move a step to go ahead of someone on a certain path. They remain motionless where the maker has placed them (Isa 46:1-7). They can’t even clear their throats; not a sound comes out.
It cannot be otherwise that those who have made them become equal to these idols (Psa 115:8). Thus Israel, the failing servant of the LORD, became deaf and dumb, just like the deaf and dumb idols they have come to serve (Isa 42:18-19; cf. Mt 12:22-27). Idols are the product of the foolishness of the makers and therefore the makers become fools.
He who relies on images becomes a prisoner of his own foolish, impure, wicked thoughts. He follows his own foolish insights and lapses into greater and greater absurdities. False worship is not harmless, but demoralizes. The worshiper thereby works his own destruction. The end of those who worship dead idols is eternal death.
The LORD Is a Help and a Shield
In these verses there is a threefold call to trust in the LORD. There is a call to
1. the covenant people (Psa 115:9),
2. the chosen priests (Psa 115:10) and
3. the faithful few who make up the remnant (Psa 115:11).
This call also comes to us.
These three groups are mentioned again in Psa 115:12-13, there as objects of the LORD’s blessing.
You cannot trust idols because they cannot do anything at all. It is extremely stupid and also a great sin against God (cf. Hos 4:17). Moses prophesied that if the people disobeyed, they would be taken out of the land and serve idols in foreign lands (Deu 4:25-28).
Opposite the dead idols is the living God. He has revealed Himself as the God Who lives and is present for His people. Moses prophesied that they would seek the LORD in foreign lands and find Him (Deu 4:29). In Him you can trust fully (Psa 115:9). This is then also said to Israel (cf. Hos 14:8a). That He is “their help” means that He supports them and helps them to go their way. He is also “their shield”, meaning that He protects them while He helps them. What more does a needy, powerless people need? It has everything in Him.
Next, the “house of Aaron” is called to trust in the LORD (Psa 115:10). The call comes to them because they too have fallen into idolatry (cf. Exo 32:1-5; Eze 22:26). They are the priests and lead Israel in their worship of the LORD. They, too, have in the LORD “their help and their shield”. True priestly service can only happen with the support and protection of the LORD.
Finally, each “who fears the LORD” (cf. Psa 112:1) is called to trust in the LORD (Psa 115:11). Here it is each individually, whereas in Psa 115:9 it is Israel as a people and in Psa 115:10 the priestly family (cf. Psa 118:2-4; Psa 135:19-20). Fearing the LORD is a characteristic that must be present in every member of God’s people and every member of the priestly family.
Belonging to a privileged people and family is never enough. There must be a personal relationship with God (cf. Jn 1:12). Each one then personally experiences that the LORD is his help and his shield. “You who fear the LORD” also applies to all outside Israel who fear the LORD. They may know that the LORD is “their help and their shield”.
The LORD Blesses
In these verses we hear a wonderful addition and encouragement to the threefold call for the three groups to trust the LORD and the threefold pledge that He is their help and their shield in the previous verses. To the same three groups it is said here that the LORD “will bless” (Psa 115:12-15).
The psalmist begins by saying that “the LORD has been mindful of us” (Psa 115:12). It is a great comfort to know that God is mindful of His own, of us, of me. And His thoughts about His people are to bless them. This is the assurance of faith. God is always working to do good to His people. There may be trials, but He is always mindful of the covenant He has made with them (Isa 49:14-15), in virtue of which He will bless them.
His blessing comes upon “the house of Israel” as a whole, all twelve tribes, not just a few specially favored tribes. His blessing also comes upon the whole “house of Aaron”, not just a few special members of it.
His blessing also comes upon “those who fear the LORD, the small together with the great” (Psa 115:13; cf. Jer 31:34; Rev 19:5). In dispensing blessing, God makes no distinction between the small and the great. The standard is whether they fear the LORD. The small are those who are not in esteem, the poor. The great are those who have a high position in society.
The blessing of the LORD is not a one-time thing; it is not limited to one blessing. No, when He blesses, a door is thereby opened through which blessing continues to flow (Psa 115:14). The blessing continually increases; it becomes more and more. This does not only refer to the size, the area of the blessing that keeps increasing, but also to the generations to come. It is a blessing for “you and your children”.
To all groups it is said: “May you be blessed by the LORD” (Psa 115:15). This puts the emphasis on Him Who blesses. “The LORD” blesses, not an idol. And Who is He? He is the “Maker of heaven and earth”. Idols are purely connected to the earth. None other than the Creator of heaven and earth, God Most High, blesses those who fear Him. He does this on the basis of the work that His Son accomplished on the cross.
In the mockery of the idols in Isaiah 40-48, the LORD is called “the First and the Last”, meaning the One and Only. The LORD is not only greater than the idols, but He is also the Only One, as we hear it in the confession Moses makes to Israel: “The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deu 6:4). There is no one else, no one is comparable to Him.
The Living Praise the LORD
He Who made heaven and earth (Psa 115:15) has given a purpose to both (Psa 115:16). He creates and rules sovereignly over what He has made. By mentioning “the heavens” twice, it is emphatically stated that the heavens are His. That is where He is enthroned. The earth, of course, also belongs to Him, “but the earth He has given to the sons of men” (Psa 115:16). That is where they belong, that is where they live and work and that is where their future lies.
That the LORD “has given the earth to the sons of men” makes it clear that we are here on Jewish ground. The Jewish people are an earthly people and have specific earthly blessings. For us Christians, it is exactly the other way around. God has come to dwell on earth in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4; Eph 2:22) and we, humans, He has placed in Christ in heaven (Eph 1:3; Eph 2:6). He has not given us specific earthly blessings and the earth. He has given us heaven and specific heavenly blessings (Eph 1:3).
For an Old Testament believer applies that he cannot praise the LORD when he has died (Psa 115:17; Isa 38:18-19). They do not know that the believers who have died live in the presence of the Lord Jesus (Lk 23:43). For them, praising the LORD is connected to life on earth. Their expectation is, however, that one day they will rise and enjoy the blessing of fellowship with the LORD (Job 19:25-27; Psa 17:15). “The dead” are those who are killed in the great tribulation. All “who go down into silence” are all those who have died in faith.
The “we” in Psa 115:18 are the living redeemed. In connection with the previous verse, we can also think of those who have risen. Praising the LORD is done by those who have risen from the dead. This applies to those who will rise from the dead at the coming of the Lord Jesus. It already applies to all who are spiritually resurrected, who have new life. Therefore, it can be said that praising the LORD happens “from this time forth”, that is from the moment of final redemption, “and forever”. The psalmist concludes the psalm with “hallelujah”, “praise the LORD!”
As noted above, as New Testament believers, that is as members of the church, we are not connected to earth but to heaven. Yet our life on earth should also already have this great feature, namely, that it is a continual praise of the glory of the Lord Jesus (Heb 13:15; 1Pet 2:5). We may begin on earth with something that we will continue to all eternity, and that is to “worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 115". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14