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Because God is truly glorious, and idols are vanity, the Psalmist exhorteth to confidence in him. God is to be praised for his blessings.
THERE is great reason to think that this psalm was composed in some time of great distress, when the pagan enemies of the Jews began to boast as if their gods were too powerful for the God of Israel: but by whom it was made, or on what particular occasion, there are so many conjectures, says Bishop Patrick, that it will be no presumption to interpose mine, which is this: that when Jehoshaphat saw the vast army which we read of, 2Ch 20:2 composed of several nations, coming against him, and, after his prayer to God for deliverance, was encouraged by a prophet to hope for it, (Psalms 115:14-15.) and had by the Levites given Jehovah thanks for this hope, he or that prophet composed this hymn to quicken and confirm the people's faith in God, to which you read he exhorted them, 2Ch 20:20 and it is not unlikely that this was the hymn which, by common consent, the singers were appointed to use when they went to encounter those enemies; saying not only those words which were read there, (2 Chronicles 20:21.) praise the Lord, &c. but these also, Not unto us, O Lord, &c. Dr. Delaney however is of opinion, that this psalm was composed as an epinicion or triumphal song for David's victory over the Jebusites; the lame and the blind, &c. (see 2 Samuel 5:6.) it being plainly a hymn of humiliation and thanksgiving to God for a victory gained over a heathen people, who put their confidence in their idols, and despised the God of David: (see from Psalms 115:2-8.) And, however this hymn may be adapted to the people of the Jews by many peculiarities, yet it is remarkable, that it has always been used as a hymn of thanksgiving for victories by all princes of true piety from the earliest Christian ages, and very probably from the age of David. See Life of David, book 2: chap. 6.
Psalms 115:1. Not unto us, O Lord— By the repetition of these words the Psalmist humbly expresses the unworthiness of the Jews to receive the signal blessings wherewith the Lord had favoured them.
Psalms 115:7. Neither speak they— Or, Neither breathe they.
Psalms 115:8. They that make them are like unto them— Are in this respect as stupid and blockish as those idols themselves, inasmuch as they do not make a regular use of those faculties which God hath given them, in relying upon him only; but on the contrary depend upon such inanimate gods.
Psalms 115:9. O Israel, trust thou in the Lord— Israel trusteth in the Lord; and so in the following verses the verbs should be read in the indicative; as we find them in the LXX; and the sense requires it to be said, Israel doth trust, &c. to mark the difference between their trust and that of the heathen: and thus too it agrees with the latter clause of each period; their help and their shield. Israel is the main body of the Jewish nation. The house of Aaron comprehends the Levites: they that fear the Lord, seems to take in those, all the world over, who worshipped Jehovah. See Houbigant and Mudge.
Psalms 115:12. The Lord hath been mindful of us— The Lord remembereth us. Mudge: who remarks, that the priest says this upon observing the favourable signal: "The Lord will certainly bless all those (recapitulating the fore-mentioned) who trust in him."
Psalms 115:14. The Lord shall increase you— The Lord will heap blessings upon you. Here the author turns himself to them, and assures them of the favour of him who made heaven and earth; who therefore would preserve them, and not suffer them to go down among the dead. ףּיס iosep, though I have translated it generally by all blessings, seems more particularly to intend an addition of days: "The Lord shall bless you and your sons with length of days, upon this earth which he has created for you, and where you pay him the tribute of praise." Mudge, who translates the 16th verse thus, As to heaven, heaven is the Lord's; but the earth he giveth, &c. Or it may be read, The heavens of heavens are the Lord's, &c.
Psalms 115:17. The dead praise not the Lord— See on Psalms 6:5.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Psalmist here,
1. Bids the people of God ascribe not to themselves, but to Jehovah, the glory of their salvation, as derived from his boundless mercy. Note; We must be ever in our own eyes nothing, and Christ all in all: to his grace every good in us, or done by us, must be ascribed; and at his feet our crowns in glory will be for ever laid.
2. He answers the taunts of the insulting heathen, who, puffed up with their success, spurned at Israel's God, as unable to deliver his people. But our God is in the heavens, and from his throne laughs them to scorn; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased, able to save or destroy at his sovereign pleasure; whose will is law, his power omnipotent, and resistance against it vain. How unlike the boasted vanities of the heathen! their rock is not as our rock; senseless idols, the work of man, fashioned after his form, but destitute of his faculties; they can neither hear, nor see, nor speak, nor feel, nor walk; unable to help themselves, much less their votaries, whose adorations prove them stupid, and senseless as the stock and stone they worship.
2nd, Having exposed the vanities of the heathen, the Psalmist,
1. Exhorts God's people to trust in Jehovah. The house of Israel, however distressed; the house of Aaron, the peculiar servants of the sanctuary, and therefore the especial objects of the heathens' hatred: yea, all that fear the Lord, shall find him their help and shield: their help in every time of need, to deliver them; their shield in every hour of danger, to defend them. Note; They cannot fail, whose faith does not; that ensures the final victory.
2. Abundant reason there is, why we should trust in Jehovah. He hath been mindful of us, as past experience comfortably testifies, and which should engage us still to commit ourselves to him, confident of finding the same kind remembrance, protection, and care. He will bless us with all needful things of this life, and all the spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. He will bless the house of Israel, the congregation of his church in general, and the house of Aaron, his ministers, who labour in the word and doctrine: yea, all that fear the Lord, both small and great, every individual believer, whatever his circumstances and condition may be, shall find the blessings of providence and grace exactly suited to his necessities. The Lord shall increase you more and more, so far as he sees fit, with worldly goods, and success in earthly affairs; but especially with that best increase of the gifts and graces of his Spirit, enabling them to bring forth fruit unto God; and the mercy not be theirs alone, but descend upon their children: for ye are the blessed of the Lord, and whom he blesseth must be blessed; he who made heaven and earth, having all power to communicate the blessings that he pronounces on his believing people.
3. They who trust him will praise him, and find abundant matter for their songs. Great is he, and worthy to be praised; the heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's, not only the firmament spread over us, but all those things which are within that vail, secluded from mortal eye; the heaven of heavens, where the angelic hosts take up their abode, and glorified spirits dwell, all own him their creator, preserver, and rightful owner, and good as he is great: the earth hath he given to the children of men, appointed it for their use, and to be enjoyed to his glory and their comfort: justly therefore is the grateful tribute of thanksgiving due, and who shall pay it, if we do not? The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence; those who are gone down into the silent grave can no more join in the sacred choir; those who are dead in trespasses and sins have no heart to praise him. But we, the faithful followers of Jesus, who are maintained in life by the bounties of his providence, and are by his Spirit quickened to a better life of grace in our souls; we, as most bounden, will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore; while sojourners below, in this delightful work will we be employed; and when removed to that better world, our service there shall be everlasting praise. Hallelujah!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 115". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14