“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
Why should the nations say,
‘Where is their God?’”
~Psalm 115:1-2 (NRSV)
Many times believers of God may have been dissuaded from vocalising such belief for fear they might be quietly mocked or laughed at. It’s the temptation of timidity, against the flow of courage that impels us forward in power—to boldly claim our confession with integrity intact, and be prepared to speak of it in all circumstances.
This Psalm, a most important Hallel Psalm, for it was the one Jesus and the disciples sung immediately prior to venturing out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30), finds its place in the haranguing of a believer in the company of idol worshippers dispelling the power and presence of the living God. It contrasts the Almighty God with useless human-made idols that the mockers, back then, placed their faith in.
It is a Psalm of allegiance: of commitment to praise, and to follow, the Lord.
Idol Worship Then And Today
Deciding to follow God is as much about rejecting idol worship as it is about actually practicing a truth-and-Spirit-based worship.
We are all tempted, and at times deceived, regarding the dilution of our worship; we begin, and continue, to devote ourselves to things other than God. Whether it is music, or television, or sport, or politics, etc, matters little. What matters is our focus is split. Because we are broken human beings we will do it—compounding the case that we need saving.
Verses 3-8 speak about the polar difference in contrasting the worthiness of worshipping God versus idols.
We know, intellectually, with our situational spiritual sight aligned, that there is no real comparison. Yet, the believing world—in this context, everyone bar atheists—who ‘apparently’ don’t have gods (though we know they do)—is so easily deceived; many run with a power that has no power. Even so-called Christians do.
According to the psalmist, and we should agree, those who believe in idols (by following them) are on a sharp spiritual decline.
Believing God By Deciding To Follow
Belief is qualified by the fact of ardently following that which we believe—to give the commitment of action-based allegiance.
The psalmist is heard from verses 9-15 imploring
When we believe God by deciding to follow, we will no doubt look for signs of such blessing, knowing—with irony—that faith is what gets us through times that appear more like cursing.
We cannot follow God obediently, through expressions of faith in darkness, without converting our belief into action. And our belief is driven by the fact that the Lord is the Maker of heaven and earth—the Lord, alone, can bless.
Utterances Of Eternal Life
Verses 16-18 complete the Psalm in a consummate sense: as we read we get a glimpse of eternal life because we are praising an eternal God. But the utterances of praise we have for God need to be cast forth in the here-and-now, while we have the chance.
Earth is merely a brief stopover on a pilgrimage toward eternity. And when we don’t praise the Lord it’s as if we are dead already. Our praises, sincerely, are the words and character that carry forth into eternity.
Following God is no easy task. Many distractions and temptations will threaten our devotion. One way we fortify our practical belief is through thoughts, words, and actions that say, “Praise the Lord!”
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.