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"He Has Sent Redemption to His People" January 15-17

Psalm 115 is another psalm of praise, portions of which appear in Psalm 135. As stated earlier, Psalm 115 was, and still is among the Jews, the first of those traditionally read or sung following the Passover meal. It is a song expressing communal confidence in God to help and bless His people, apparently originally intended to have groups singing responsively. "Structurally, the song advances in five movements involving a liturgical exchange between the people and temple personnel: (1) vv. 1-8: the people; (2) vv. 9-11: Levitical choir leader (the refrain ["He is their help and shield"] perhaps spoken by the Levitical choir); (3) vv. 12-13: the people; (4) vv. 14-15: the priests; (5) vv. 16-18: the people" (Zondervan NIV Study Bible, note on Psalm 115).

The psalmist has the people begin by directing praise away from themselves to where it rightly belongs-to God (verse 1a). As the song later shows, God's people are not the source of their own blessings. Rather, God Himself is. God's glory is revealed in His "mercy" (hesed, steadfast loyal love) and His "truth" (His revelation of what is true and His commitment to maintain His word)-His "love and faithfulness" toward His people (verse 1b, NIV)-as evidenced through their many blessings.

What, then, the people continue, is the basis for the gentile nations to question the whereabouts-the existence or power-of Israel's God? (verse 2). God is not bound to the earth. He dwells in heaven, from where He rules over the universe with all power and authority to do throughout it as He pleases (see verse 3; compare verses 15-16). Their gods, in contrast, are merely lifeless metals formed into shape by the hands of men (verse 4). These idols are pointless "do-nothings." They can't speak, see, hear, smell, feel, walk or talk (verses 5-7)-all things the true God can do.

Then notice Psalm 115:8: "Those who make them [i.e., idols] are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them." Yet idolaters themselves speak, see, hear, smell, feel, walk and talk. In what way, then, are they like their idols? Perhaps with the people the words are meant in a figurative sense of lacking spiritual discernment and ability-i.e., being spiritually deaf, dumb and blind. Note, for example, Jeremiah 5:21: "Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not." Further, they lack spiritual power, being unable to "walk" in the way of God. The idolaters could also be said to be like the idols in the general sense of being foolish things. Both are also ultimately powerless and ineffectual. It could even be that the end of idolaters is in mind-that those who persist in idolatry will become like idols in that they will end up as lifeless human forms. They will have noses but will do no smelling, hands but will do no handling and mouths but will do no talking-because they will be dead (compare Psalm 115:17).

In contrast to vainly worshipping false idols is serving and trusting in the true God-who has all power and glory-for help, for protection and for perpetual blessing. The Levitical choir appeals to three groups of people to trust Him: the Israelite nation (verse 9), the house of Aaron, i.e. the priesthood (verse 10) and those who fear God (verse 11). The last group apparently means all God-fearers everywhere, in every nation, as the complementary statement in verse 13 adds "both small and great." Verses 12-13 contain the response of the people, who refer to themselves as "us," as in verse 1. "The threefold call to trust the Lord, the three groups of people, and the threefold assurance of God's protection find their symmetric complement in vv. 12-15a with a threefold formula of blessing ('will bless us') and a restatement of the three groups ('house of Israel,' 'house of Aaron,' and 'those who fear the LORD')" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on verses 12-15). These groups are also found in Psalm 118:2-4 (compare 135:19-21, where the house of Levi is also entioned).

Verses 14-15 of Psalm 115 follow with the priests' blessing on the people, ending with the declaration that God is the maker of heaven and earth. In the next and last section, the people give the final response in the song, acknowledging God's sovereignty over heaven and earth, including His appointment of man's subordinate dominion over the earth (verse 16, compare Genesis 1:28-30). This is part of God's great blessing. Furthermore, He desires that people acknowledge and enjoy His blessings-not that their lives and participation in His creation be snuffed out in death (verse 17). Those who sing this song in faith and hope conclude that they will bless God forevermore (verse 18)-implying a joyous eternal life of praising Him.

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