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Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory.
Genuine religious consciousness
I. A consciousness of God’s greatness leading to a contempt for all idols.
1. The majesty of God.
(1) God is great in His moral excellence (verse 1). “Mercy” and “truth” lie at the foundation of all moral greatness. The grand mission of Christ was to bring these into the world in the most impressive forms. “The law came by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ.” All sound beliefs or convictions are based on truth or reality. Without love all is selfishness, and selfishness is the essence of sin. Without truth all is sham, and sham is the curse of the world. In God these two exist in essential unity and in infinite perfection.
(2) God is great in His sovereignty (verse 3). He is over all. There is no being above Him, the highest are infinitely below Him, and in all His operations He is absolutely free. He hath no counsellor to teach Him new methods of action, no power to restrain Him in any course. He acts according to His own good pleasure, the only being who is absolutely free, independent, and irresponsible.
2. The worthlessness of idols (Psalms 115:4-8).
(1) Material productions.
(2) Human productions.
(3) Worthless productions.
(4) Lying productions.
(5) Symbolic productions. They are but the visible forms of the brutish ignorance, stupidity, and depravity of those who made and worshipped them, mere embodiments of their ideas and wishes.
II. A consciousness of God’s goodness inspiring the highest philanthropy. What is the highest philanthropy? That whose main object is to draw men to the One True and Living God; and the man who is conscious of God’s goodness, who has “tasted and seen that the Lord is good,” will surely address himself to this work--the work of drawing men to God (Romans 10:1). This is what the psalmist felt (Psalms 115:9-15).
III. A consciousness of God’s property leading to a sense of our stewardship (verse 16). He who created the universe owns it, is is His absolute property, and how vast, how immeasurable it is! (1 Chronicles 29:11). But this sense of God’s unbounded wealth leads to the impression of our stewardship of the earth which He hath given us. To the “children of men,” not to a class, but given to them as air and light, and fire and water are given for their common use.
IV. A consciousness of life’s termination urging the discharge of religious duty (verses 17, 18). (Homilist.)
“Non nobis, Domine!”
Every careful reader can see the connection between this 115th psalm and the one which precedes it. In the 114th psalm we see the gracious and grateful Jews sitting around the passover table, having eaten of the lamb, and singing of the miracles of Jehovah at the Red Sea and the Jordan. It must have been a very jubilant song that they sang, “What ailed thee, O thou sea,” etc. When that joyful hymn was finished, and the cup of wine was passed round the table, they struck another note. They remembered their sad condition, as they heard the heathen say, “Where is now their God?” They recollected that, perhaps, for many a year there had been no miracle, no prophet, no open vision, and then they began to chant a prayer that God would appear--not for their sakes, but for His own name’s sake, that the ancient glory, which He won for Himself at the Red Sea and the Jordan, might not be lost, and that the heathen might no longer be able tauntingly to say, “Where is now their God?”
I. A powerful plea in prayer: “Not unto us,” etc. There are times when this is the only plea that God’s people can use. There are other occasions when we can plead with God to bless us, for this reason or for that; but, sometimes, there come dark experiences, when there seems to be no reason that can suggest itself to us why God should give us deliverance, or vouchsafe us a blessing, except this one,--that He would be pleased to do it in order to glorify His own name. You may be emboldened to urge that plea, notwithstanding the vileness of the person for whom you plead. In fact, the sinfulness of the sinner may even be your plea that God’s mercy and lovingkindness may be seen the more resplendently by all who know of the sinful soul’s guilt.
II. The true spirit of piety. “Not unto us, O Lord,” etc. That is to say, true religion does not seek its own honour. For instance, suppose, in preaching the Gospel, a man has, even as a small part of his motive, that he may be esteemed an eloquent person, or that he may have influence over other men’s minds;--for it is lamentably true that this mixture of motives may steal over the preacher’s soul. Ah! but we must fight against this evil with all our might. Somebody once told Master John Bunyan that he had preached a delightful sermon. “You are too late,” said John, “the devil told me that before I left the pulpit.” Satan is a great adept in teaching us how to steal our Master’s glory. “Glory be to God,” should always be the preacher’s motto. And as it should be so with our preaching, do you not think that the same thing is true concerning our praying?
III. A safe guide is theology. When I am going to read the Scriptures, to know what I am to believe, to learn what is to be my creed, even before I open my Bible, it is a good thing to say, “Not unto us, O Lord,” etc. This is, to my mind, a test of what is true and what is false. If you meet with a system of theology which magnifies man, flee from it as far as you can. This is why I believe in the doctrines of grace. I believe in Divine election, because somebody must have the supreme will in this matter, and man’s will must not occupy the throne, but the will of God. The words of Jehovah stand fast like the great mountains.
IV. A practical direction in life.
1. This text will help you in the selection of your sphere of service. You will always be safe in doing that which is not for your own glory, but which is distinctly for the glory of God.
2. Sometimes my text will guide you as to which you should choose out of two courses of action that lie before you. What flesh revolts against, your spirit should choose. Say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory. I will do that which will most honour my Lord and Master, and not that which would best please myself.”
V. The acceptable spirit in which to review the past.
1. This is the spirit in which to live. Has God blessed us? Do we look back upon honourable and useful lives? Have we been privileged to preach the Gospel, and has the Lord given us converts? Then, let us be sure to stick to the text: “Not unto us, O Lord,” etc.
2. Aye, and when the time comes for us to die, this is the spirit in which to die, for it is the beginning of heaven. What are they doing in heaven? If we could look in there, what should we see? There are crowns there, laid up for those that fight the good fight, and finish their course; but do you see what the victors are doing with their crowns? They will not wear them; no, not they; but they cast them down at Christ’s feet, crying, “Not unto us,” etc. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Glory to God for public blessings
The inspired author seems to have had his thoughts employed in the contemplation of some public blessing vouchsafed to the house of Israel, and to the house of Aaron; some late and remarkable instance of God’s having been their help and their shield; a devout sense of which made him break out into these words, fall of great humility and pious gratitude: “Not unto us, O Lord,” etc.
1. When the psalmist denies that the glory of those mighty and wonderful successes, wherewith God’s people are at any time blessed, doth belong to them, he intimates that men are apt to ascribe the praise thereof to their own merits, counsels or achievements.
2. When he with earnestness and vehemence repeats that denial, he doth by such reiterated negation imply the great folly and impiety of men’s thus ascribing the glory of such successes to themselves, or to any of the children of men.
3. When he expresses his desire that the glory thereof may be given to God’s name, he directs us to pay the tribute of praise and thanksgiving to that sovereign Being, to whom only of right it is due.
4. When he requires that this glory should be given to God for His mercy and for His truth’s sake, he instructs us that when we receive such blessings from the hands of God, we derive them, not from His justice, but from His clemency; they are not such as we can of right claim, but such as He, out of His unbounded goodness, and regard to those gracious promises, which He hath made to His Church, vouchsafes to grant. (Bishop Smalridge.)
Giving God the glory
I was reading of the battle of Agincourt, in which Henry V figured; and, it is said, after the battle was won--gloriously won--the king wanted to acknowledge the Divine interposition, and he ordered the chaplain to read the psalm of David, and when he came to the words, “Not unto us, O Lord, but unto Thy name be the praise,” the king dismounted, and all the cavalry dismounted, and all the great host of officers and men threw themselves on their faces. Oh, at the story of the Saviour’s love and the Saviour’s deliverance, shall we not prostrate ourselves before Him to-night, hosts of earth and hosts of heaven, falling upon our faces, and crying, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto Thy name be the glory.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.
The sovereignty of God
Sovereignty signifies, in general, supremacy, the possession of supreme power, a right to govern without the control of another; or, as in our text, a power to act as one pleases.
1. This right is here ascribed to God, and can belong to no other in the same sense or degree. He made all things; He supports all things; and is it not fit that He should govern all things? For His pleasure they are and were created (Revelation 4:11); may He, then, not do with them as He pleases? especially when we consider--
(1) He is infinitely wise. He perfectly knows all His creatures, all their actions, and all their tendencies.
(2) He is infinitely good.
2. Observe His sovereignty in--
(1) The creation of the world.
(2) The awful event of man’s apostasy.
(3) The method He has been pleased to appoint for the recovery of fallen man.
(4) The application of this great salvation.
(5) His disposal of the temporal affairs of men, whether as individuals or as nations. As individuals.
Our parentage, the circumstances of our birth, the place, the time, are all arranged by the great Ruler. That sovereign hand is, perhaps, more visible in the affairs of nations; they rise and fall, flourish and decay, and the connection between natural causes and effects may sometimes be plainly discerned; yet that the Ruler of the world directs and controls them is sufficiently evident, for in His hand are both the causes and the effects. (G. Burder.)
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
Babylon was a land in which life was overshadowed by a vast idolatry. What this idolatry was, we may see, in part, by a visit to the British Museum. There are to be seen at this hour figures and inscriptions which might well have been gazed on by the writers of this very psalm, and which show how the Baal worship which, in its different forms, prevailed from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, was the most striking feature of the life of the Imperial race that had conquered Palestine. To this hour, the ruins of what was the great Temple of Belus within the city, and of the Temple of Nimrod without the city, show how powerfully this idolatry must have addressed itself to the senses of the people. And the same conclusion is warranted by the anxious warnings of Isaiah in anticipation of the captivity, and by the language of the later psalmists who wrote in Babylon. Isaiah describes with a fine and indignant irony how in Babylon, too, the smith with the tongs, and the carpenter with his rule, would combine to make an idol according to the beauty of a man, and how worship would be paid to what was, in reality, only the stock of a tree. And the psalmist of the later epoch was, we can hardly doubt, inspired to write at the sight of the splendid images in the Babylonian temples, and notably, perhaps, by that of the golden image of Belus. “Their idols are silver and gold,” etc. (Psalms 115:4-8). It was this idolatry which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego resisted at the risk of their lives, and at which Daniel struck a deadly blow when, according to the Alexandrian account--till lately read in our churches, and undoubtedly embodying a germ of substantial history--he exposed on a great scale the fraud of the priest of Baal and destroyed his image. (Canon Liddon.)
Eyes have they, but they see not.--
The eye of the spirit
The rich and varied gifts, the pure exalted pleasures, which the eyes of the body are intended to minister to man, are marred by want of sympathetic observation even more than by want of knowledge. Two boys went out one summer’s day, each alone, to spend a holiday in the fields. I have forgotten every detail of the story, but whatever the story was, it is easy to imagine what it might have been. The one boy came back in discontent. He had seen nothing, done nothing. He was tired; he had wasted the holiday. The other came back full of delight. He had watched the cattle and the fishes and the birds. He had noted the flowers and the hedgerows and the corn. They had spoken to him with voices which--though he knew it not--his spirit heard. They had told him--though he felt it only, understood it not--they had told him of the marvels of their nature, of their fitness for their appointed place, of the ever fresh beauties which man could see in them, if he would but enable the eyes of his body with the spirit of thankfulness and love. You have this contrast, thus drawn, set before you every day in many ways. I suppose that no one here would wish to live a merely material--animal--life, a life of the body only; to spend his time in securing the largest amount of pleasure--harmless pleasure if you will--for the delight or solace of his bodily senses; to feel more and more sad, as the years run on past middle life, that one sense and another is become less keen, is capable of less pleasure; to watch the sands of life running out apace, with no sense of compensation, no quiet conviction that as one transient pleasure after another becomes less bright or passes away, the place of each is taken--is taken and more than filled--by consolations of no transient kind, by blessings that make their abiding home with him. We must, if we would avoid a growing discontent, we must live the inner--the Spiritual--life too. The eye of the spirit must be an eye that sees. The life of the spirit must be a real life. Not a life apart from that of the body, but a life spiritualizing and etherealizing the bodily life. To teach the eye of the body to see in the higher sense, to observe, to interpret, to enjoy, to minister to the intellectual capacity of man, and be in turn quickened and brightened by man’s intellect, we educate the man; working in faith and hope; not discouraged by the many discouragements; sure that it cannot but be right that man should learn to know. How shall we treat the eye of the spirit? how shall we help it to see? how give it insight? I speak not now of what our holy religion may do; for the moment I am not referring to the realms of grace. That which the spirit of man most needs, for its full play and development, is just that which in this hurrying age is ever more and more difficult to obtain,--rest and quiet, time and place for contemplation. This is no idea specially of the Christian revelation; it is common to all ages and all peoples; it is the natural demand of the spirit of man. We have all of us probably seen and noted the highest oriental ideal of spiritual isolation from things and thoughts of the world,--a seated figure with inscrutable face, the eyes for ever cast down, gazing endlessly into the palm of the hand. This was one of the ideas connected with the prophet of old times. He sat apart in rapt contemplation; the things of the world and of the flesh shut out from his sight; his eyes fixed steadily on some unmoving thing; the spiritual element ever growing in relative importance, and at last overpowering the material and dominating the whole man. And then there welled up within him, from some spiritual source, some inspiration, the thoughts and the words that were to frame and to form his prophetic utterance; and he poured forth dark sayings, or declared, as one inspired, the will of God. But need I really go further than the experience of each one of you, to find evidence of the power of contemplation on the spirit, the need of it, if we would have a spiritual sense, a spiritual insight? You know of what extreme importance it is, if you have any serious matter in hand, to put yourself in the right frame of mind to consider it duly and make a wise resolve. How often it happens that you cannot shut out the disturbing presence of other things. You know that for this special purpose you ought to isolate yourself, to be clear of confusing voices, confusing thoughts. And what you have to make your resolve about is coming on so rapidly; a resolve will be forced upon you so soon; there is such a sense of rush and hurry; you cannot properly decide the matter without previous quiet thought and communing, and quiet thought you cannot get. You feel this in matters of business; you feel it in difficult moral questions; you feel it in many a decision, which circumstances force upon you, in your relations with those who are of your bone and of your flesh. You feel it whenever you think of yourself in your higher relations, as a spiritual existence, as having duties beyond the realms of sense, as being under some conscious obligation to be guided in your walk through life by aims which shall of themselves ennoble your endeavours, by principles which are of eternal truth and justice. (Bishop Browne.)
They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.
A false religion has all the outward signs of importance. A false religion could not live if it showed only its lying side. Even a lie could not live but for the one grain of truth that may be in it: it may be a grain of probability only, or even of possibility, but the lie owes its life, however brief, to the element of at least seeming truth, or possible truth, that may be in it. So with false religions: enumerate them, set them all out in a line, and one looks very much like another as to outward appearance. How long would a piece of lead be in the market-place if offered as a coin? Not one moment. But if treated, if smelted, minted, stamped, drilled, and made to look like a coin, it might deceive somebody, it might live a little while. To what would it owe its life? Not to its intrinsic quality, but to its appearance. So when you cite the religions of the world, and set them all in a line, you are perfectly right in saying, Behold them, and see how very strikingly they resemble one another. The counterfeit coin lives in its resemblance: take away this resemblance, and you take away its whole value; its similitude is its life. What wonder, then, that we find men deceived by religions that are superficial, and merely human inventions, that have nothing to live upon that is of an eternal and Divine nature? It is quite possible that the counterfeit coin may be more brilliant than the real coin. How did the five-pound note pass? Because it was like a five-pound note: the paper was the same, the mill mark was the same, the writing was the same; the resemblance was the reason of the successful deception. Much is mistaken for faith that is not faith, that is mere intellectual assent, or mere intellectual indifference. A man does not believe things which he simply names with his mouth. He only believes those things for which he would die. What havoc this makes in the professed beliefs of the Church! Yet everything must be judged by the degree in which it realizes its own pretensions. To pretend to have hands means power of handling, or it is a lie: to profess to have feet and yet to be unable to walk is to contradict your own statement: to have ears carved by an Angelo which yet cannot hear a thunderburst is to have ears that are visible falsehoods. Where we find hands we have a right to expect handling: where we find faith we have a right to expect morality, or service, or action: and if we with all Christian profession of an intellectual kind are not balancing that profession by actual, living, useful service, then let all the mockers of the universe taunt us, saying, They have hands, but they handle not. The taunt is not a mere taunt; it is a sneer justified by reason. If there were no hands we should pity the sufferer. Who expects to refresh himself from the branches of an oak tree? Yet if the hungry soul should come to a fig tree in the time of figs, and should find upon the tree nothing but leaves, hunger has priestly rights of cursing, hunger may excommunicate that tree from the trees of the garden, because it pretended to be a fruit tree and yet it grew nothing but leaves. (J. Parker, D.D.)
The Lord hath been mindful of us.
The mindfulness of God
I. Grateful acknowledgment for grace bestowed. Have we not abundant reason, individually and collectively, to say one to another in exhortation, and together in thankful acknowledgment to God, “The Lord hath been mindful of us”? Let us look back and reflect upon the way in which He has led us these many years. Shall we not, like Samuel of old, raise our Ebenezer? And as we travel through the past, until we step from the past into the future, shall net we take encouragement and joyfully exclaim, “Jehovah-jireh”? In creation, in redemption, in providence and in grace, in the fulness of spiritual blessings provided, and in the measure of grace imparted, we have abundant cause for the grateful acknowledgment, “The Lord hath been mindful of us.”
II. A grateful sense of past mindfulness begets a sure confidence of future blessing. “He will bless us.” To what extent does this promise go? He will bless us in our walk and all our work, and in whatever He calls us to do! His blessing will ever rest upon us for good. His everlasting hand will be beneath us and will keep us from falling. He will guide us with His counsel and afterward receive us to glory. You deserve to perish, you deserve to reap what you have sowed, but God is merciful and kind. You may look to Him in confidence, for He will bless you. He will blot out the past, and He will break the power of sin. I have also a word for the true believer in God, who is sorely tempted and doubtful of the future, who is conscious of weakness, knowing painfully the power of temptation, knowing sadly in recollection the influence of this evil world. Do not think you will prove unfaithful at the last. The Lord hath been mindful of you, and it will be in the future as it has been in the past. Look at the promises which He has given for your comfort in His Word. He hath been mindful of you and He will bless you. (Bishop Pelham.)
Past mercies inspire confidence of continued good
Many minds know a good deal of the Roman Emperor’s forebodings, that if things have long gone well with you, then something amiss is very likely to come. If we could but all rise to the happier argument from the past to the future of a certain ancient and inspired poet, and really believe that “The Lord hath been mindful of us: He will bless us.” The common way of judging constantly is, that since all has been so pleasant for many days or years, now a smash is due. But though this way of judging be common, and though, to a superficial glance, it seems to be confirmed by facts, it would be very easy to show that it is entirely wrong. (A. K. H. Boyd.)
He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.
The equality of small and great
There are thousands of young men and women who retain belief in God, but do not fear Him; cherishing the easy notion that since He is so very good, everything will come right by and by. This is not love. It is something near akin to contempt, and God is not good enough to consent to be despised. Rather let me say that He is too good, too righteous, too mindful of the interests of His children, who can only find salvation in faith and love that are touched with holy fear. God is Love. He so loved the world that He gave His son: His lovingkindness is over all His works; and He includes in His Divine regard both the small and the great.
I. We have here a recognition of the natural inequality of men, “great and small.” Men differ outwardly, and the difference counts for something. But there are deeper differences that count for more: the differences of the mind. Sometimes a massive and majestic frame co-exists with a weak will. Or it may be that a man of feeble appearance, like St. Paul, has a will of tempered steel. And what a force that is. The crowd makes way for one of inflexible determination, and he moves on to the fulfilment of his purpose with something like the inevitableness of fate. As John Foster exclaims, “It is wonderful how the casualties of life bow to a will that will not bow to them, and in the end subserve a purpose which at first they seemed to frustrate.”
II. The impartiality of God. “He will bless both small and great.” We are always being tempted to respect of persons; often we scarcely make pretence of resistance. But the Bible reiterates the statement that God is no respecter of persons. He is sublimely impartial. He is a faithful Creator, a loving Father. He is not dazzled by His own gifts. He considers not the beauty, the stature, the cleverness, which come to men without their seeking; but that inner man, which is expressed in character, and which accepts or rejects eternal love. “He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.”
III. The blessing of God, that tends to make men equal in spite of differences. Lately I was standing near an elm tree that towered scores of feet above me. No other tree was by to draw attention from its solitary glory. The splendour of its early foliage flashed and darkled in the sunshine, and its giant shadow fell across the field. It was a mighty work of God and dwarfed its surroundings, making the bushes of a neighbouring hedge seem little things indeed. A little later my attention was arrested by tiny blossoms shining in the long lush grass beneath this giant tree. “Bright-eyes” the flowers are called, and the name is descriptive, though I never saw eyes so blue as the petals of these flowers. I plucked one or two, looked up again at the tree, and thought of the contrast. They represented the great and the small. The one had braved the storms of generations, the other lived for a fleeting summer and might be plucked and torn by baby fingers, and yet were they brought into equality by the blessing of Almighty God. Each was perfect in its own order, and it were impossible to say with which Divine power had taken more pains, the elm tree or the bright-eyes. It is a parable: God made the elm tree and the bright-eyes. He made each to fill its place. Each is faithful to its own order. Each equally declares the glory of the Lord. And God has made men “both small and great.” And when in holy fear and reverent love they open their hearts to Him, as the trees and flowers open their hearts to the sunshine, He blesses them by coming in to dwell with them, and His blessing means that they fulfil their destiny and manifest His glory; and herein are they equal. (G. Hawker.)
Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth.
The Lord blessing His saints
I. A blessing belonging to a peculiar people,
1. A people whom God has blessed because He willed to do so.
2. A people to whom this first will of God to bless them has been certified by countless acts of indisputable love. Gethsemane and Calvary speak volumes concerning the reality of the blessings which God has given to His chosen, for there they were loved to the death and redeemed by blood. An incarnate God, a Mediator covered with bloody sweat, a Redeemer wounded and slain,--What say you to this?
3. The people to whom this blessing comes are, after their conversion, known by their character. They “fear the Lord.”
4. It is very sweet to notice that this benediction is common to all Godfearing persons,--“both small and great;” and the small are put first, lest they should think they are forgotten.
II. A blessing from a peculiar quarter. “Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth.”
1. This is a blessing from one peculiarly related to us, and therefore it is the more to be prized. All other blessings are only blessings in proportion as they contain the essence of this blessing; God’s blessing is the sea, and others are but drops; that is the sun, and others are but sparks.
2. This blessing comes not from an idol-god. The psalm leads us to make that observation. The gods of the heathen had mouths, but they spake not; ears, but they heard not: any benediction from them would be a mockery: but the children of God are not blessed of Baal or Ashtaroth, but of Jehovah, the self-existent Lord of all!
3. This benediction comes from the omnipotent Creator, “who made heaven and earth.” This intimates that the blessing is almighty in power. Have I the blessing of Him who said, “Let there be light,” and there was light? Then He can speak into my darkness, and cheer the gloom of my despair. Does the blessing of Him who brought order out of chaos rest upon me? then He can speak to the confusion of my circumstances, and the turmoil of my desponding mind, and charm all things into harmony. The blessing of Him who clothed the earth with beauty, piled the hills, and digged the channels of the sea, must have in it a fulness unrivalled.
4. It is a blessing from the All-wise One “who made heaven and earth.” His infallible counsels shall conduct thine affairs to a blessed issue.
III. A benediction with a peculiar date. “Ye are the blessed,” etc. This verb is in the present tense, and, indeed, it may be said to be in all the tenses put together, in a tense that is not a tense, a time that hath no time, but lasteth on evermore, till time shall be no more.
1. This blessing embraces all circumstances. You are laid low and pining away with consumption, but “You are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth.” You are smitten down in the very heyday of your usefulness, and laid aside, but “You are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth.” Oh, that your faith may lay hold of this when you are very sorely exercised, for happy is the man whom God correcteth, and blessed is the man whom thou chastenst, O Lord!
2. Our text reaches to all time and beyond all time, because it runs thus: “Ye are blessed of the Lord that made heaven and earth.” While I am on earth, this shall console me: “I am blessed of the Lord that made the earth;” and He Himself has said of His servants, “Blessed shalt thou be in the city,” etc. When I have to go out of this earth into another world, this shall console me: “I am blessed of the Lord that made heaven.” I shall still dwell in a place which my Father made. I am not going into a foreign country when I leave the warm precincts of this house of clay. I shall emigrate to the country where flowers never fade, and winter never chills.
IV. A blessing with a peculiar certainty. Scripture does not lie, or utter “perhapses” and “ifs” and “buts.” “Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth.” Oh, ye that fear God, this is a matter of fact, ye daily and continually abide under a true and real blessing. Some blessings are vain words: the utterer is a hypocrite. Other blessings are sincere, but the person pronouncing them has no power to fulfil them. Such blessings are wells without water, or barren fig trees bearing leaves but no fruit. The Lord blesses not in word only, but in deed; not in futile wishes, but in omnipotent acts. We may fail to obtain the benedictions which our friends invoke upon us, but God’s blessings are sure to all the seed.
V. This blessing involves a peculiar duty, for, if God has blessed us, the succeeding duty is that we should bless Him (verse 18). “Praise Him from this time forth.” If the past has been marred by any other talk, now “from this time” bless the Lord. Wash thy mouth of all complaining, take the cup of gratitude to sweeten thy soul, and bless His name from this time forth. What, dumb till now? An heir of heaven speechless? May a sight of God’s blessing open thy mouth. From this time forth begin to bless Him. Then the psalmist resolves to praise the Lord “for evermore.” Our adoration of God is never to cease. As long as there is breath in our body let us praise Him who gives it to us. “Dum spiro spero,” said the heathen, “While I breathe, I hope.” But the Christian says, “Dum expire spero,” “When I die, I will still hope in God.” While we exist we will adore. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath He given to the children of men.
The mysteries of the universe
Our contemplation of the mysteries of the universe is to be associated--
I. With faith. “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord.” All the wonders of unseen worlds are in charge of Him whom we serve. Whatever marvellous forces range the universe we may sing, “All things serve Thee,” and dismiss all fear. How foolish to fear the discoveries of science! “All facts,” as Kingsley used to say, “are God’s facts.” How foolish to fear for our safety here or hereafter if we be the Lord’s, for all is His! The mysteries of the universe are those of Him who died for us, and in the heart of those mysteries there is love.
II. With diligence, “The earth hath He given to-the children of men.” Earth’s fields are to be tilled, her provisions stored and distributed. Homes are to be superintended and cities and states to be governed. These are the first claims upon our thoughts as servants of God. “The heavens are the Lord’s,” let us claim the kingdom of the earth for Him and humbly help to establish His dominion hero. (W. Hawkins.)
The earth for men
I. A strong rebuke to all social monopoly. The earth is for “the children of men.”
II. A strong rebuke to religious indifference. The earth is given to man in trust for certain uses.
1. As a scene for man’s physical development.
2. As a school for man’s intellectual culture.
3. As a temple for man’s religious worship. The children of men to use this world rightly should worship God in all they suffer, enjoy, think, or do. In everything there should be--
(1) A reigning gratitude. The earth is a gift to every man, and every man should use every portion of it thankfully.
(2) A reigning reverence. The earth is a gift where the greatness of God is everywhere seen, and, therefore, “take off thy shoes from off thy feet,” etc.
4. As a sphere for evangelical labour Christ has been on this earth. Here He has left doctrines for every child of man to believe, propagate and work out. (Homilist.)
The earth of the redemption
The heavens and the earth are set in contrast with each other. The heavens with their sun and moon and stars, their wandering winds, their majestic domes and pinnacles and fields of cloud, their mysteries of rain and dew, of frost and snow; and then the earth, with its familiar cities and forests and cornfields, its homes of men and women, its seas and rivers, its sports and toils, its friendships and kinships, these stand over against each other. And their contrast is in this,--that while the heavens are out of the reach of man, the expression and result of forces which he cannot control, the earth is what man makes it. He is the changing power here. It is the familiar contrast which is always present, and always having its effect upon our life. The earth, and life upon the earth, are never the same things they would be if the great heaven did not stretch, mysterious and unattainable, above them. Man, great as his power grows upon the earth, is always kept aware of how limited his power is. There is always the heaven above him, which is not his, but God’s. And this becomes a figure of the limit of man’s power everywhere. When David says that God has “given the earth to the children of men,” he cannot mean that it was given away from those eternal plans and purposes of goodness which God must always keep with reference to all His creation. It is God’s world still. It has been given to man not absolutely, but in trust, that man may work out in it the will of God. Here is the fundamental difference in the lives of men. Man finds the world in his hands. He can do with it what he will. Everywhere the difference of men lies here, in whether this mastery seems to be absolute, or whether it seems to be a trust. Absolute mastery means self-indulgence. The mastery of trust means humility, conscientiousness, elevation, charity, the fear of God and love of man. It is in this higher and true view of the giving of the world by God to man that the coming of Christ into the world gains its true meaning. Here was God’s world, given to man to keep, to use, to work for God. Here was man, always falling into the temptation to think the gift of trust an absolute gift. And here the Giver came, with clear assurance of Himself; making the men who saw Him know that it was He; not taking the earth back out of man’s keeping, but making Himself man, so that all men might see what it might really mean for man to keep and use and work the earth for God; so God came to the world. It is within this great general purpose that all the special personal works which Christ does for men are included. (Bishop Phillips Brooks.)
The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.
But we will bless the Lord.
The living God should be adored by a living people. A blessing God should be blessed by a blessing people. When we bless Him we should not rest till others do the same: we should cry to them, “Praise the Lord.” Our example and our persuasion should rouse them to praise.
I. A mournful memory. “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.” This reminds us--
1. Of silenced voices in the choirs of Zion. Good men and true who neither sing nor speak among us any longer.
2. Of our own speedy silence: so far as this world is concerned we shall soon be among the dead and silent ones.
3. Of the ungodly around us, who are already spiritually dead, and can no more praise the Lord than if they were dumb.
4. Of lost souls in hell. Never will these bless the Lord.
II. A happy resolution. “ But we will bless the Lord.” In heart, song, testimony, action, we are resolved to give the Lord our loving praise; because--
1. We live. Shall we not bless Him who keeps us in being?
2. We live spiritually, and this demands perpetual thanksgiving.
3. We are blessed of the Lord: shall we not bless Him?
4. He will bless us. More and more will He reveal His love to us: let us praise Him more and more. Be this our steadfast vow, that we will bless the Lord, come what may.
III. An appropriate commencement. “We will bless the Lord from this time forth.”
1. When the heathen ask, “Where is now their God?” (verse 2), let us reply courageously to all atheistic questions, and meet infidelity with joyous adoration.
2. When under a sense of mercy, we are led to sing--“The Lord hath been mindful of us” (verse 12), let us then bless Him.
3. When spiritually renewed and comforted. When the four times repeated words, “He will bless,” have come true in our experience, and the Lord has increased us with every personal and family blessing (Psalms 115:12-14), then let all that is within us bless the holy name of the Lord.
4. When led to confess Christ. Then should we begin the never-ending life-psalm. Service and song should go together.
5. When years end and begin--new-years’ days, birthdays, etc., let us bless God for--
(1) Sin of the year forgiven.
(2) Need of the year supplied.
(3) Mercy of the year enjoyed.
(4) Fears of the year removed.
(5) Hopes of the year fulfilled.
IV. An everlasting continuance: “from this time forth and for evermore.”
1. Weariness shall not suspend it. We will renew our strength as we bless the Lord.
2. Final falling shall not end it: the Lord will keep our soul in His way, and make us praise Him all our days.
3. Nor shall death so much as interrupt our songs, but raise them to a purer and fuller strain.
4. Nor shall any supposable calamity deprive the Lord of our gratitude (Job 1:21). (C. H. Spurgeon.)
United and continuous praise
On Thursday evening, March 29, 1883, for above an hour all who had occasion to use the telephone in Chicago found it vibrating to musical tones. Private and public telephones, and even the police and fire-alarm instruments, were alike affected. The source of the music was a mystery until the following day, when it was learned that a telegraph wire, which passes near most of the telephone wires, was connected with the harmonic system, that tunes were being played over it, and that the telephone wires took up the sounds by induction. If one wire carrying sweet sounds from place to place could so affect another wire by simply being near to it, how ought Christians, in communication with their Father in heaven, to affect all with whom they come in contact in the world! The Divine music of love and praise in their lives should be a blessing to society. (Pulpit Treasury.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 115". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany