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Psalm 115

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Heathen Idols Contrasted with the Lord
No MT Intro
The Futility of Idols and the Trustworthiness of God Liturgy Contrasting the Lord's Power with the Impotence of Heathen Gods The One True God The One True God
115:1-8 115:1-2 115:1-2 115:1 115:1-2
      115:2-8  
  115:3-8 115:3-8   115:3-4
        115:5-6
        115:7-8
115:9-15 115:9-11 115:9-11 115:9-11 115:9-11
  115:12-13 115:12-13 115:12-13 115:12-13
  115:14-15 115:14-15 115:14-15 115:14-15
115:16-18 115:16-18b 115:16-18 115:16-18b 115:16
        115:17-18b
  115:18c   115:18c 115:18c

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm is about the utter futility of trusting in manmade idols. Only the One true Creator/Redeemer Deity is worthy of trust.

 

B. This Psalm is characterized by repeated phrases.

1. "not to us," repeated twice, Ps. 115:1

2. "they have. . .," seven imperfects, Ps. 115:5-7

3. "trust," four (three imperatives and one participle; the ancient versions such as LXX, Peshitta, and Vulgate, interpret this MT imperative as a perfect), Ps. 115:8-11

4. "He will bless...," six (six Piel imperfects and one Qal passive participle), Ps. 115:12-15,18

5. "praise the Lord"

a. negated, Ps. 115:17 (Piel imperfect)

b. commanded, Ps. 115:18 (Piel imperative)

 

C. The LXX and some Hebrew MSS combine Psalm 114 and 115.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 115:1-8
 1Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
 But to Your name give glory
 Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.
 2Why should the nations say,
 "Where, now, is their God?"
 3But our God is in the heavens;
 He does whatever He pleases.
 4Their idols are silver and gold,
 The work of man's hands.
 5They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
 They have eyes, but they cannot see;
 6They have ears, but they cannot hear;
 They have noses, but they cannot smell;
 7They have hands, but they cannot feel;
 They have feet, but they cannot walk;
 They cannot make a sound with their throat.
 8Those who make them will become like them,
 Everyone who trusts in them.

115:1-8 This strophe is about the futility of idolatry! There is only one God (cf. Jer. 10:6-10; see Special Topic: Monotheism)! There is only one hope for "the nations." All Bible students have presuppositions about the "meta-narrative" of the Bible (i.e., its basic purpose or message). YHWH's desire for the nations to trust Him is mine (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

115:1 What a powerful verse. Glory (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA)) belongs to YHWH alone, not any human agency or group. This is because

1. of YHWH's lovingkindness (see Special Topic: Lovingkindness [hesed])

2. of YHWH's faithfulness (see Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT; also see Special Topic: Characteristics of Israel's God)

3. YHWH is sovereign, Ps. 115:3 (cf. Ps. 103:19; 135:5-6)

4. YHWH hears and acts but idols cannot, Ps. 115:4-7 (cf. Ps. 135:15-18; Deut. 4:28; Isa. 44:12-17; Jer. 10:3-5)

5. YHWH is the creator, "maker of heaven and earth" (cf. Ps. 115:15b,16)

 

▣ "Your name" See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

115:2 The question of line 2 is the theological issue. Israel was to be a kingdom of priests (cf. Exod. 19:5-6) to help the world know and understand YHWH. But because of her faithlessness the world saw only the judgment of God (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

The very question of line 2 is repeated in Ps. 42:3; 79:10 (cf. Joel 2:17; Micah 7:10).

115:4 "silver and gold" These are the precious metals that overlaid the images made from stone or wood.

115:7b Because Ps. 115:5 mentions "speech," this may refer to some type of divination (see Special Topic: Diviner) done in the name of the pagan idol. See notes at Deut. 18:10-11 online.

115:8 This verse acknowledges the truth that humans become like the god they worship. Oh, that believers would be more like Jesus! The goal of biblical faith is not only heaven someday only but Christlikeness now (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 7:1; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4; 4:13; 1 Thess. 3:13; 4:3,7; 5:23; 1 Pet. 1:15). Does your life reflect who you worship?

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 115:9-15
 9O Israel, trust in the Lord;
 He is their help and their shield.
 10O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord;
 He is their help and their shield.
 11You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord;
 He is their help and their shield.
 12The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us;
 He will bless the house of Israel;
 He will bless the house of Aaron.
 13He will bless those who fear the Lord,
 The small together with the great.
 14May the Lord give you increase,
 You and your children.
 15May you be blessed of the Lord,
 Maker of heaven and earth.

115:9-15 Notice the threefold designation and command ("trust," BDB 105, KB 120, Qal imperative).

1. O Israel, trust YHWH, Ps. 115:9,12

2. O house of Aaron, trust YHWH, Ps. 115:10,12

3. You who fear/revere YHWH, trust Him, Ps. 115:11,12 (this could be a further characterization of #1 and 2, cf. Ps. 135:19-20, or a reference to non-Israelites, cf. 1 Kgs. 8:41-43; Ezra 6:21; Neh. 10:28)

In turn YHWH will be

1. their help (cf. Ps. 18:2; 33:20; 70:5; 121:2; 124:8; 146:5)

2. their shield (cf. Ps. 28:7; 59:11; 84:9,11; 119:114; 144:2)

3. mindful of us (cf. Ps. 98:3)

4. bless both great and small

5. give you and your children increase (BDB 414, KB 418, lit. "add," Hiphil jussive, cf. Ps. 112:2)

There are consequences in time and eternity for idolatry! There are consequences for personal faith and faithfulness in YHWH (cf. Ps. 115:16-18)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 115:16-18
 16The heavens are the heavens of the Lord,
 But the earth He has given to the sons of men.
 17The dead do not praise the Lord,
 Nor do any who go down into silence;
 18But as for us, we will bless the Lord
 From this time forth and forever.
 Praise the Lord!

115:16a "The heavens are the heavens of the Lord" This refers to YHWH's throne (i.e., the highest heaven). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEAVENS AND THE THIRD HEAVEN and the Third Heaven.

115:16b YHWH has given the earth for mankind's abode and control (cf. Ps. 8:6). However, it belongs to Him (cf. Deut. 10:14) because He made it (cf. Ps. 121:2; 124:8; 134:3).

115:17 "The dead" See Special Topic: Where Are the Dead?

115:18 God's people will forever bless (Piel imperfect) and praise (Piel imperative) YHWH. This implies an afterlife separate from the idolatrous who "do not praise" and "go down into silence" (cf. Ps. 6:5; 30:9; 88:10-11; 94:17).

▣ "Praise the Lord" As with Ps. 113:9c, the LXX moves this to the beginning of the next Psalm.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Explain the OT terms

a. lovingkindness

b. faithfulness/truth

2. Why are both Ps. 115:1 and 2 so theologically significant?

3. How is YHWH different from pagan idols?

4. Does Ps. 115:9-11 refer to one group, two groups, or three groups?

5. List the things YHWH is and does for faithful followers.

6. Explain Ps. 115:16 in your own words.

7. Explain "go down into silence" of Ps. 115:17b.