Heartbeat (Psalm 115)

MOTIVATE

Balance between marketing and narcissism.

  • Our society connects our provision (job income & lifestyle) not just with skill but with success, personality, and public promotion of self. Therefore, it’s often helpful and sometimes necessary to inform others of your abilities and accomplishments.
  • Even further, the trajectory of our society is online where people are frequently sharing all sorts of realities about their personal life: food pictures, places you go, every opinion of current events.
  • Self-promotion can provide a peek into your personal life and help others know your identity. Yet, it can quickly lead to pride, entitlements, expectations upon others to know or want to know certain aspects about you – as if everyone wants to see what you’re eating, or know your travel schedule, or are desperately waiting at the edge of their seat to hear what you have to say about daily news. It would seem, this is the plodding and poisonous path that can move away from marketing and result in narcissistic behavior.
  • Our society thirsts for an audience and attention; it feeds on spectating so we can one-up others. The poison of social media is not just promoting self but that we feel like we have to outwork and weaken others to get our point across.
  • In this de-evolving and depraved society, people have been devastated and wounded. Our society displays selfishness in every sphere: business, education, healthcare, politics, sport, vocation, and even in our families, and yes, in our churches too. Too many churches have promoted a me-centered theology more than a Christ-centered gospel.
  • It has been this way from the beginning of creation. The first man and woman were glory thieves, stealing from God what rightfully belongs to Him. Thousands of years later, we are not just glory thieves but glory addicts. While we are made to pursue glory that comes from God, we have replaced this pursuit from the eternal to the temporary and trivial. We crave and covet for things that will never satisfy. This is the awful trick of Satan: he promises to please but always fails to fulfill.
  • Scripture warns us
    • Romans 12:3 “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but with sober judgment”
    • Galatians 6:3 “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
    • Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than self.”

One of the reasons the Bible is relevant is because the present circumstances are often relatable to the biblical setting. Today we are looking at Psalm 115, which was written either during or after Israel was exiled into a foreign land. God’s people were humbled by God’s judgment upon their syncretism (mixing of religious worship) and their ultimate failing to exclusively worship Yahweh. It is in this psalm that we are challenged how to view God and value faith in a world of idolatry. 

EXAMINE           Psalm 115                  2 reasons God deserves worship

God deserves glory because He is not absent or aloof (115:1-7).

Throughout history God’s people have frequently been mocked and martyred for its beliefs. The world is blinded to truth and seeks to discredit belief in God or behaviors that would honor God’s word. The Psalmist asks, “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?” (115:2). As believers, we can be insulted and imprisoned by the world’s criticisms or we can be matured by God’s character.

 The Psalmist responds with reminders of God’s personhood and promises. In some sense, the Psalmist is countering with theological trash-talk:

  • “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (115:3)
    • Ha – your god is on earth trying to persuade humanity but not always succeeding.
  • “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. (115:4)
    • Ha – your god was invented and needs upkeep.
  • 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; and they do not make a sound in their throat.” (115:5-7)
    • Ha – your god is lifeless and defenseless.
    • Idols are incapable of providing any comfort, help, or guidance. However, idols are not entirely powerless as they do have the ability to change and corrupt a human heart. The psalmist provides a necessary and sobering reminder:
    • “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” 115:8
  • If you’re challenged to see and glorify God, maybe what is troubling you is who you view on the throne. Perhaps you need to repent of self being on the throne, attempting to make all the decisions, answer all the questions, and assuming credit for good and blame-shifting for things that are wrong.
  • Idols need ongoing upkeep and investing resources… Idols need attention, cleaned, refueled and restocked, compensated; they need propped up and ongoing maintenance.
    • Humorous account in 1 Samuel 5-6 when Philistines capture Israel’s ark of covenant (symbol of God’s presence). They place it in their temple next to statue of god Dagon, whom is believed to be an agriculture or weather god.[1] Yet, the statue keeps falling down – interestingly, it falls down two days in a row and gets damaged with its head falling off and arms breaking. There’s no opportunity for a third day (only Jesus the true God can overcome knock down death!). At this point, the Philistines recognized Yahweh was – head and shoulders above their false god (sorry pun) – and they were in grave danger of being in the presence of Almighty God, so they sent the ark back to Israel.
    • The difference between other religions and Christianity is the difference between carrying your gods and being carried by God.

The difference between other religions and Christianity is the difference between carrying your gods and being carried by God. #GodsGraceCarriesMe

Yet, as the opening of this Psalm reminds us – God is not absent or aloof. The LORD deserves all the glory and recognition that can be given. Notice the double statement: “not to us,” indicating an emphasis on who the LORD is and what He does. God deserves glory “for the sake of steadfast love and faithfulness” (115:1). He acts with hesed (mercy, grace, kindness, goodness, love) and emet (truth, faithfulness). While we may not see God’s person, we can see His purpose in creation, His power on the earth, and His provision for His people. He is a God of transcendent authority and transformative generosity; which leads to a next reason of God deserving glory…

God deserves to be trusted because He is attentive (115:9-18)

The Psalmist indicates multiple ways God is attentive.

  • God is our help and shield (115:9-11). Help and shield are repeated to remind us of God’s presence and protection. We do not fight our battles alone. God’s shield gives us shelter from unbearable heat and harmful attacks of the enemy.  
  • God remembers and blesses us (115:12-13, 15). God’s remembrance is not that He forgets but rather that we are fresh on His mind. The word “bless” is repeated 5x for significance. God’s blessing implies fullness, satisfaction, and thriving purpose. Each blessing is not an automatic promise but an aspired prayer of God’s children.
    • A) God’s blessing is available for all Israel, all priests, and all persons “great and small,” or “young and old” [2] (115:12-13). This phrase may also reference those outside of Israel to Gentile nations.
    • B) God’s blessing includes a biological, a familial, and a spiritual legacy (115:14-17). The people of God pass down wealth, possessions, as well as personal values of faith. God’s blessing to nations and churches is generational succession, which are not guaranteed but takes devotion and discipline.
      • History shows empires fall due to external battles and internal strife. Nations are not God’s plan, people are.
      • Churches grow and plateau, and many die (~4K+[3]) each year. Churches who do not evangelize will fossilize.
    • C) Ultimately, God’s blessing life eternal (115:17). The idea is not negating the afterlife, only that apart from faith in present life there will be no opportunity in the next. Speak now to call upon the name of the Lord for salvation, or forever hold your peace as you will be eternally silenced standing before a Holy God.

> It is difficult to read this Psalm’s offer of God’s abundant blessing and not think about King Solomon. Solomon was a child of King David – where David had led the nation of Israel to expand its military power and enlarge its kingdom land to the greatest it ever knew. Solomon inherited a tremendous stewardship and was promised even greater blessing if he would follow the ways of God (1 Kings 2:1-5). Yet, Scripture indicates that Solomon eventually strayed from the Lord and squandered this inheritance by satisfying the lust of his flesh (cf 1 Kings 11:4 “For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God”). It is often the case we miss God’s blessing gradually more than rapidly. The slow impact of temptation and seductive power of sin causes us to not even recognize where we are or whom we are following – and whom is no longer with us. Scripture’s name for this process is “Ichabod” – the glory of God has departed (cf Judges 16:20; 1 Sam 4:21; 14:3; Mt 23:37-39; Rom 1:21-32; Rev 2-3).

> God’s blessing is a byproduct of trust and obedience.

  • Do we trust God to obey what He says?
  • Do we trust God to follow when others are going a different direction?
  • Do we trust God to live how He instructs, even if we are laughed at, ridiculed, or persecuted?
  • Do we trust God to let go of items – even good things – that distract or separate us from God?
  • Do we trust God to give how He has freely given? What if God’s blessing in our life was related to our generosity toward others?
  • Do we trust God to forgive how He extends to us?
  • Do we trust God to love those for whom He died, even those who are different or difficult?
  • Do you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ?

God’s blessing is a byproduct of trust and obedience. #Psalm115:11-15

APPLY/THINK

Psalm 115 closes with a contrast from those who do not praise God or follow His ways. It’s part of the Hallel Psalms (113-118) where each begin and end with the word “Hallelujah.” These psalms were recited and sung at Jewish festivals, especially Passover.

“But we will bless the LORD, from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!” (115:18).

Hallelujah is not just a word for songs but a way of seeing the world. A contemporary song illustrates this with lyrics[4]

I raise a hallelujah In the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah Louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah My weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah Heaven comes to fight for me

I’m gonna sing in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive

  • God’s people need a song in their heart to withstand the external struggles and sinful idolatries. We need an anthem that captivates our affections, our attitudes, and actions. In all things, we need reminded that God is working all things together for His glory. Our circumstances might cloud our vision for God but let us remember

God turns mourning into dancing
God gives beauty for ashes
God turns shame into glory
God turns graves into gardens
God turns bones into armies
God turns seas into highways [5]

Last, when we view a world of idols – like when the apostle Paul entered the idolatrous city of Athens, he was provoked within his spirit (Acts 17:16). In other words, he was heartbroken. He did not view himself as better than or wanting something from the people – instead he wanted something for the people. He was grieved they were missing out on their maker and resurrection-life-giver Jesus Christ.

Likewise, William Wilberforce marked the passing of his British parliament bill to abolish the slave trade by meditating on 115:1.[6]

So, we too must be heartbroken for the world and be compelled by love for only One who can satisfy. Jesus is the only name above all names, and in Him is salvation, our help and shield.


[1] Matthews, L. (2003). “Dagon” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 380).

[2] Allen, L. C. (2002). Psalms 101–150 (Revised) (Vol. 21, p. 149). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[3] https://lifewayresearch.com/2021/05/25/protestant-church-closures-outpace-openings-in-u-s/

[4] https://bethelmusic.com/chords-and-lyrics/raise-a-hallelujah/

[5] https://elevationworship.com/song-resources/graves-into-gardens/

[6]R. E. Prothero. The Psalms in Human Life, (1904), p.306.

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