Psalms 115

PSALM CXV

God alone is to be glorified, 1-3.

The vanity of idols, 4-8.

Israel, the house of Aaron, and all that fear God, are exhorted

to trust it the Lord, 9-11.

The Lord's goodness to his people, and his gracious promises,

12-16.

As the dead cannot praise him, the living should, 17, 18.

NOTES ON PSALM CXV

This Psalm is written as a part of the preceding by eighteen of

Kennicott's and fifty-three of De Rossi's MSS.; by some ancient

editions; the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Vulgate, the

AEthiopic, the Arabic, and the Anglo-Saxon. The old

Anglo-Scottish Psalter reads it consecutively with the

foregoing. Who the author of both was, we know not, nor on what

occasion it was written. It seems to be an epinikion or triumphal

song, in which the victory gained is entirely ascribed to Jehovah.

Verse 1. Not unto us, O Lord] We take no merit to ourselves; as

thine is the kingdom, and the power in that kingdom, so is thy

glory.

For thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.] Thy mercy gave thy

promise, thy truth fulfilled it.

Verse 2. Wherefore should the heathen say] This appears to refer

to a time in which the Israelites had suffered some sad reverses,

so as to be brought very low, and to be marked by the heathen.

Verse 3. He hath done whatsover he hath pleased.] There was too

much cause for his abandoning us to our enemies; yet he still

lives and rules in heaven and in earth.

Verse 4. Their idols are silver, &c.] They are metal, stone, and

wood. They are generally made in the form of man, but can neither

see, hear, smell, feel, walk, nor speak. How brutish to trust in

such! And next to these, in stupidity and inanity, must they be

who form them, with the expectation of deriving any good from

them. So obviously vain was the whole system of idolatry, that the

more serious heathens ridiculed it, and it was a butt for the

jests of their freethinkers and buffoons. How keen are those words

of Juvenal!

----------------------Audis

Jupiter, haec? nec labra moves, cum mittere vocem.

Debueras, vel marmoreus vel aheneus? aut cur

In carbone tuo charta pia thura soluta

Ponimus, et sectum vituli jecur, albaque porci

Omenta? ut video, nullum discrimen habendum est.

Effigies inter vestras, statuamque Bathylli.

SAT. xiii., ver. 113.

"Dost thou hear, O Jupiter, these things? nor move thy lips when

thou oughtest to speak out, whether thou art of marble or of

bronze? Or, why do we put the sacred incense on thy altar from the

opened paper, and the extracted liver of a calf, and the white

caul of a hog? As far as I can discern there is no difference

between thy statue and that of Bathyllus."

This irony will appear the keener, when it is known that

Bathyllus was a fiddler and player, whose image by the order of

Polycrates, was erected in the temple of Juno at Samos. See

Isa 41:1. &c.; Isa 46:7; Jer 10:4, 5, &c.; and

Ps 135:15, 16.

Verse 9. O Israel] The body of the Jewish people.

Verse 10. O house of Aaron] All the different classes of the

priesthood.

Verse 11. Ye that fear the Lord] All real penitents, and sincere

believers, trust in the Lord, in the almighty, omniscient, and

infinitely good Jehovah.

He is their help and shield] He is the succour, support,

guardian, and defence of all who put their confidence in him.

Verse 12. The Lord hath been mindful] He has never yet wholly

abandoned us to our enemies.

He will bless the house of Israel] He will bless the people as a

nation; he will bless the priesthood and Levites; he will bless

all of them who fear him, great and small, in whatsoever station

or circumstances found. There is a great deal of emphasis in this

verse: several words are redoubled to make the subject the more

affecting. I give a literal translation:-

Ver. 12: "The Lord has been mindful of us he will bless the

house of Israel; she will bless the house of Aaron. Ver. 13: He

will bless them that fear Jehovah, the small with the great. Ver.

14: Jehovah will add upon you, upon you and upon all your

children. Ver. 15: Blessed are ye of the Lord, the Maker of heaven

and earth. Ver. 16: The heavens of heavens are the Lord's: but the

earth he hath given to the sons of Adam."

Jehovah is absolute Master of the universe. He has made the

heavens of heavens, and also the earth; and this he gives to the

children of Adam. When he exiled him from paradise, he turned him

out into the earth, and gave it to him and his sons for ever, that

they might dress, till, and eat of its produce all their days.

Verse 17. The dead praise not the Lord] hammethim, those

dead men who worshipped as gods dumb idols, dying in their sins,

worship not Jehovah; nor can any of those who go down into silence

praise thee: earth is the place in which to praise the Lord for

his mercies, and get a preparation for his glory.

Verse 18. But we will bless the Lord] Our fathers, who received

so much from thy bounty, are dead, their tongues are silent in

the grave; we are in their place, and wish to magnify thy name,

for thou hast dealt bountifully with us. But grant us those

farther blessings before we die which we so much need; and we will

praise thee as living monuments of thy mercy, and the praise we

begin now shall continue for ever and ever.

The Targum, for "neither any that go down into silence," has

"nor any that descend into the house of earthly sepulture," that

is, the tomb. The Anglo-Saxon: [A.S.], neither all they that go

down into hell. Nogh the dede sal loue the Lorde, ne al that

lyghtes in hell. Old Psalter. The word hell among our ancestors

meant originally the covered, or hidden obscure place, from helan,

to cover or conceal: it now expresses only the place of endless

torment.

ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND FIFTEENTH PSALM

The prophet, being zealous of God's honour, which the heathens

were solicitous to give to their idols, earnestly beseeches God to

manifest that power which belongs to him alone, and which he will

not give to another.

This Psalm, has four parts:-

I, His petition for God's honour, Ps 115:1; which belongs to no

idol, Ps 115:3-9.

II. An exhortation to praise God, and hope in him,

Ps 115:10-12.

III. The benefit that will arise from it, a blessing,

Ps 115:12-16.

IV. A profession, that for the blessing they will bless God,

Ps 115:17, 18.

1. Some join this Psalm to the former, conceiving that the

prophet, having expressed the goodness of God in the deliverance

of his people from Egypt, would not have any of the glory

attributed to Moses or Aaron, but wholly to God. Therefore he

begins:-

1. "Not unto us," &c. Or any leader among us.

2. "But unto thy name," &c. We seek it not; take it wholly to

thyself.

And this, for these reasons, he desires might always be shown to

his people.

1. "Give glory to thy name," &c. For the manifestation of his

mercy.

2. "Do it for thy truth's sake." As a promise-keeping God.

3. "Wherefore should the heathen say," &c. Give them not

occasion to blaspheme, as if thou hadst forsaken thy people.

Should the heathen ask, we can answer: "As for our God, he is in

the heavens, which his miracles testify. He can deliver or afflict

his people as he pleases."

But where are their gods?

1. "Their idols are silver and gold." The mere productions of

the earth.

2. "The work of men's hands." Works, and not makers of works.

3. They are of no use or power, though formed like men: "For

they have mouths," &c. "They have hands, but they handle not," &c.

They have not the power of articulating sounds; they are lower

than even the beasts that perish.

The prophet, having thus described the idols, now notices their

makers.

1. "They that make them," &c. Quite senseless people.

2. "So is every one that puts his trust," &c. Christ says,

"Having eyes," &c. Mr 8:18

II. The prophet, having passed this sarcasm upon the idols and

idolaters, leaves them, and exhorts the Israelites.

1. "O Israel, trust thou," &c. You are God's servants; and to

encourage them he adds, "He is their help," &c. The protector of

the whole nation.

2. "A house of Levi," &c. You are the leaders and guides in

religion; and therefore, you ought especially to trust in him who

is the shield of your tribe.

3. "Ye that fear the Lord," &c. In whatever nation you live; for

all who fear him, and do righteously, are accepted of him.

III. That this exhortation might be the deeper rooted, he puts

them in mind that God "hath been mindful of us," by his special

providence.

1. "He will bless the house of Israel" as a nation.

2. "He will bless the house of Aaron" as the priesthood.

3. "He will bless them that fear the Lord," &c., without

distinction.

The prophet, taking his example from God, pours his blessing

upon them also, and upon their children.

1. "The Lord shall increase you," &c.

2. "Ye are the blessed of the Lord," &c. Though the world speak

evil of you.

3. "The Lord which made heaven and earth." Which words are added

that they may be assured that their blessings are real, and come

forth from his hand directly and alone.

4. They come from one able to bless; for, 1. The heaven, even

the heavens, &c. In them he especially shows his presence,

majesty, and glory; but sends his dews and rain upon the earth. 2.

As for the earth, he hath given it, &c., that by his blessing upon

their labours they might have food and raiment; therefore praise

him.

IV. For this is the true end of their being: which he

illustrates by an antithesis.

1. "For the dead praise not the Lord," &c. These temporal

blessings are not felt by the dead-they need them not: but the

living should render continual thanks for them to God their

author.

2. But we that are upon earth enjoy his protection and temporal

care of us, and besides we have his far richer spiritual

blessings; therefore, "we will bless the Lord," &c., by ourselves

while we live, and aim by our instructions and prayers that our

posterity may do the same when we are gone down into silence.

3. However, ye that are alive this day, "praise ye the Lord."

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