January 1, 2022

January 1, 2022

January 1, 2022

Norman D. Holcomb, Jr., PhD
Smoky Mountain District

To God Be The Glory!
Psalm 115 (RSV)

The Impotence of Idols and the Greatness of God
115 Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to thy name give glory,
    for the sake of thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness!
Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
    he does whatever he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
    the work of men’s 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;
    and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them are like them;
    so are all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.
10 O house of Aaron, put your trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.
11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.
12 The Lord has been mindful of us; he 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,
    both small and great.
14 May the Lord give you increase,
    you and your children!
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!
16 The heavens are the Lord’s heavens,
    but the earth he has given to the sons of men.
17 The dead do not praise the Lord,
    nor do any that go down into silence.
18 But we will bless the Lord
    from this time forth and for evermore.
Praise the Lord!


            Psalm 115 may be a hymn which was prepared for public worship or for a particular liturgical event or moment in the life of Israel.  It contains the positive elements of praise and gratitude.  Conversely, it speaks scornfully of people who have no god and/or those who worship helpless gods that are the products of human hands.
            The first and last verses highlight the worship posture of Israel in their relationship to their God.  “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give glory, for the sake of thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness!” (115:1).  The Israelites knew that they could not claim any glory or honor for themselves.  Their history was one of complaining, quarreling, and resistance to the guidance of God.  They had not been steadfast in their love of God, and they had been unfaithful in their promises to obey the laws set forth by the Lord and His prophets.  They knew that the record of their moral and ethical behavior would not serve to magnify the majesty, power, and glory of God.  It is God’s record of steadfast love and unflagging faithfulness that has provided the blessings and security that has supported them throughout their trials and tribulations.  It is not the honor of the Israelite congregation that is at stake in facing the criticisms of the heathen nations.  It is as if they are saying, “We know that we have failed but our God has been faithful in keeping his promises to us, and for this He is due all honor and glory.”
            The irony of this situation is that the glory and honor of God is not realized in the success of Israel, but in its perception and confession of its own failure, rebellion, and wretchedness.  In full recognition of its unfaithfulness, Israel bowed down in humility before God and confessed its weakness and ingratitude.  In the final accounting, the Psalmists emphasis is not on Israel’s failures and shortcomings.  Certainly, they are recognized for what they are, but it comes as no surprise that Israel has a great capacity for displaying unfaithfulness.  When Moses first interceded for the people God said, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people” (Exodus 32:9; 33:3-5; also, Deuteronomy 9:6-13; 34:9).  Clearly, Israel has not received God’s blessings because of its own victories and accomplishments.  The Psalmist would have us know that Israel, although imperfect, stubborn, and stiff-necked, maintains the favor of God because of its repentant and humble response to God’s faithfulness.
            Regardless of success, failure, obedience, or disobedience, Israel’s posture before God will always be, “But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.  Praise the Lord!” (115:18).  The Old Testament people of God knew that this is the only earthly perspective from which it is possible to deal with the mysteries of this life.  We humans are creatures, but we have a permanent living relationship with our Creator (115:15, 16).  He knows each of us and He has not forgotten us.  Jesus tells us that God knows how many hairs we have on our head and is mindful of every sparrow that falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7).  How, then, could He not know those He created and crowned with glory and honor? (Psalm 8). 
            Fools make fun of the concept of a creator God because they cannot control and master the moving parts of a faith-based life.  Their pride blinds them to the futility of evaluating that which is infinite by the limited faculties and standards of the finite mind.  The Psalmist recognized our human limitations: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).  And so it is with us moderns.  Sometimes we cannot make any sense of what is happening in our lives and in our world.  While we boast of our advancements and our accrued social and psychological knowledge of ourselves, we often ignore that we are created creatures who are ultimately dependent upon the care and keeping of our Creator.  A genuine humility compels us to accept the fact that we are human and there is no earthly cure for our human condition.
            The first question of The Westminster Shorter Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?”  The answer given is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (Edinburgh, July 28, 1648).  The cure for our imperfect earthly humanity is in worshiping the Lord who maintains us through His heavenly steadfast love and faithfulness.  Our acts of praise and worship are not the frantic primal screams of a temporary coping tactic.  Birthed from the womb of our Judeo-Christian history, they proclaim the triumphant witness of the ages that inspires every fiber of our being—physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, rational, and irrational—to explode with the energy of Handel’s great Hallelujah Chorus, “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth forever and ever….”  It is to this God that the Psalmist urged Israel to offer glory and honor.  It is to this God that the writer of Ecclesiastes gave the last word: “The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  Simply put, today is the day the Lord has made for us and given to us.  Right now, as you read this, I urge you to rise above everything that is going on in your life and give glory and honor to the Lord, your loving and faithful Creator!


Lord, we know that You have been more mindful of us than we have been of You.  Increase our faith and encourage us to give glory and praise to You, especially in those times when we are threatened by fear and doubt.  Amen.