v 1 – “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”
- The author of this psalm, likely David, begins his song of praise by declaring that God exists for his own glory, not our own. That he is the God steadfast love and faithfulness, and that, in these attributes, he is showing his love to his creation, but that he does not need, nor does he receive from his people anything that he NEEDS. God does not need us to exist, nor does he gain anything from our praise, but he, as our creator, sustains and keeps us. This is important given the information below.
v 2-3 – “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is there God?’ Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
- Nations – this is anyone who is outside of the elect family of God. in this time and age, the God of the Hebrews was largely defined by the people of Israel. This is the people to whom he had made promises of deliverance, support, and growth to their patriarchs. This is the people whom he had taken out of captivity through miracles and slaughter. This is the people whom he had kept alive and well in the wilderness for 40 years. This is the people for whom he had fought and destroyed nation after nation in the conquest of Canaan. It is God who had done this for his people, and this people, largely, had been seen as a single nation. While there are certainly people who believed in God outside of the nation of Israel, it is the nation of Israel whom the rest of the world in the region recognized as the people of God. Therefore, it is these people from other nations, not the people of Israel, nor the God of Israel, who are in mind here.
- These nations, not being part of the people of Israel, nor worshiping the God of Israel, mock the fact that the people of Israel don’t have a physical symbol of worship. All the people who surrounded Israel worshipped idols of wood, stone, and precious metals. They didn’t worship the things themselves, but attributed all sorts of powers and authority to these idols – the ability to preserve them from famine, to produce children for them, to sustain them in times of trouble, and to protect them in war. While the God of all creation – the true God in Heaven allows them to have these things. they, as we read in Romans 1, attribute the outcome of those things to their idols which they have made in the image of things they can see. Idols that look like birds, fish, trees, etc.
- They mock Israel for their invisible god. These surrounding nations worship physical manifestations of what they assume that god looks like – something that they can think about and physically touch. The people of Israel, in contrast, worship, to the eyes of their neighbors, nothing. They can’t see hands of the God of the Hebrews, so they assume he has none. They can’t see the eyes of the God of the Hebrews, so they assume he has none. They mock the God of the Hebrews because they cannot fathom a god who doesn’t look like they presume a god would be.
- The response from the author is clear. We don’t need an image to worship, because our God is not like anything. We don’t need a physical manifestation of what we think he looks like because he is actually existing in the heavens, and that he is actively doing whatever he wants.
v 4-8 – “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
- The gods of the nations are nothing but chunks of formed material – material which our God has made, and adorned with all sorts of fancy gems and items, but they are merely the work of men’s hands. If we can make the god, then we are the god over that god. Is our idol not powerful enough? Let’s add wings, or extra arms, or a tail, or lightning bolts, or a jet pack. This idol is nothing and has no power, because it only has the hopes and dreams of what we put into it, yet can do nothing with those desires.
- They have <x> but cannot <y>.
- Mouth / speak: Their gods cannot respond to their needs, nor command them in a way that all people agree as all have heard. In contrast, the people of Israel have heard God speak to them from Mt. Sinai.
- Eyes / see: Their gods stand before them, but cannot see their struggles. In contrast, the people of Israel were seen by their God suffering in the land of Egypt, and he met their needs by sending Moses to deliver them. He also, when on the mountain with Moses, saw their golden calf they had created and reacted in fire and judgement.
- Ears / hear: Their gods cannot listen to their pleas of mercy and support, much less their songs of praise. In contrast, we know that God hears our prayers, as he met the felt needs of the people in Israel in the wilderness, giving them water and food whey they asked for it.
- Noses / smell: Their gods cannot receive the offerings of praise and sacrifices, whereas the God of Israel acknowledges the sweet smell of incense, and the aroma of their sacrifices as pleasing to him.
- Hands / feel: Their gods cannot gather them up, as did the God of Israel, and help them with their actual needs.
- Feet / walk: Their gods have to be carried around from place to place. If there is a flood or natural disaster, these people need to hurry and pick up their gods because they cannot save themselves, nor can they even save the people who worship them. In contrast, the God of the Hebrews goes wherever he wants, and does whatever he wants – leading the people of Israel around the wilderness for 40 years.
- Sound / throat; These idols that the nations serve are silent. Silent to their pleas. Silent to their cries. Silent to their sacrifices. The God of Israel, in contrast, spoke directly to the people on Mt. Sinai and, in so doing, terrified them with his voice. This is not something that they can ever forget, and which was told to each subsequent generation in remembrance of the glory of that terrifying moment.
- Those who trust in them become like them – These surrounding nations make idols in their own image, who look like them, or who appeal to them, in that they reflect their own desires. In the same way, people who read scripture and throw out the items that they disagree with make idols of their own – crafting gods who support what they support, and reject what they reject. These are the gods who love gay marriage, but condemn captialism. Who love peaceful meditation, but despise the eating of meat. Who embrace continual penitent acts, but reject the idea that God’s work on the behalf of men is work enough to save. These are some of the idols of today, and in that time they were the same.
- By contrast, it is the Bible believing, scripture staturated Christian who approaches God as he is – as he has declared himself to be. It is us, those of his elect, who don’t read into scripture that which we would like him to be, but instead take him at his word, and trust in what he has declared about himself. We allow ourselves to be conformed into HIS image, and not change him to meet our fluid desires and emotions which can sway with political or social opinion. It is not God who becomes like us, but we, in subjection to our creator, instead subject our lives to become like him.
v 9-11 – “O Israel, trust 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. You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.”
- The author now declares that Israel should not trust in these idols of stone, metal and wood, but to trust in the God who has sustained and kept them throughout their history, reminding them that it is their God who has acted time and time again as their protector.
v 12-13 – ”The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us’; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great.”
- The author also reminds his hearers that God blesses those who honor him, and who acknowledge the work that God does for his people.
v 14-15 – “May the Lord give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the Lord who made heaven and earth!”
- He describes the way that God blesses those who trust in him – in providing for their needs. By protecting them from enemies and providing peace for them.
v 16-18 – “The heavens are the LORD’S heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. The dead do not praise the Lord, nor to any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forever more. Praise the Lord!”
- This song of praise closes with a reminder of who God is and what our duty to him is as scripture defines it for us. Everything exists at the whim of God, and according to his mercy and grace. He owns everything – the cattle, the hills, the nations, the continents, the planet, the air outside of the planet, and everything in the space outisde of that. To man, God has granted the earth as his stewards. Our responsibility includes taking care of the planet, as a steward takes care of the possessions of his master.
- The dead do not praise – Once you die, your chance to worship God in this temporal realm has ended. The Christian, however, enters into an eternal time of worship of God in Heaven.
- But we – Those who are of the family of God – it is us who, on this side of death, continually praise God for who he is. For his creation, for his glory revealed, for his mercy declared through our lives and our repentance, and for his justice redeemed in the work of the cross on our behalf. We praise the God who IS, unlike these idols of wood and stone – the creator king of all creation who stepped into the world he created so that he could redeem those whom he had chosen for salvation. Not one person whom God has elected for salvation will see their death without calling out to God in repentance and faith. It is we, who in this moment in our lives, and until our death, and then for ten thousand thousand generations in Heaven will continually sing praise to his name for ever and ever.