1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

2 Why do the nations say, "Where is their God?"

3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.

4 But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.

5 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see;

6 they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell;

7 they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.

8 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

9 O house of Israel, trust in the LORD-- he is their help and shield.

10 O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD-- he is their help and shield.

11 You who fear him, trust in the LORD-- he is their help and shield.

12 The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless the house of Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron,

13 he will bless those who fear the LORD-- small and great alike.

14 May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children.

15 May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

16 The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man.

17 It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to silence;

18 it is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD.

(composite translation)

Not to us, YHVH,
  but to your name be the glory,
  because of your love and faithfulness.

Why do the nations say,
  "Where is their Elohim?"

Our Elohim is in the heavens;
  he has done whatever he has pleased.

Their idols are silver and gold,
  made by human hands.

They have mouths, but do not speak;
  eyes, but do not see;

they have ears, but do not hear;
  noses, but do not smell;

they have hands, but do not feel;
  feet, but do not walk;
  nor do they utter a sound through their throats.

Those who make them will be like them;
  those who trust them will be like them.

O house of Yisra'el, trust in YHVH---
  he is their help and shield.

O house of Aaron, trust in YHVH---
  he is their help and shield.

You who revere YHVH, trust in YHVH---
  he is their help and shield.

YHVH has remembered us; he will bless us:
  He will bless the house of Yisra'el,
  he will bless the house of Aaron,

he will bless those who revere YHVH---
  both small and great.

YHVH will increase you,
  you and your children.

You are blessed by YHVH,
  who formed the heavens and the earth.

The heavens of heavens are of YHVH,
  but the earth he has given to the children of earth.

The dead do not praise Yah,
  those who descend into silence;

we bless Yah
  now and forevermore.
  Hallelu Yah.


This song was written as a liturgy. The "We" lines are to be read by the people, and the "O house of" lines are to be read by the priests. From the beginning to the end this is a poem of praise, as many of the Psalms are---though this has a bit of commentary about neighbouring religions thrown in.

To the poet, even the name of G-d is worthy of praise, for he does whatever he wants---and what he wants is to preserve Yisra'el, to be a help and shield (magen) to them. So one should trust in G-d. On the other hand, trusting in an idol (interestingly, the poem does not mention trusting in what lies beyond the idol) makes one like the idol---immobile and not taking part in the world.

The poet concludes by informing us that it is the children who are blessed and who shall inherit the earth, and commends us to bless and praise G-d.

The verse: "Our Elohim is in the heavens; he has done whatever he has pleased." is sometimes invoked in Biblical arguments for the conclusion that G-d is omnipotent. Such an interpretation fails, however, for it does not square with the fact that the Hebrew verb in this sentence is past perfect (despite the fact that the verse is sometimes translated "... he will do whatever pleases him"!) and tends to suggest completion. Further, being able to do what you want does not entail being able to do anything whatsoever---unless you want to do anything whatsoever. Other passages suggest that G-d's desires are not capricious.

The reading of this poem that requires us to introduce the fewest assumptions appears to be a simple song of praise. (Incidentally, I didn't know until I started writing this node that this psalm uses three different words for G-d---admittedly, Yah is a shortened form of YHVH.)


Bibliography

  • NIV English translation of the Bible -- basic structure of psalm
  • http://www.blueletterbible.org -- comparison of various English translations with Hebrew source texts
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Psalms
Book: Psalms
Chapter: 115

Overview:
The psalmist declares his Love to the Lord. (1-9) His desire
to be thankful. (10-19)

1-9 We have many reasons for loving the Lord, but are most
affected By his loving-kindness when relieved out of Deep
distress. When a Poor sinner is awakened to a sense of his
state, and fears that he must soon sink under the just wrath of
God, then he finds trouble and sorrow. But let all such Call
upon the Lord to deliver their souls, and they will find him
gracious and true to his promise. Neither ignorance nor guilt
will hinder their Salvation, when they Put their trust in the
Lord. Let us all speak of God as we have found him; and have we
ever found him otherwise than just and good? It is of his
mercies that we are not consumed. Let those who labour and are
heavy laden come to him, that they may find Rest to their souls;
and if at all drawn from their Rest, let them haste to return,
remembering how bountifully the Lord has dealt with them. We
should deem ourselves bound to walk as in his presence. It is a
great Mercy to be kept from being swallowed up with over-much
sorrow. It is a great Mercy for God to Hold us By the right
Hand, So that we are not overcome and overthrown By a
Temptation. But when we enter the heavenly Rest, deliverance
from Sin and sorrow will be complete; we shall behold the Glory
of the Lord, and walk in his presence with delight we cannot now
conceive.

10-19 When troubled, we do best to Hold our peace, for we are
apt to speak unadvisedly. Yet there may be true Faith where
there are workings of unbelief; but then Faith will prevail; and
being humbled for our distrust of God's Word, we shall
experience his faithfulness to it. What can the pardoned sinner,
or what can those who have been delivered from trouble or
distress, render to the Lord for his benefits? We cannot in any
way profit him. Our best is unworthy of his acceptance; yet we
ought to devote ourselves and all we have to his service. I will
take the Cup of Salvation; I will offer the Drink-offerings
appointed By the Law, in token of thankfulness to God, and
rejoice in God's Goodness to me. I will receive the Cup of
affliction; that Cup, that Bitter Cup, which is sanctified to
the saints, So that to them it is a Cup of Salvation; it is a
means of spiritual health. The Cup of consolation; I will
receive the benefits God bestows upon me, as from his Hand, and
taste his Love in them, as the portion not only of Mine
inheritance in the other world, but of my Cup in this. Let
others serve what masters they will, truly I am thy servant. Two
ways men came to be servants. By Birth. Lord, I was born in thy
House; I am the son of thine Handmaid, and therefore thine. It
is a great Mercy to be children of godly parents. By Redemption.
Lord, thou hast loosed my bonds, thou hast discharged me from
them, therefore I am thy servant. The bonds thou hast loosed
shall tie me faster unto thee. Doing good is Sacrifice, with
which God is Well pleased; and this must accompany giving thanks
to his name. Why should we offer that to the Lord which cost us
nothing? The psalmist will pay his Vows now; he will not delay
the payment: publicly, not to make a boast, but to show he is
not ashamed of God's service, and to invite others to join him.
Such are true saints of God, in whose lives and deaths he will
be glorified.

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