PSALM 115 OVERVIEW
Subject. -- In the former psalm the past wonders which God had wrought were recounted to his honour, and in the present psalm he is entreated to glorify himself again, because the heathen were presuming upon the absence of miracles, were altogether denying the miracles of former ages, and insulting the people of God with the question, "Where is now their God?" It grieved the heart of the godly that Jehovah should be thus dishonoured, and treating their own condition of reproach as unworthy of notice, they beseech the Lord at least to vindicate his own name. The Psalmist is evidently indignant that the worshippers of foolish idols should be able to put such a taunting question to the people who worshipped the only living and true God; and having spent his indignation in sarcasm upon the images and their makers, he proceeds to exhort the house of Israel to trust in God and bless his name. As those who were dead and gone could no longer sing psalms unto the Lord among the sons of men, he exhorts the faithful who were then living to take care that God is not robbed of his praise, and then he closes with an exulting Hallelujah. Should not living men extol the living God?
Divisions. For the better expounding of it, the psalm may be divided into an entreaty of God to vindicate his own honour, verses 1, 2; a contemptuous description of the false gods and their worshippers, 3-8; an exhortation to the faithful to trust in God and to expect great blessings from him, 9-15; an explanation of God's relationship to their present condition of things, verse 16; and a reminder, that, not the dead, but the living, must continually praise God here below, 17-18.
Verse 1. It will be well to remember that this psalm was sung at the Passover, and therefore it bears relationship to the deliverance from Egypt. The burden of it, seems to be a prayer that the living God, who had been so glorious at the Red Sea and at the Jordan, should again for his own name's sake display the wonders of his power.
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory. The people undoubtedly wished for relief from the contemptuous insults of idolaters, but their main desire was that Jehovah himself should no longer be the object of heathen insults. The saddest part of all their trouble was that their God was no longer feared and dreaded by their adversaries. When Israel marched into Canaan, a terror was upon all the people round about, because of Jehovah, the mighty God; but this dread the nations had shaken off since there had been of late no remarkable display of miraculous power. Therefore Israel cried unto her God that he would again make bare his arm as in the day when he cut Rahab and wounded the dragon. The prayer is evidently tinctured with a consciousness of unworthiness; because of their past unfaithfulness they hardly dared to appeal to the covenant, and to ask blessings for themselves, but they fell back upon the honour of the Lord their God -- an old style of argument which their great lawgiver, Moses, had used with such effect when he pleaded, "Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people." Joshua also used the like argument when he said, "What wilt thou do unto thy great name?" In such manner also let us pray when no other plea is available because of our sense of sin; for the Lord is always jealous of his honour, and will work for his name's sake when no other motive will move him.
The repetition of the words, Not unto us, would seem to indicate a very serious desire to renounce any glory which they might at any time have proudly appropriated to themselves, and it also sets forth the vehemence of their wish that God would at any cost to them magnify his own name. They loathed the idea of seeking their own glory, and rejected the thought with the utmost detestation; again and again disclaiming any self glorifying motive in their supplication.
For thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. These attributes seemed most in jeopardy. How could the heathen think Jehovah to be a merciful God if he gave his people over to the hands of their enemies? How could they believe him to be faithful and true if, after all his solemn covenant engagements, he utterly rejected his chosen nation? God is very jealous of the two glorious attributes of grace and truth, and the plea that these may not be dishonoured has great weight with him. In these times, when the first victories of the gospel are only remembered as histories of a dim and distant past, sceptics are apt to boast that the gospel has lost its youthful strength, and they even presume to cast a slur upon the name of God himself. We may therefore rightly entreat the divine interposition that the apparent blot may be removed from his escutcheon, and that his own word may shine forth gloriously as in the days of old. We may not desire the triumph of our opinions, for our own sakes, or for the honour of a sect, but we may confidently pray for the triumph of truth, that God himself may be honoured.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Several manuscripts and editions, also the Septuagint, the Syriac, and many of the old translators join this Psalm to the preceding, and make one of them. But the argument and the arrangement of the two Psalms do not allow of the least doubt as to their original independence of each other. Justus Olshausen.
Verse 1. Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory. The Psalmist, by this repetition, implies our natural tendency to self idolatry, and to magnifying of ourselves, and the difficulty of cleansing our hearts from these self reflections. If it be angelical to refuse an undue glory stolen from God's throne, Revelation 12:8-9 ; it is diabolical to accept and cherish it. "To seek our own glory is not glory," Proverbs 25:27 . It is vile, and the dishonour of a creature, who, by the law of his creation, is referred to another end. So much as we sacrifice to our own credit, to the dexterity of our hands, or the sagacity of our wit, we detract from God. Stephen Charnock.
Verse 1. Not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, etc. This is not a doxology, or form of thanksgiving, but a prayer. Not for our safety or welfare, so much as for thy glory, be pleased to deliver us. Not to satisfy our revenge upon our adversaries; not for the establishment of our own interest; but for the glory of thy grace and truth do we seek thine aid, that thou mayest be known to be a God keeping covenant; for mercy and truth are the two pillars of that covenant. It is a great dishonouring of God when anything is sought from him more than himself, or not for himself. Saith Austin, it is but a carnal affection in prayer when men seek self more than God. Self and God are the two things that come in competition. Now there are several sorts of self; there is carnal self, natural self, spiritual self, and glorified self; above all these God must have the preeminence. Thomas Manton.
Verse 1. There are many sweet and precious texts of Scripture which are so endeared, and have become so habituated to us, and we to them, that one cannot but think we must carry them with us to heaven, and that they will form not only the theme of our song, but a portion of our blessedness and joy even in that happy home... But if there be one text which more especially belongs to all, and which must, I think, break forth from every redeemed one as he enters heaven, and form the unwearying theme of eternity, it is the first verse of this Psalm. I am sure that not one of the Lord's chosen ones on earth, as he reviews the way by which he has been led, as he sees enemy after enemy prostrate before his utter feebleness, and has such thorough evidence and conviction that his weakness is made perfect in the Lord's strength, but must, from the very ground of his heart, say, Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise and the glory ascribed. And could we see heaven opened -- could we hear its glad and glorious hallelujahs -- could we see its innumerable company of angels, and its band of glorified saints, as they cast their crowns before the throne, we should hear as the universal chorus from every lip, "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. I know not why this should not be as gladly and as gratefully the angels' song as the song of the redeemed: they stand not in their own might nor power, -- they kept not their first estate through any inherent strength of their own, but, like their feebler brethren of the human race, are equally "kept by the power of God"; and from their ranks, I doubt not, is reechoed the same glorious strain, "Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory. Even our blessed Lord, as on that night of sorrow he sung this hymn of praise, could truly say, in that nature which had sinned, and which was to suffer, "Not unto us," -- not unto man, be ascribed the glory of this great salvation, which I am now with my own blood to purchase, but unto thy name and thy love be the praise given. Barton Bouchier.
Verse 1. "Non nobis, Domine, sed tibi sit gloria." A part of the Latin version of this Psalm is frequently sung after grace at public dinners, but why we can hardly imagine, except it be for fear that donors should be proud of the guineas they have promised, or gourmands should be vainglorious under the influence of their mighty feeding. C.H.S.
Verse 1-2. He, in a very short space, assigns three reasons why God should seek the glory of his name in preserving his people. First, because he is merciful; secondly, because he is true and faithful in observing his promise; thirdly, that the Gentiles may not see God's people in a state of destitution, and find cause for blaspheming him or them. He therefore says, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake, show thy glory, or give glory to thy name, for it is then thy glory will be exhibited when you show mercy to thy people; and then thou wilt have carried out the truth of the promise which thou hast made to our fathers. Lest the Gentiles should say, Where is their God? lest the incredulous Gentiles should get an occasion of detracting from thy power, and, perhaps, of ignoring thy very existence. Robert Bellarmine.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. The passage may be used as,
- A powerful plea in prayer.
- An expression of the true spirit of piety.
- A safe guide in theology.
- A practical direction in choosing our way of life.
- An acceptable spirit when surveying past or present success.
- No praise is due to man. Have we a being? Not unto us, etc. Have we health? Not unto us, etc. Have we outward comforts? Not unto us, etc. Friends? Not unto us, etc. The means of grace? Not unto us, etc. Saving faith in Christ? Not unto us, etc. Gifts and graces? Not unto us, etc. The hope of glory? Not unto us, etc. Usefulness to others? Not unto us, etc.
- All praise is due to God.
- Because all we have is from mercy.
- Because all we expect is from faithfulness. G. R.