Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Psalm - Chapter 115 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. We don't deserve praise! The LORD alone deserves all of the praise, because of his love and faithfulness.
    2. Why should the nations ask, "Where is your God?"
    3. Our God is in the heavens, doing as he chooses.
    4. The idols of the nations are made of silver and gold.
    5. They have a mouth and eyes, but they can't speak or see.
    6. Their ears can't hear, and their noses can't smell.
    7. Their hands have no feeling, their legs don't move, and they can't make a sound.
    8. Everyone who made the idols and all who trust them are just as helpless as those useless gods.
    9. People of Israel, you must trust the LORD to help and protect you.
    10. Family of Aaron the priest, you must trust the LORD to help and protect you.
    11. All of you worship the LORD, so you must trust him to help and protect you.
    12. The LORD will not forget to give us his blessing; he will bless all of Israel and the family of Aaron.
    13. All who worship the LORD, no matter who they are, will receive his blessing.
    14. I pray that the LORD will let your family and your descendants always grow strong.
    15. May the LORD who created the heavens and the earth give you his blessing.
    16. The LORD has kept the heavens for himself, but he has given the earth to us humans.
    17. The dead are silent and cannot praise the LORD,
    18. but we will praise him now and forevermore. Shout praises to the LORD!

Psalms - Chapter 115

Entered: March 31, 2009
This psalm is considered by some to be a continuation of the previous 114th Psalm, and that together they were written at some time of calamity in the life of Israel, such as the Babylonian captivity. Whatever the occasion, verse 2 mentions the taunts of other nations asking Israel, "Where is their (your) God?" On more than one occasion Israel was under siege by an enemy who taunted the people in this way, implying that they were much more powerful than Israel which obviously was because their god was stronger than that of Israel. This taunt in verse 2 came because Israel could not see her God while the other nations have objects or idols of some sort they worshiped and could see. The writer of the psalm is quick to address this taunt. "Our God," he says, "is in heaven and does whatever He pleases." This is a poke at the idols worshiped by the other nations that could only sit in one place. He goes on to point out the utter helplessness of these inanimate objects. Not only are the idols helpless, but so are those who make them and trust in them. Next, the writer appeals to Israel to trust in the Lord. He is the one who has been Israel's help in the past. It is He who will bless the nation. He blesses all who fear Him, regardless of their stature. The psalm closes with a plea for Israel to praise God while she can, for the dead cannot give praise for it is too late at that point.

Most people struggle to varying degrees as to whether there is a God or not, but it has always amazed me that anyone could even remotely believe that an object they made themselves is a god. Maybe this is because my concept of God has always been tied to creation and in so thinking, God is greater, by far, than what He has created. This includes us. But whether or not a god is connected with creation, it at least must be greater than we are to be able to do what we cannot. How could this ever be possible for an inanimate object? Well, that seems to be the argument of the writer in this psalm. The idols are helpless.

In my mind, the dilemma for the atheist is similar to that of the one who worships an object he has made and calls it god. The worshiper of the object (idol) has the impossible task of explaining in any believable way how his object is god instead of the God of the bible. So it is with the atheist. By rejecting the God of the bible he finds himself at a loss to explain our existence or the existence of anything in terms that are even as believable as believing in God.  Many such explanations I have heard or read give me the impression that the person's rejection of God is not for intellectual reasons, as they say it is, but simply because they don't want there to be a God. It is as if they will accept almost any explanation for how we exist except for God.

Entered: May 13, 2014

The psalmist seeks vindication among the nations while also affirming Israel's trust in the sovereign God of Israel. Previously, Israel had lost sight of God's greatness and turned to the idols of the other nations. As a result she was sent into exile in Babylon. Having turned attention back to God, the psalmist asks God to vindicate them by demonstrating His power on their behalf so the other nations do not ask, "Where is their God?" They were being taunted by the other nations that their God had forgotten them or maybe even that He was incapable of coming to their aid. What the psalmist was seeking was not only a vindication for Israel but also for God Himself.

A comparison is then made between the sovereign God of Israel and the idols of the other nations. "God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases." (115:3) By contrast, the idols are made of silver and gold and can't do anything. Though they have mouths and eyes and hands and feet, none of them function. They are inanimate. Those who make the idols and who trust in them are just like them - unable to do anything in their own power. They are impotent whereas the God of Israel is omnipotent.

Was Israel still tempted to turn her trust from God to the idols? We might wonder as the psalmist exhorts the people to "trust in the LORD! He is their help and shield." (115:9) "He will bless those who fear the LORD--small and great alike." (115:13) It is the Lord, not the idols, who is "Maker of heaven and earth." And as Maker, He retains the heavens to Himself, "but the earth He has given to the human race." (115:16) The unspoken question then, is "why would anyone trust in an inanimate idol?"

In the closing verses of the psalm the psalmist says, in effect, While we still have life, "we will praise the Lord." For "It is not the dead who praise the Lord."