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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 115

 

 

Verse 1-2

Psalms 115:1-2. Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us — By the repetition of these words the psalmist humbly expresses his sense of the unworthiness of the Jews to receive the signal blessings with which the Lord had favoured them; or rather, which they were now entreating him to bestow upon them, and which they expected to receive. For, as Dr. Horne justly observes, “it is evident from these two verses, that the Psalm is not a thanksgiving for victory, but a petition for deliverance.” Unto thy name give glory, &c. — As we entreat thy favour and aid, and that thou wouldest work gloriously on our behalf, so we do not desire this out of a vain-glorious disposition, that we may get renown by the conquest of our proud enemies, but that thy honour may be vindicated from all their contempts and blasphemies. For thy mercy and thy truth’s sake — If thou wilt deliver us we will not arrogate the praise and glory of the deliverance to our own merit or valour, but to thy mercy, which inclines thee to pity, pardon, and be gracious to us, and to thy truth, which disposeth thee to fulfil thy promises. Wherefore should the heathen say — Why shouldest thou give them any colour or occasion to say, with their lips, or in their hearts, Where is now their God? Where is he who undertook to be their God and Saviour, and whom they worship, and of whom they used to boast, insulting over us, and over our gods.


Verse 3

Psalms 115:3. But our God — He whom, notwithstanding their reproaches, we are not ashamed to own for our God, is in the heavens — Although he has no visible shape, nor is present with us in a corporeal form, nor have we any image of him, such as they have of their idols, yet he hath a certain and glorious place of peculiar residence, even the highest heavens, where he manifests himself to spiritual and glorious beings, as clothed with infinite power and majesty, and from whence he beholds and governs this lower world, and all the creatures that are in it. He hath done — Or, he doth whatsoever he pleased — Or, pleaseth. By his only will and pleasure all things were at first made, and are still disposed and governed. And, without the appointment or permission of his providence, nothing comes to pass, and therefore your successes against us, and injuries done us, do not proceed from an invincible power in you or in your idols, nor from any defect of power or goodness in our God, but only from hence, that it pleases him, for many wise and good reasons, to afflict us, and give you prosperity for a time.


Verses 4-7

Psalms 115:4-7. Their idols — The objects of their idolatrous worship, are silver and gold — That is, images made of silver and gold, dug out of the earth. Their gods are so far from being the makers of all things, or of any thing, that they themselves are the work of those that adore them. As the matter of them is wholly from the earth, so they have their form and figure from the art of man; and therefore they ought rather, if it were possible, to worship man, as their Creator and Lord, than be worshipped by him. They have mouths, &c. — The painter, the carver, the statuary performed their parts: they gave them the figure and appearance of mouths and eyes, ears and noses, hands and feet. But they could not put life into them, nor therefore any sense. They speak not in answer to those that consult them. They see not the prostrations of their worshippers before them, much less their distresses or wants. They hear not their prayers, how loud soever; they smell not their incense, however strong or sweet; they handle not the gifts presented to them, much less have they any gifts to bestow on their worshippers, or are able to stretch out their hands to the needy. They walk not; nor can they stir a step for the relief of those that apply to them for help. Nay, they do not so much as breathe through their throat, nor have they the least sign or symptom of life or motion: but are things as perfectly dead after the priest has pretended to consecrate them, and call a deity into them, as they were before. Here then we have a most striking and “beautiful contrast between the God of Israel and the heathen idols. He made every thing, they are themselves made by men; he is in heaven, they are upon earth; he doth whatsoever he pleaseth, they can do nothing; he seeth the distresses, heareth and answereth the prayers, accepteth the offerings, cometh to the assistance, and effecteth the salvation of his servants; they are blind, deaf, and dumb, senseless, motionless, and impotent.” And observe well, reader, “equally slow to hear, equally impotent to save, in time of greatest need, will every worldly idol prove, on which men have set their affections, and to which they, in effect, say, Thou art my God.” — Horne.


Verse 8

Psalms 115:8. They that make them — And trust in, or worship them as gods, are like unto them — Are as ignorant and stupid, and void of all sense and reason, as those images themselves, inasmuch as they do not make a proper use of those faculties which God hath given them, but, having eyes, see not, having ears, hear not, and having hearts, understand not. They see not the invisible things of the true and living God in the works of creation. They hear not the voice of his providence and grace, or that of the day and the night, which, in every speech and language, declares his glory, Psalms 19:2-3. They understand not that an inanimate image, which their own hands have made, must be weaker, and every way inferior to themselves, and cannot afford them the least help in the time of their necessity.


Verses 9-11

Psalms 115:9-11. O Israel, trust in the Lord — Do not you follow the example of these infatuated idolaters, but trust in, worship, and serve the Lord only. He is their help and their shield — The shield to defend, and the help to support and strengthen those that trust in and cleave to him. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord — You priests and Levites proceeding from Aaron, or related to him, who have peculiar reasons, and are under many and special obligations to trust in and serve him; who have a more distinct knowledge of God, which is the foundation of trust in, and obedience to, him, (Psalms 9:10,) and who are in duty bound to be both instructers of, and examples to, the people in this as well as in all other branches of truth and righteousness. Ye that fear the Lord — All of you, who worship the true God, not only Israelites, but even Gentile proselytes, trust in the Lord “Let the men of the world make to themselves gods, and vainly trust in the work of their own hands or heads; but let the church repose all her confidence in Jehovah her Saviour and Redeemer, who alone can be her defender and protector;” and not suffer any apprehension of danger or distress, any trials or troubles, temptations or snares, whether from visible or invisible enemies, to separate her from him.


Verse 12-13

Psalms 115:12-13. The Lord hath been mindful of us — In our former straits and calamities, and therefore we trust he will still bless us, for he is still the same; his power and goodness are the same, and his promises inviolable; so that we have reason to hope he that hath delivered, and doth deliver, will yet deliver. He will bless the house of Israel — That is, he will bless the commonwealth; will bless his people in their civil and secular interests; he will bless the house of Aaron — The church, the ministry; he will bless his people, in their religious concerns. He will bless them that fear the Lord — Though they be not of the house of Israel, or of the house of Aaron; for it was a truth before Peter perceived it, that, in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him, Acts 10:34-35. He will bless them, both small and great — That is, both young and old; both rich and poor; both high and low. God has blessings in store for them that are pious in early life, and for them that are old disciples; both for those that are poor and mean in the world, and those that are rich and make a figure in it; the greatest need his blessing, and it shall not be denied to the meanest that fear him. Both the weak in grace and the strong shall be blessed of God, the lambs and sheep of his flock.


Verse 14-15

Psalms 115:14-15. The Lord shall increase you more and more — In number, power, and in all temporal and spiritual blessings, notwithstanding the efforts of your many enemies to diminish, weaken, and distress you. Hebrew, יסŠ עליכם, the Lord shall add to you, namely, further and greater blessings. Here the psalmist turns himself to them, and assures them of the favour of him who created, and who upholds and governs all things. You and your children — The blessing bestowed on you shall descend on your children with a continual increase. There is a blessing entailed on the offspring of them that fear God, even in their infancy. Or, he shall bless you in your children, and you shall have the comfort of seeing them increasing, as in stature, so in wisdom and grace, and in favour with God and men. Ye are blessed of the Lord — You and your children are so; all that see them shall acknowledge that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed, Isaiah 61:9. Ye are blessed of the Lord — Not of an impotent idol which can do its worshippers neither good nor hurt, but of Jehovah, who made heaven and earth — Whose blessings therefore are free, for he needs not any thing himself; and therefore are rich, for he hath all things at command for you, and if you fear and trust in him he will bless you indeed, in spite of all that your enemies can do against you.


Verse 16

Psalms 115:16. The heavens are the Lord’s — Namely, in a peculiar manner, where he dwelleth in that light and glory to which no man can approach, and whence he beholdeth and disposeth of all persons and things upon earth. But the earth — Or, and the earth; he hath given to the children of men — For their habitation, possession, and use. Thus, as the foregoing verse declared that God was the Creator of heaven and earth, so this asserts that he is also their Lord and Governor, and can dispose of them, and of all men and things, as he pleases.


Verse 17-18

Psalms 115:17-18. The dead praise not the Lord — See note on Psalms 6:5. Neither any that go into silence — Into the place of silence, the grave. But we will bless the Lord — But we hope for better things; that, notwithstanding our present and urgent danger, yet God will deliver us, and so give us occasion to bless his name; from this time forth and for evermore — To the end of time, and afterward to all eternity. “As the dead cannot praise him, we may be certain he will not suffer his people to be destroyed and extirpated; but will always preserve a church to bless him in all ages, to the end of the world; when the dead shall be raised, and the choirs of heaven and earth shall be united, to praise and glorify him together before his throne for evermore.” — Horne.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 115:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-115.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, August 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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