This is one of the Psalms, which were sung by the Jews at the feast of the Passover. It is highly probable that they were sung by our Lord on that memorable night when he instituted the sacred feast which is to be the perpetual memorial of his death, “until he come.” They have, however, a message for us who are now gathered together here.
Psalms 115:1-2. Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?
They talk about what he did when he brought his people up out of Egypt; but they tauntingly ask, “Where is now their God?” Thou art not dead, O God! Nor art thou even waxing weak; wilt thou not let the heathen know that they are resisting thee in vain?
Psalms 115:3. But our God is in the heavens:
Where they cannot see him. But that is just where he should be-in his own royal pavilion, seated upon his own throne,-out of gunshot of all his enemies,-where he can survey the whole world, where he is dependent upon none, but absolutely supreme over all: “Our God is in the heavens.
Psalms 115:3. He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
What a grand sentence that is. After all, his eternal purposes are continually being fulfilled. His decrees can never fail to be accomplished. He is not a thwarted and defeated God,-not one who has to wait upon his creatures to know their pleasure; but “he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” How absolute and unlimited those words are! “Whatsoever he hath pleased.” He hath willed it, and he hath done it. As for the heathen who say, “Where is now their God?” we may ask, in holy derision, “Where are their gods, and what sort of gods are they?” The psalmist gives the answer.
Psalms 115:4. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
Mere metal,-called precious metal, yet, if made into idols, no better than any other metal. This shows the amount that a man will spend upon making to himself a god that is no god; but what a fool he is to do so! How can a man call that a “god”, which did not make him, but which he himself made?
“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.”
Psalms 115:5. They have mouths, but they speak not:
I want you to notice how the psalmist seems to have an image before him, and he points first to its head, and mocks at its different parts; and then he points to its hands, and its feet, and he utters scathing sarcasm’s about the whole person of the idol god.
Psalms 115:5-7. Eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
“They have mouths.” To carry out their idea of God, the makers of idols have given them mouths; but they cannot speak through them, they are dumb. Shall a man believe a dumb thing to be a god? The idols cannot communicate anything to him; it is not possible for them to speak any word of encouragement, or threatening, or promise: “They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they.” Some idols had precious gems placed in their heads, to appear like eyes; but they cannot see through them, for they are blind. Is it not a solecism,-a contradiction, to speak of a blind god?
What a blind man must he be who worships a blind god! “Eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears.” Some Indian idols certainly have ears, for they have elephants’ ears, monstrous lobes; and I think, perhaps, the psalmist was referring to such ears as those. “They have ears,” he says, “but they hear not.” Then what is the use of their ears? You cannot communicate anything to them; so, why do you utter prayers to a thing that cannot hear what you say? Why do you present praises to images that know not what you are saying? “They have ears, but they hear not.” “Noses have they.” I note the grim sarcasm of this remark of the psalmist; it reminds me of Elijah’s taunting words to the prophets of Baal, “Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” The ancient Hebrews were not accustomed to treat idolatry with any kind of respect; they poured all sorts of ridicule upon it. Nowadays, we are expected to speak very respectfully concerning all false religions, and some philosophers and divines tell us that there is something good in them all; and they say that modern Papistry, with its gods many, and its rotten rags and cast clouts, which they call relics, is to be treated very delicately. Perhaps someone asks, “Is it not a religion?” Yes, a religion for fools; but not for those who think. “Noses have they, but they smell not.” Their devotees fill the room with the smoke of incense; they burn sweet spices before the idols, but their nostrils are not thereby gratified. “They have hands,” says the psalmist; their makers give them hands, “but they handle not.” They cannot even receive the offerings presented to them. They cannot stretch out their hands to help their votaries. They are without feeling,-so the original tells us; yet they have hands, but they are useless. “Feet have they, but they walk not.” They could not even mount to their shrines by themselves, they must be lifted there, and fastened with nails into their sockets. One of the saddest sights to my mind,-too sad to be ludicrous,-is to see a Popish chapel, as I have often seen it, when the verger is up on the top of the altar, taking down the various images, and dusting the dolls. He, of course, pays them no sort of reverence, but dusts them as your servant does the things in your bedchamber or your drawing room. Yet these are the things that will be worshipped when the bell rings in an hour’s time,-these very things that have been dusted, and treated in this fashion, just like ordinary household ornaments. “Feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.” Their priests pretend that, by a kind of sacred ventriloquism, they make an articulate muttering; but the psalmist very properly says, “Neither speak they through their throat.” They cannot whisper, they cannot even mutter; they cannot make even as much noise as a beast or a bird can; for they are lifeless and useless.
Psalms 115:8. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.
That is to say, they are as stupid and doltish as the idols they make. If they can bow down and worship such things as these, surely the worshippers are fitted for the gods, and the gods for the worshippers. Now, brethren, recollect that there is a spiritual idolatry that is very much in vogue nowadays. Certain “thinkers”-as they delight to call themselves, whose religion is known as “modern thought”,-do not accept the one living and true God as he reveals himself in the Old and the New Testaments; but they make a god out of what they are pleased to call their own consciousness. Truly, their idols are reason and thought-the work of men’s brains. Their god does not hear prayer, because it would be absurd, they say, to suppose that prayer can have any effect on Deity. Their god has little or no regard for justice; according to them, you may live as you like, but all will come right at last. They hold out a “larger hope” that the wicked will all be restored to God’s favour; if that should be the case, there would be no justice left upon the face of the earth or in heaven either. All this is false. A god that a man can comprehend is not really a god at all.
A god that I could excogitate from my own brain must, of necessity, be no god. There can only be the one God who is made known to us by divine revelation. God must be infinitely greater than the human mind; he must be beyond our utmost conception,-of whom we can know but little compared with what he really is, and that little he must himself reveal to us. Beware, I pray you, of a god that you make for yourself. Take God as you find him in this Book, and worship him; otherwise, you will find that there may be mental idols as well as idols of silver, and gold, and wood, and stone. “The God of Abraham praise.” “The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,” the God of the whole earth shall he be called; “the God that led his people out of Egypt, the God of Sinai is the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;” and “this God is our God for ever and ever.” Ours is no new religion; it is the religion of Jehovah worship, and to this we will cling, whoever may oppose.
Psalms 115:9-11. O Israel, trust thou in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.
The first of this set of sentences seems to me to he addressed by way of exhortation, but the second is a sort of soliloquy in which the psalmist, having exhorted others to trust, says, “Well they may trust, for God is both their active and their passive Helper: their help and their shield.” O you who know him, and love him, you who are of the house of Israel, however other men may turn aside to idols, keep yourselves steadfast to Jehovah, and trust in him even when he is mocked and ridiculed! O ye who are his ministers, the house of Aaron, specially devoted to his service, you know him best, and you should trust him most! O all of you, proselytes of the gate, who are not of the seed of Israel, still fear Jehovah, and trust in him, for he is your help and your shield!
Psalms 115:12. The LORD hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron.
He had been mindful of Israel, and this guaranteed that he would still bless his people. “The times are dark and cloudy,” the psalmist seems to say, “but by his ancient mercies, our faith is established, and our hope encouraged.”
Psalms 115:13. He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.
Now little ones, look out for the blessing that is meant for you: “He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.” Those who have but little faith, little joy, little grace, little growth, yet still he will bless.
Psalms 115:14-16. The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.
This may in part account for the fact that he is not known, and not honoured among men. He is himself in heaven; and, for a while, he has left men to follow their own devices. Hence it is that they have set up false gods. But, whatever others may do, or not do, let us praise the name of the Lord.
Psalms 115:17. The dead praise not the LORD,
No song comes up from that dark charnel house, no praise ascends to God from those that are asleep in the grave. The living among them praise him in heaven, but “the dead praise not the Lord.”
Psalms 115:17-18. Neither any that go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.
“Praise the Lord,” that is “Hallelujah.” The Psalm could not end with a better note than that; so may all our lives end, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.