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PSALM 115

The One True God ... and the many false gods!

 A Preacher in his Study

"Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. 2 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? 3 But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. 5 They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: 6 They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: 7 They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. 8 They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. 9 O Israel, trust thou in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. 10 O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. 11 Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. 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. 13 He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. 14 The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. 15 Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth. 16 The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. 17 The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence. 18 But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD." Psalm 115

 

LESSON 1, VERSE 1:

Psalm 115:1 says this: "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."

To which we all say a hearty "Amen!"

This great verse actually sets the mood for the entire 115th Psalm, all eighteen verses.

Everything in verse one depends on that great word "glory!"

The noun for "glory" is "kabod" and is derived from a Hebrew verb that means "to be heavy!" Figuratively then, when God is given "glory" ... His character and His work and His words are said to be "substantive, valuable, important or even weighty!"

God's "glory" is so important to Him, rightly so, that He warns: "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images." Isaiah 42:8

Notice that in both references above, Psalm 115 and Isaiah 42, the Name of God appears as "LORD." That's Jehovah in Hebrew, literally "Yehovah." That is His saving Name, His covenant-making Name! The Name by Which He enters into Father-Son relationship with His children! Jehovah is also the Name by Which the eternality of God is emphasized. The "heart" of the Name Jehovah is the key Hebrew verb of being, "hayah." Jehovah is the God Who "is!" That's Why He taught Moses His Name as "I AM THAT I AM" in Exodus 4:14. "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."

The Hebrew Name for "Jehovah" occurs over 6,500 times in the Bible! It is translated "LORD" 6,510 of those times and Jehovah 4 times. It also occurs as "Yah" another 49 times!

The verb "give" is spelled "nathan" and suggests that glory be ascribed or bestowed or devoted or delivered to the Lord!

Do also notice that this whole verse is a prayer! "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."

God is being asked to consecrate to Himself Glory! He surely is pleased with such a request. "God, give Thyself Glory" is, I think, parallel to Jesus' first request in what is often called "The Lord's Prayer" or "The Model Prayer." There He prayed to His Father, "Hallowed by Thy Name!"

But interestingly, this Psalm tells also us WHY such Glory should be heaped upon our great God, or at least two reasons! "For Thy Mercy and for Thy Truth's sake!"

The noun for "mercy" is "hesed," perhaps better spelled "chesed." It is derived from a verb that means "to bow down" to someone else's level! Some linguists tell us it's a picture of God's condescension to earth in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ! He came to save us old sinners. By His Death on the Cross that is! And if Calvary isn't Mercy, if Jesus isn't Mercy personified, I don't know What or Who is!

"Hesed" in our King James Bibles is rendered several ways: 149 times it's "mercy" and 40 times it's "kindness" and 30 more times it is "lovingkindness" then 12 times it's just "goodness," and so forth for 249 total appearances.

Glory be to God ... for His Kindness! That's one of His attributes, a part of His Essence, His Character or His Being! When we magnify God for His Mercy, we praise Him for WHO HE IS! He is merciful!

Then next, glory be assigned to God ... for His Truth! "Emeth" means that which is firm and stable and reliable and sure and faithful, hence true! It is built from a root word, "aman," meaning "to be certain" or "to be confirmed!"

Jesus, in John 14:6 said "I am the Truth!" And John the Apostle on the Isle of Patmos, wrote of our Lord, "These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness." Jesus is the "Amen, " the Witness of that which is "True!"

God's Truth is not only expressed in His only begotten Son, Jesus ... but also in His Book, the Bible! Again, Jesus prayed to His Father, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."

So, Glory to the LORD ... for two reasons here.

For WHO HE IS ... merciful!

And for WHAT HE SAYS ... truth!

To which all we Believers must respond with agreement!

"Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."

Amen!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2, VERSE 2:

We are about to read one of the greatest of all "arguments" to use in our prayers!

If you object to the word "argument," just remember that I am using Bible terminology. As the great Patriarch Job prayed he said:  "Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments." Job 23:3-4

But Psalm 115 expresses this nugget of godly persuasion more succinctly. "Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?" Psalm 115:2

In other words ... Lord, work in might! Glorify Thy Name! Make bare thy mighty arm! Answer the prayers of Thy people ... lest the filthy nations of the world say, "The God of Israel is ineffective, not hearing the prayers of His children!"

Do you see the point?

God, do something mighty in this case ... if not, You are not going to look very glorious in the eyes of multitudes! Answer for Thy Name's Sake, O Lord!

"Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?"

By the "heathen," in Hebrew "goy," is meant the Gentiles or the non-Jewish nations of earth.

The verb "say" is "amar" and means in this case "to speak" incessantly! On-going conversation!

God is being criticized and belittled it seems!

Such talks grieves the Psalmist.

He is zealous for the Honor and Reputation of God!

The word used for "where," precisely "ayeh" is a particle of interrogation. It is here being used by the world of lost mankind, used negatively towards the dear Lord too.

And "now," in Hebrew "na," is an interjection.  It often implies entreaty too. "Where, we pray, is now their God?"

The Bible here is literally quoting the world of lost humanity, who obviously are demeaning the Lord Himself! And the goal of this context is apparently to persuade God to respond in some notable manner!

A prayer "argument" reverently directed toward Almighty God!

Here's another instance of this wicked smart-aleck attitude of the world: "They continually say unto me, Where is thy God?" Psalm 42:3 records these words of lament.

Here's part of Psalm 79:10 too: "Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? Let Him be known among the heathen ...."

Here is the Prophet Joel using this very line of reasoning with the Lord! "Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?" Joel 2:17

Moses presented this strategy to God also, back when God was about to destroy all Israel, due to their idolatry at the "golden calf" incident. "Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Thy people." And God answered favorably! Exodus 32:12

Talk about presenting one's case before the Lord! And it's still Moses, the meekest man who ever lived! "Now if Thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of Thee will speak, saying, because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which He sware unto them, therefore He hath slain them in the wilderness." Numbers 14:15-16

And on this matter of God getting Glory, even from the heathen, remember the Lord's Prayer! It's very first request: "Hallowed be Thy Name." Matthew 6:9

When one prays for God's Glory, he or she touches a major cord in the heart of the Almighty! Even Jesus, God the Son, not long before the Cross prayed: "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name. Then came there a Voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." John 12:27-28

Concern for the reputation of God!

That's powerful praying!

I mean this respectfully.

Try it!

God answers prayer!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3, VERSE 3:

The expression "our God" should be a "hint" really.

As it is found in Psalm 115 I mean, verse 3.

Logically we are being given the answer to a previous question.

The context is "built" by the Holy Spirit in this fashion: "Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?"

The answer: "But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased."

Far from allowing the "heathen" to belittle Elohim God, implying that He cannot be found anywhere, that He has not been doing much lately ... the 115th Psalm boldly declares God's whereabouts! And His activity too!

"Our God," both words, are to be found in the single proper noun "Elohiym." This is God's Name of strength and power, with an additional accent on His Triune Being also. Frankly, the word is plural!

The enemies of God's Word suggest to us that this name for God is merely on "loan" to the Israelites from the gentile world around them. That hundreds of gods used this name and "our God" is just one more in the heap! But those enemies are wrong! This is the precise Name of God used early in Scripture. How early? "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." That early, as "God" here is "Elohiym" too, Genesis 1:1.

The noun for "heavens" is "shamayim" and is derived from a root stem meaning "lofty." That sounds appropriate! The plural number is interesting too. Paul later will talk about the "third" heaven in 2nd Corinthians 12:2. Using that terminology, God is in all the heavens; where the birds and planes fly, where the stars twinkle, and where the departed saints live!

The verb "hath done" is "asah" and is usually said to mean "to do or to fashion or to accomplish" something. The time action of this verb is "complete," not continuous. The Psalmist might have some recent outstanding act of God in mind, or perhaps even creation itself.

"Whatsoever" is interesting too. It incorporates two words, "kol" and "aher." Blending them, one gets something like "the whole thing!" Literally, it is "all the that" or "all the which" or "all the when" or "all the where" too! Sounds inclusive! Nothing is omitted!

Then "hath pleased" translates "chaphetzs." It means whatever God is "inclined" to do! Whatever brings Him delight! This is again a "perfect" verb, its action completed!

We are being told that God is Almighty, higher than the highest, no one telling Him what to do!

Now back to where I think this Psalm is going. "Our God" surely implies that Elohiym is about to be compared to "their god" or "their gods."

And if so, I sure do pity those other gods!

They are in for a rough Psalm!

Come back tomorrow for more!

Meanwhile, do remember: "But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased."

This truth, when appropriated personally, will encourage you today.

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

VERSE 4, LESSON 4:

Psalm 115 has a lot to say about the "idols" of the wicked.

Verse 4 addresses the subject generally, then the Psalm subsequently studies those idols specifically.

"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands."

The men of earth make their own idols. The noun "work" is "maaseh" and means something manufactured. The word can indicate things made via skilled labor.

Man's "hands" here build his own gods, false gods too! The noun "hands" is "yad" in Hebrew. The Holy Spirit takes this root word, "yad," and creates another word, "yadah." And "yadah" means praise! Yes, the Hebrew word "hand" is the stem that gives us the Hebrew word "praise!" Man's hands are given him to praise the Lord! But in this verse, instead of using his hands to worship God ... rebellious people choose to use those hands to build idols, the very opposite of praising God!

The noun "idols" is spelled "atzsab" and means an idolatrous "image." It is derived from a verb that means "to carve or fashion" an object. So we here have graven images!

But these idols are not wooden ones, not here!

They are "silver," in Hebrew "keseph," meaning originally "to be pale!" Apparently so called from silver's natural color! In the Old Testament 112 times this word is translated as "money." Mankind today still transforms his money into his god!

And "gold" is "zahab" and comes from a verb that means "to shimmer." Only once out of its 389 appearances in Scripture does this word mean anything but "gold" or "golden." In Job 37:22 "zahab" is rendered as "fair weather."

Expensive little gods these are, but useless!

For a minute let's contrast the gods of verse 4 to the real Lord God Almighty. "Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands."

We Christians did not make our God as did these heathen. In fact, our God made us! We are His workmanship!

Silver, the Bible metal of redemption, is not the material out of which our God is made. He is Spirit and eternal and invisible and abides in the Heavens, God the Father I mean. But there is something our God does that is related to redemption! He sent His only Begotten Son to die on the Cross, shedding His precious Blood, that we might be saved.

And gold, so important to these idols, giving them their worth, is not all that significant to our great God! Gold to Him is rather abundant. He owns it all anyway! In reality, God has paved the street of the coming Heavenly City with gold! "And the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." Revelation 21:21

Today we all ought to tell our God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, how very much we love Him! How we appreciate His power and might and creative ability! How thankful we are for the provisions of life! How we look forward to that city of gold ... because we have been redeemed with something far more valuable than mere silver! That is, the Blood of Jesus Christ!

Amen!

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5, VERSE 5:

Idols!

What are they?

The Bible takes two views, each emphasizing a vital aspect of idolatry.

Idols are often pictured as little gods with demonic forces behind them!

At other times idols are mere empty pieces of metal or wood or stone, meaningless and useless and powerless.

In Psalm 115 idols are subjected to ridicule, godly sarcasm really!

Listen, "They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not." Psalm 115:5

The words of this verse are all common and have simple meanings. One might quip, "They mean just what they say."

Most idols of the Gentiles, many of which have been unearthed by archaeologists, indeed do have mouths. Painted on themselves!

But they can't talk!

But our great God can talk!

Listen to Him: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Or, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." John 5:24

Or again, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." John 10:27-29

Furthermore, most of the ancient idols discovered so far have eyes! Holes gouged out of their heads or, more simply, just painted on their wooden carcasses!

Yet the devil could not even see the danger lurking for himself at Calvary! He plowed right into Golgotha, thinking he was ruining the Son of God ... and all the while Satan was executing his own death warrant!

Again ... the implication is that the idols of the heathen have eyes, but cannot see ... as opposed to our God, the Lord God Almighty, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob Who has eyes and can see!

"The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." Proverbs 15:3

Listen to the Lord here, in Ezekiel 16:6: "And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live." This is the story of all us old ex-sinners!

And God sees those who love Him too! "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars." 2nd Chronicles 16:9

Psalm 115:5 is so true. Why does mankind yet to this day follow the senseless idols of the world? "They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not."

Especially when the Lord of Life speaks and sees ... in love!

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6, VERSE 6:

For several days we have been studying Psalm 115. It is a major Bible Text on the subject of idols.

There, in verse 6, we learn something else about those little false gods. "They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not."

And, as always, what we've just been taught from the Scriptures is true, absolutely so!

Archaeologists through the years have found countless idols such as these being described.

And thousands of them do have ears and noses! Carved right into the rock or wood or fashioned into the silver or bronze of the idols themselves!

Ears ... but no hearing?

Yes, and that verb "hear" is "shama" as a Qal imperfect. That means it is in the active voice with a sense of time that suggests incomplete action. These idols did not hear the day they were made ... nor have they heard anything since!

Why would one desire to pray to an idol, and that's the whole reason for having one, an idol that cannot hear?

But, hallelujah, I know a God Who can hear!

Let Israel now testify about God's ears! "And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: and the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: and he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey." Deuteronomy 26:7

Now any saint of God can say: "This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Psalm 34:6

Jesus too recognized this great truth, at Lazarus' grave no less! "Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." John 11:41

But we're also told that idols have noses, "but they smell not!" The noun for "noses" is "aph," derived from a key verb that means "to breathe hard!" This action often in the Old Testament typifies anger or wrath, 216 times to be exact! But 12 times in the King James Text it is "nose" or "noses." Is Scripture telling us that these idols, chunks of wood or whatever, are angry more than they are loving and kind?

And the verb "smell" is unusual. "Ruach" is the same word as "spirit" in the Old Testament. This word literally means "to blow" or "to breathe" but was occasionally called into service to mean "smell" too. To inhale!

And thousands of found idols do have, either affixed or engraved or drawn into place, noses of various sizes and shapes. But to no avail!

But, Preacher Bagwell, can God smell?

Yes, He can!

Many of the Offerings of the Bible, the sacrifices given to our great God, are said to be "sweet smelling!" The Burnt Offering, for example, was "of a sweet savour" according to Leviticus 1:9. Jesus' Death was too! "And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour." Ephesians 5:2

Why else would the Tabernacle and Temple of the Old Testament be filled with incense? God can smell, and those odors are symbols of our "prayers" according to Revelation 5:8. Jesus our great High Priest's prayers to God ... on our behalf mind you, are here implied too!

And the word for "abomination" in Scripture carries the idea of something that is foul or bad-smelling! God can sense that immediately!

God can smell, good and bad things apparently!

He also can hear in a positive or negative sense. He can listen to our prayers and praises, but also understands our grumbling and complaining! "And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp." Numbers 11:1

But, not to close on a negative note, God also hears our cries, our pain and suffering! At least He did in Hagar's case! "And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction." The name "Ishmael" means "God will hear!" Genesis 16:11

Well, once again, for the ten billionth time, an understatement too, God has overpowered those idols!

First Kings 8:23 is right! "LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath."

Amen!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7, VERSE 7:

They have had a rough time, the idols about which the Psalmist is writing!

He has torn them to shreds!

And today's verse, Psalm 115:7, is no exception!

"They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat."

These little miniature gods of the heathen indeed have hands! Of course some of them are not so small! Nebuchadnezzar's image in Daniel chapter 3 was ninety feet high! But what can a dead idol do with his or her hands? Yes, many of them were goddesses.

The Hebrew noun for "hands" is spelled "yad." This is the root for the word "yadad," or praise! But again, what kind of praising can a god do, one who is made of wood or stone or even gold?

And certainly such dead hands can not touch anything, not to "handle" it! "Mush," this Hebrew verb, means "to feel" as well as "handle."

And furthermore an idol, when built as a complete entity, has feet too! I learned last week that the priests of these dead creatures actually attended them every day! They even dressed them, including shoes for their feet! Talk about a pair of shoes lasting a while! These things never took a step! The noun used here for feet, "regel," can also mean legs or even toes! It's used all three ways in the King James Bible.

And what good are feet than cannot "walk?" The verb "halak" means "to go" or "to come," walking in that sense. I guess one could say these idols don't know if they're "coming" or "going!" I personally think they're "going!"

And now an interesting clause, "neither speak they through their throat!" I say so because the Psalmist, two verses earlier, has already said they "have mouths, but speak not!" Why the seeming repetition?

The verbs differ though! Earlier the verb "speak" is "dabar," intelligent conversation. Now it is "hagah," to growl or moan or mutter! This thought adds a new dimension to these idols! They were believed to be able to make sounds! And occasionally a demon could apparently speak through one! Isaiah the Prophet spoke against "the wizards that peep, and that mutter," or "chirp and growl by definition!" But, even when that happens, it's not the dumb idols that speak! It's the devils or demons in them!

There is a philosophy, maybe even a valid one at times, that suggests silence about these idols. The less they are mentioned, the better! And God does forbid learning about them in any detail! In fact, the Israelites were absolutely commanded to stay away from them! Deuteronomy 7:25 warns: "The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God. Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing."

But here in Psalm 115 the Holy Spirit is in the attack mode! These idols are in His sight! He decimates them!

And all I can do as He speaks is say "Amen!"

"They have mouths, but they speak not: 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." Psalm 115:5-7

Yet to our great God: "Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen." These are the words of Heaven! John the Apostle said so in Revelation 7:12

Our God lives!

Eternally so!

                                                                           --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

P. S. --- Christian friend, aren't you glad your God has Hands ... Hands that can "handle" things! Listen to Isaiah, he is quoting the Lord too: "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." And Jesus adds: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." What Hands! 

And our God can walk too! He did so back in the Garden of Eden! "And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." Still later, "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." And for you and me, as said David long ago: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." What feet our dear Lord has! Now they are pierced feet, but then, when He returns again, "His Feet" will be "like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." Revelation 1:15

But when it comes to "muttering" or "growling," the verb "hagah" in Hebrew, God does not participate! Not once in the whole Bible is God said to make noise in this "hagah" sense!

No! No! No!

Our Lord "speaks" to His people, communicating intelligibly! Through His precious Word!

Praise His Name!

 

 

LESSON 8, VERSE 8:

Here is a Bible Truth that is often overlooked: "Eventually one will become like the God or god he worships!"

That statement needs qualification of course, but it is still accurate.

It is not claiming that an old ex-sinner, like you or me, once having been saved, will some day be sovereign or omnipotent or a member of the Trinity!

Christian friends, that would make us all little "Gods" and there is but One Lord God Almighty! None other exists.

But we will some day be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ ... like unto Him in character! But we shall still be human beings, saved by Grace and glorified by the precious Holy Spirit of God!

The verse that prompted this kind of thinking is found in Psalm 115. It, talking specifically about idols and their adherents, just says: "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them."

See that?

A man or woman becomes "like" the "idol" he or she "makes!"

Of course that leads a Preacher all sorts of directions! If a persons builds and worships a "dumb" idol, as the Bible calls such a thing, does that mean the individual becomes "dumb?" Like his god, dumb? Both Paul and Habakkuk use the term "dumb idols." In Habakkuk 2:18 "dumb" means "mute, silent or unable to speak," spelled "illem" in Hebrew. And Paul's word, from 1st Corinthians 12:2, is "voiceless," or "aphonos" in Greek.

"They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them."

The verb "make" is "asah" and means to build something from existing materials. It is not "bara," to create something out of nothing! "Asah" is here a simple active participle, the "making" is a continual process! Maybe the builder never quite "finishes" constructing his god, a life-long process!

The preposition "like" is spelled "kemo" and means "similar" or "comparative," not identical in essence.

The idol maker does not turn into wood or stone, whatever the case may be!

Still, to be "like" a hunk of rock or even silver or gold isn't much of a complement!

Also notice that the pronouns are plural, "them" and "them" and "them" again! Again Psalm 115:8, "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them." It is automatically assumed that a man or woman will need more than one, more than one god! That's because they are fake! Useless! Vain!

"Every one" translates "kol" and leaves no room for exceptions to our God's axiom here. The "whole" crowd, no one is omitted!

Then the verb "trust," which is "batach" in Hebrew, suggests one "running and hiding in a place of refuge!"

Just think of that!

An individual actually depending upon a wooden, recently-constructed, freshly painted god for safety and provision!

But metaphorically this rule is true too.

The idols of the heathen were immoral. So were their followers.

The God of Christianity is pure, so must His devotees be!

Here's 1st Peter 1:16, quoting the Lord Himself: "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."

Surely that's the essence of today's verse!

Think about it!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9, VERSES 9-11:

For eight verses the Psalm has been doing battle!

Exposing the futility of idol worship, Psalm 115 also derides those little gods a bit too!

Holy sarcasm one might call it!

Look!

"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: 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." Psalm 115:4-7

But, suddenly, the Psalm opens into a chorus of praise!

Praise to the Lord God Almighty!

"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." Psalm 115:9-11

Three groups are addressed. Two are named, one isn't.

Israel is a Nation.

Aaron and his sons are a family.

Those who "fear the Lord" are unnamed, but the Lord knows who are His! "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His." Paul wrote these words in 2nd Timothy 2:19.

Israel means something like "God is my Prince!" Or as one Preacher said, "Princed by God." That means "ruled by God!"

Aaron means "light bringer!" His "house" includes his sons, each of whom would be priests in Israel for generations!

To "fear" the Lord, using "yare" as the verb, is to be reverent and respectful and filled with adoration!

Nations!

Preachers! Or maybe families!

Then, everyone who is saved, all ye His saints! "O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful." Psalm 31:23

Now to the verb, "trust." It is critical. "Batach" means "to flee for refuge." In Psalm 115:8, one verse earlier, the heathen trust in their idols! But now, God's people trust in Him!  He is their Fortress!

"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." Psalm 115:9-11

Then the two nouns, "help" and "shield."

"Help" is "ezer" and means "protection" or "aid" or the old word, succour." It all comes from a root verb meaning "to surround" someone to keep them safe! What a God we have!

Then "shield" is spelled "magen" and means "buckler." But what is a buckler? It's the smaller of two shields available to the soldiers in the Israelite army. It was primarily used in hand-to-hand combat! Close fighting! God comes and personally engages the enemy ... especially when he come close! It's root, "ganan," means "to hedge about." That's one step more secure than even surrounding one's charge! The hedge in question, at least in Bible days, would have been a hedge of thorns!

Nations, some day you all will praise God for His Help!

Families and Preachers too, the Lord is your Protector! Glorify Him as such!

Finally, everyone who names the Name of Jesus, flee to Him for all you need! In fact, run to Him for the sweet blessing of Fellowship! With the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Oh yes, one more thing.

The verb "trust," used three times in our Text today, each time as "batach," is in the imperative mood. Three commands!

Really just one command, repeated three times to different groups of people!

Trust the Lord!

It's a requirement!

Mandatory!

But just to help us, an an incentive to this "trust," remember Gods great "help" every time you were in need!

And remember His shield too, it can still quench the fiery darts of the wicked one!

Compare that to idols; anywhere, anytime, in front of anyone!

Amen!

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 10, VERSES 12-15:

Psalm 115 began by attacking the false gods of this world!

Then the Lord chose three groups of people and asked for their trust; the Israelites, the Priests, Aaron's sons, then the God fearers of the Land.

Here's the Text: "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." Psalm 115:9-11

It seems that "trusting" God, leaning on Him with all one's heart and soul, brings all kinds of benefits!

Trust spawns God's "help."

And protection, the Almighty becoming our Shield.

And the Lord's help and safety are visible! Note the third person construction of the threefold "He is their Help and their Shield" above! Somebody else is observing these benefits!

But, there's more!

"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 will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth." This is today's Passage, Psalm 115:12-15

To be "mindful," translating "zakar," means to mark something or someone for future purposes, specifically for recognition!

And for God to "bless" us, using a verb that appears five times in our short Textual paragraph, is just overwhelming! "Barak" means "to kneel" to someone, always a Superior coming down to an inferior!

This reminds me of the Incarnation and Virgin Birth of Jesus! God became man! He left the splendor of Heaven and came to this pig-pen earth! To die on the Cross for sinners!

What a blessing!

But think of the other millions of times God has come and helped His trusting children in times of need!

Now it appears that this list of "recipients" is not only threefold, but also is one of descending prestige. Israel first, Preachers next, and the God-fearers, even Gentiles likely being among them, last!

So, to the outcast, the half-breeds, God adds one more promise! He will bless them that fear the Lord, "both great and small." The word "qatan" means the least in size of any given matter, but also it can mean the youngest!

And "gaqol," the greatest, means anything from loudest to highest to oldest! "Great in magnitude and extent," we are told.

The manifold blessings that flow from "trusting" the Lord continue.

He will "increase more and more" the faithful! This verb, "yasaph," the name Joseph in English, means "to add, exceed or continue!" God's increase is always the best too!

You make God look Big and He will "add" to you as well! He is a big God too!

The blessings of trusting God reach not only yourself, sir, but your wife and children too! The noun "children" is "ben." It comes from the verb "banah," meaning "to build" a building! With those little boys and girls Daddy, you are building a household, a dynasty, generations of potential Believers in Jesus!

And just in case anyone wonders how these great verses, promise laden as they are, got into this Psalm ... they still are reflecting God's attitude toward those dumb idols earlier in the Passage.

Idols cannot see with their eyes or speak with their mouths or touch with their hands or walk with their feet!

But our great God ... made heaven and earth! In six short days too!

Glory to His Name!

Yes, if you are saved ... you are blessed!

Indeed!

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 11, VERSE 16:

The gods of this world are nothing, especially when compared to the Lord God Almighty!

Psalm 115 balances those two themes, idols on the one hand ... and Jehovah on the other!

Yet here is perhaps the key difference between the two. Concerning the idols, man made his own gods! But concerning the true God, our Lord, He Himself is the Creator of mankind, all humanity!

Psalm 115:15 mentions the fact that God is ... "The Lord Which made heaven and earth." The verb "made" here is "asah" and means "to fashion, to fabricate or shape or produce." It's not the verb that means to make something out of nothing, "bara" in Hebrew.

With materials He had already called into existence, God "created" as an artist paints a masterpiece or a poet writes a sonnet or a composer finishes his symphony! 

And this great God, still according to Psalm 115:15, has "blessed" us! "Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth."

No idol can do that!

Furthermore, in verse 16 we find these words: "The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men."

The Lord, unlike wooden or stone or golden gods, owns the very Heavens! He is lofty and majestic and glorious! As Owner of the heavens, He can count and name the stars! As Owner of the heavens He can sense the falling of one little bird, a sparrow. As Owner of the heavens He can make "signs" of the sun and moon, the two greater lights of earth! See Genesis 1:14.

And God, Who in reality owns the earth also, has "given" it to the children of men. "Nathan" means "to give or grant or bestow" but here in a "completed" action sense. From Adam onward man has possessed the earth, a gift from God. And by the way, the Giver is greater than the gift!

God gave us the earth!

Yet man-made idols wish to take from us the earth! They claim control over every acre of land, every flash of lightning, every mile of river, every city of importance and every star in their zodiac!

What a contrast between the True and the false!

God gave us the earth ... with which to glorify Him!

And just last night I drove over 200 miles on roads and highways and Interstates, went through rain shower after rain shower, entered a Church building, stood behind a wooden pulpit and preached God's precious Word!

Using earth's resources, I sought to magnify and adore and worship God, encouraging His people to love Him more and more!

That's why God gave us the earth ... and why the devils and idols and adversaries want to take it away, seizing it from us!

As one would expect, in the rather uneven war of God versus idols, there is a Victor!

And Jesus is His Name!

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 12, VERSE 17:

There are some wonderful things the New Testament reveals in glorious fullness, things that the Old Testament does not seem to discuss.

The Church is an example, often called the "New Testament" Church, for a reason too!

Today's verse from Psalm 115 also helps make the point.

"The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." Psalm 115:17

The word "dead" is spelled "muth" and indicates those who have expired naturally or been murdered or even executed.

"Praise" is "halel," the standard Hebrew word for exalting or boasting or uplifting a person whom one admires!

"Lord" here is God's Name "Yah," a shortened form of Jehovah.

To "go down" or "yarad" is "to descend or sink down" into some low place. Obviously the grave is implied in this context, at least.  More probably is the descent into the heart of the earth, the Old Testament location for either Hell with its torment or Abraham's Bosom with its delight.

"Silence," the Hebrew noun "dumah," means dumbness, not talking! It is only used twice in the whole Old Testament and both times is rendered "silence."

But now, since the New Testament has been given us, we know that to be absent from the body, death having come our way, is for the saint to be present with the Lord ... eternally so! Second Corinthians 5:8 teaches us this.

And we furthermore know now that even though our bodies are in the grave, our spirits in Heaven ... with the ascended Lord Jesus ... do praise His Name! Multitudes right now in Glory are saying ... "with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." This is according to Revelation 5:12.

See what I mean?

The New Testament gloriously adds the details we need to encourage us in our Christian lives!

But, still, the truth of Psalm 115:17, must be acknowledged.

The context of its eighteen verses, Psalm 115, is that the idols of this world are nothing! Dumb pieces of wood or rock or metal!

But our God, Jehovah, the God of Abraham and the Patriarchs, is powerful and loving and protective and merciful!

And when the two are compared, dead gods verses Almighty God ... praise is due our Creator and Saviour and Deliverer and Redeemer!

And that praise should be given now, today, this minute!

Because death is coming ... and at least our earthly opportunities to praise Him will be over!

Praise ye the Lord!

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 13, VERSE 18:

The Psalms are filled with praise. Yet that element of praise is not merely an arbitrary quality. There is a reason behind the praise! A divine logic pervades the whole matter!

We are not simply commanded to praise the Lord irrationally!

And it is captivating to study the "why" of praise as it is given in Psalm after Psalm.

In fact, the Psalm we have been studying lately, Psalm 115, gives a classic example.

Primarily written to combat idolatry, skillfully belittling the gods of this world, Psalm 115 contrasts these false images with the True God.

The idols can do nothing. They are dead; speechless, sightless, deaf and generally handicapped!

But Jehovah God ... helps and protects and remembers and blesses His followers!

Therefore the Psalm concludes: "But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD." Psalm 115:18

The verb "bless" here is critical. "Barak" means literally "to kneel" before someone, "to bow down" in their presence. This "blessing" our great God is thus a form of worship!

Also "barak" is here framed as a Piel stem verb. This means that the action being depicted is energetic and intense! And as an "imperfect" verb, this blessing of God goes on and on! The action was not complete when the Psalmist penned these great words! Truly God's children are still blessing him, three thousand years later!

But that's exactly what verse eighteen says, "From this time forth and for evermore."

The Hebrew Text reads like this: "min attah ad olam." It grammatically says "out of now ... even unto the vanishing point!" Or ... now and forever!

Here is resolve!

This Psalmist now exists to praise the Lord!

Then comes the last exhortation of the Passage, "Praise the Lord."

This is actually a command. The verb "praise" is spelled "halal" and basically means "to shine!" Maybe we are being taught that as we praise God, His very Being impacts us, His Glory! We shine and smile and exult with joy and gladness and praise!

Furthermore "halel" here is a plural verb, partly meaning that praise is best offered in congregation! In a group! With others who are saved and share your values!

But Whom are we to praise?

"The Lord."

Our King James punctuation is clear here, Lord being printed LORD in the Text. This is the translator's way of telling us that Jehovah God is intended. Usually spelled "yehovah," He is here presented as "yah!" That's just a shortened form of The Same Name. "Yah" is Jehovah. It means "the One Who is!" The Existing One! Hence, the eternal One! Better yet, God identified Himself as "I AM THAT I AM."

But look at the Hebrew again. This is amazing. That last line reads: Halel Yah.

Yes!

Halel Yah.

Say it rapidly.

Hallel Yah!

It is our very word "hallelujah!"

The next time you say it in Church or wherever, "Hallelujah," just remember that you are quoting the last sentence of Psalm 115, literally!

Poor little idols, gods with a little "g."

They all will burn with fire some day!

But God, the living God, will be praised for evermore!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 14, CONCLUSION:

Scripture teaches us in 1st John 4:19 that "We love Him because He first loved us." How true that is!

But in Psalm 115 we are taught yet another great reciprocal principle. I will state it succinctly ... then show you the verses that lead to this conclusion.

Here it is. "We bless Him because He first blessed us!"

I've never heard it stated just like that ... but it's true!

After pronouncing a scathing denunciation on the false gods of this world, mere idols they are, Psalm 115 begins to eloquently exalt the True God, God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Triune God! The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob! The God of the living, not the dead!

Remember, those idols are indeed dead! They can't hear or speak or touch or anything else! "Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: 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." Psalm 115:4-7

But, according to Psalm 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." A God Who is one's "Help" and "Shield" is Mighty! He can see and hear and walk and speak and touch! In fact, as Genesis 18:14 asks: "Is any thing too hard for the LORD?"

Now we come to today's main point. This great God, this Living Saviour, will never forget us! Using a verb spelled "zakar," the Holy Spirit here says that God will place His "mark" upon us, His believing sons and daughters, and hold us in His Memory! "The LORD hath been mindful of us," it says!

I would say so!  Think of the Exodus, the Passover Lamb, the death Angel, the drowning of Pharaoh and his army!

Ponder the manna, the fiery pillar of cloud, the giving of God's Law, the water that flowed from rock, the divine direction day by day!

The conquest of Canaan, the leadership of Joshua and Samuel and David and Hezekiah and ultimately ... the Virgin Born arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ, God's Very Son!

I would say God has remembered His own little children!

But, here it comes. Count the times "bless" or "blessed" is used! "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 will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth." Psalm 115:12-15 says this.  One, two, three, four, then ... five! That's the number of grace, by the way!

How blessed of God we are!

The only "issue" to be resolved is this. The meaning of "bless" or "barak" in Hebrew is unusual for this context. It means "to kneel" or "bend down!" Now since God is great and we are nothing in His sight ... this "kneeling down or bending down" is an act of sheer Grace! God condescending to our level!

Is that not exactly what happened when God the Son came to earth? Leaving Heaven and living down here in this wicked place for 33 years, dying on the Cross to save us from our sin! Yes, He "came down" to our level, remaining sinless of course, He took our sin upon Himself, dying in our stead on Calvary!

That's the "apex" of God's blessing upon all mankind!

Yes, God blessed us!

God blessed us FIRST!

Therefore, we "bless" Him in return!

Not as "payback," but out of love and adoration!

The Psalm puts it this way: "We will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD."

That's how it ends!

It's the last verse: "But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD."

I say it again.

We bless the Lord ... because He first blessed us!

Plug that "kneel down" definition back into "bless" now. Let us kneel before Him today! Physically if we can, but spiritually if one's back or knees can't bend! God sees the heart anyway.

"We bless Thy Name, dear Lord!"

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

... WE PRAY THAT THIS STUDY OF PSALM 115, VERSE BY VERSE, HAS BEEN A BLESSING TO YOU AND A CATALYST TO YOUR SPIRITUAL GROWTH! VISIT US AGAIN WITH AN OPEN BIBLE IN YOUR HAND!

 

 

 

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