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Sunday, May 23, 2021

“Not To Us, O LORD” Psalm 115 [Matt's Messages]

“Not To Us, O LORD”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 23, 2021 :: Psalm 115

Psalm 115 is a spunky fight song. 

It’s spunky. It’s got a little bit of sass to it. It’s what the kids today call, “spicy.” It’s got a little bit of a bite to it.

And I liken it, kind of, to a fight song. A fight song is not so much one you sing to or at your enemies or your opponents as you fight them as much as it is a song you sing to your own teammates to get them psyched up for the competition. It’s the song you sing to your own team to remind them that they are on right side in the fight and to do the right thing in the fight for the right reason as a team member. That’s most fight songs.

“Don’t forget what team you’re on and why we do what we do!” Right?

That’s kind of what Psalm 115 is all about. And the upshot of this spunky fight song is to remind God’s people to trust the LORD and to give Him all of the glory.

We don’t know who wrote Psalm 115, but we know that he was a genuine artist when it came to writing songs.

This one is incredibly meaningful and memorable. It really sticks in your head–like most good fight songs!

And one of the ways that the psalmist makes it so memorable is his effective use of repetition. His effective use of repetition.

Have I ever mentioned that the ancient Hebrews liked to repeat themselves?
Have I ever mentioned that the ancient Hebrews liked to repeat themselves?


They knew how to write songs that stick in your head. And Psalm 115 is one of them–a fight song that sticks in your head.

Even the first line has effective repetition in it. Listen to verse 1.

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


“Not to us.”

I have three headings to try to summarize this song, and the first heading is the same as the sermon title and the same as the first line of the psalm.

#1. NOT TO US.

The song starts out as a prayer, and it’s a prayer that the LORD (Yahweh), the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would get the glory. That the glory and praise and honor due Him would go to the LORD and the LORD alone and “not to us.”

The “us” there would have been Israel, God’s people.

But I think we can pretty directly apply it to our lives today and pray the exact same thing:

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us [as your church, as your children today, not to us] but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

Whatever victories, successes, and blessings that we enjoy, this song reminds us to pray that we would not try to take ultimate credit for them and that the LORD would get the glory.

You and I are often tempted to attempt to steal God’s glory.

It’s natural and normal for us in our fallen condition. We are natural-born glory-thieves.

We like to take the credit.

If something bad happens, we’re mad and disappointed at God for what He did.

But if something good happens, we often forget God and start to act like we were the ultimate reason for that good thing.

So this song from the very first line is a fight song to remind ourselves and to ask God that we would not forget to reflect all of the glory up to Him.

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

Let me ask you this diagnostic question for application: What are ways in which you are currently being tempted to usurp God’s rightful glory?

What are ways in which you are currently being tempted to usurp God’s rightful glory? What are ways where you have been effectively singing, “Yes to me, O LORD! Yes to me, be the glory!”

I know we don’t all say the quiet part out loud, but it’s often in there, isn’t it?

In other words, what have you boasted about recently?

And what you are you tempted to toot your own horn about today? For what victories, successes, and blessings are you assuming the credit?

I know that I love to be praised. I’ve learned to say, “Praise God!” when somebody does it, because I know that it’s the right thing to do. In fact, I’ll get more praise for saying that!

But inside, I’m tempted to swell up like a balloon.

And often it spills out in self-praise. (My poor longsuffering wife.)

How about you? In what ways have you recently been tempted to have the glory pointed in your own direction?

Now, I’m not talking about a false modesty. We can also be truthful and grateful about good things that we have done right. This isn’t a call to lie and to pretend we have made no good choices along the way or that we have not been faithful and obedient and then blessed.

No. But it is a call to remind ourselves of the ultimate fount of every blessing and to pray that He would get the glory!

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, [WHY?] because of your love and faithfulness.”

Because of God’s “hesed” love. His loyal love. His gracious steadfast reliable love.

Not just because God is powerful and has blessed us, but because we can trust Him. We know His heart! To His name be the glory.

Now, the next part is the real heart of the fight song. This is where it starts to get spunky and a little spicy. Verse 2. The song asks a question. Verse 2.

“Why do the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’”

Remember, the nations are Israel’s enemies.

The songwriter says that the nations are taunting Israel. 

“Where is your God? I don’t see him!”

And that could be because at that moment, it looked like Israel was losing. Perhaps the surrounding nations were attacking, and it didn’t look good for Israel.

“Where is your God?”

But I think there’s something deeper here. They literally mean, “Where is He? We can’t see him!”

Because Israel’s God was invisible. 

Israel (when they were doing what they were supposed to be doing) did not have visible representations of God. They didn’t have idols or graven images.

And the nations were saying, “Looks like your god is absent!”

So here’s where the songwriter starts fighting back. He says, “This is what we’re going to sing in answer to that taunt. Ready?” Verse 3.

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

"Want to know where our God is? He is in heaven. And He’s sovereign.”

“The LORD reigns!”

Just like we saw last week in Psalm 99. “The LORD reigns!”

He isn’t just a local, tribal, limited-power edition god with a lowercase “g.”

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

Bear it in mind!

Do you see how this is a fight song? Imagine being on the team bus headed to the big game, and that’s your fight song that you sing with your team.

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

He’s too great to just hang around the neighborhood.

He’s heavenly, and He’s sovereign.

And, of course, that’s often hard for us to understand. Because often we are under attack, and we can’t understand how this could be a part of His plan.

But we can also rest in that–in our limited understanding–as long as we know that “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” 

And, again, notice that very important tiny little word at the beginning of verse 3. “OUR.”

This is true for everyone who belongs to the LORD.

Everyone who belongs to the LORD can trust Him in His sovereignty.

I hope you do.

But the nations certainly didn’t. They didn’t trust the LORD or give Him the glory. Instead, they had their own gods.

And Israel was at times very tempted to adopt those gods themselves. To worship the others gods of the nations. To trust in the other gods of the peoples.

So the psalmist breaks out into a little almost rap in verses 4 through 7 to show just how lifeless and useless these other “gods” are.

Listen. Verse 4.

“But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”

Boom! Mic drop!

Do you feel how this is a fight song?

And do you hear the repetition?

There are seven of them here. Seven, which is the number of completeness.

The idea is that these idols are completely useless.

For one thing, they are made!

If you’ve got to make your own god, how great can it be?

And they look like humans. They are made of silver and gold.

And they are fashioned into the likeness of a human.

But they can’t do a blessed thing!

Our God in heaven does whatever He wants.

But their gods? 

“They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.”

I can just imagine the Hebrew teenagers memorizing that lick and being able to spout it off and sing it to each other to remind themselves how utterly foolish it is to worship idols!

They are ineffective.
They are impotent.
They are unsatisfying.
They are worthless and useless and lifeless.

And they are very tempting.

Because we can see them, we think we can control them, the people around us worship them too and swear by them, and we lie to ourselves and say that they are real and powerful.

And we give them a hold over our lives.

Israel did it again and again.

And while as Christians we don’t tend to worship Baal or Ashtoreth or Molech or any of those, we still fall into idolatry today.

By putting our faith in other things than the LORD.

Money.
Reputation.
Pleasure.
Relationships.
Politics.
Family.
Government.
Sports.
Entertainment.
America.
The Church!

We can turn just about anything into a idol.

Good things in and of themselves, but good things that become god things become bad things.

Heading number two:

#2. NOT TO IDOLS.

Not to us and not to idols be the glory.

Let me ask you an application question for your own heart on this point:

What are you tempted to worship instead of or above the LORD these days?

What are you tempted to worship instead of, ahead of, above the LORD these days?

What kind of idols are on your shelf?

I think one way of discovering the answer to that question is asking what in my life am I trusting in so that if it was taken away, I would curse God?

It’s probably not a statue, but it has the same level of actual effectiveness.

I love the sarcasm here. I love the satirical bite of this part of the song. This kind of thing shows up again and again in the Old Testament especially in the book of Isaiah.

Idols are foolish things, but we allow them to hold an inordinate amount of influence in lives.

And the way to break that hold on us is to sing loudly about how dumb they are!

Why would I worship something I could make?
Why would I worship something with no real power?
Why would I worship something with no real life?

And then the psalmist drops the bomb in verse 8.

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

Those who make them will be useless and lifeless.

And those who trust in them will be useless and lifeless, too.

Not to idols, O LORD, not to idols be the glory.

Because that road leads to death.

That’s what’s going to happen to the nations if they persists in rejecting the LORD and worshiping false gods.

You know the principle here is that we become like what we worship (Among others, I’ve heard John Piper and Greg Beale use this language)?

We become like what we worship.

And that’s true of false worship, and we’ll see it’s true of true worship, too.

In verse 9, the song changes from a polemic (with all of the fighting words about the nations and their idols) into a straight-up praise-song reminding Israel whom to really put their trust in.

The fight song kicks into high gear singing directly to the home team. Verse 9.

“O house of Israel, trust in the LORD–he is their help and shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD–he is their help and shield.
You who fear him, trust in the LORD–he is their help and shield.”

There’s that repetition again. This time it’s a reminder what the living God is actually like. He’s full of aid and protection.

“He is their help and shield.”

So trust Him!

Don’t trust in the idols. Trust in the LORD.

And here’s what’s going to happen when you do. Verse 12.

“The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless the house of Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron, he will bless those who fear the LORD–small and great alike. May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Did you hear a repeated word in there by any chance?

Why would we trust lifeless idols when we could trust in the living LORD and be blessed?

To be blessed means to be enriched, to be made to thrive, to be satisfied.

For the Old Testament believers, it was often evidenced in physical blessings like fertility and offspring and expanded land and fruitful crops, that sort of thing.

And all of those blessings were foretastes of the world to come and foreshadowings of the even greater spiritual blessings that we enjoy now in Jesus Christ.

The song says that the LORD blessed all of His people without showing favoritism or class discrimination, “small and great alike.”

And it says that all of this blessing comes not from something we make ourselves but by the One who made (v.15) the heaven and the earth.

The Unmade Maker of all!

Why would we go to anyone else for blessing?

He’s got all of the blessing there is!

And as we worship Him, we become like Him; we become blessed ourselves.

Number three.

Not to us, not to idols, but to the LORD.

#3. TO THE LORD.

To the name of the LORD be the glory.

In the last three verses, the song calls upon us all to trust and praise God, the Maker of heaven and earth. V.16

“The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man. [What a big gift and what a big responsibility! What should we do with it? We should praise Him. V.17] It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to silence...”

The point here in verse 17 is not that the spirits of the people in the intermediate heaven right now don’t praise God. The New Testament reveals that they do.

But the point the Old Testament is making is that they don’t praise God right here right now on earth.

Those who are in their graves are silent on earth.

But we are not yet in our graves.

So now is our chance! Now is our time. V.18

“...it is we [on the earth above the grave] who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD.”

That’s the point of this whole song.

It’s a spunky fight song we sing to our own hearts.

It’s a spunky fight song we sing to each others’ hearts.

Not to us! Not to us!

And not to idols! Not to worthless, useless, lifeless idols.

But to the name of the LORD, Yahweh, the invisible unmade Maker of heaven and earth be the glory.

Last diagnostic question for application today. What are you doing these days to demonstrate your trust and worship of the LORD alone?

What things are in place in your life right now that you can point to that show that you are resting and trusting in the LORD?

For some of us, it’s just that we are singing this song to our hearts.

This spunky fight song.

Reminding ourselves how foolish it is to trust in idols and reminding each other to trust in the LORD.

“O Lanse Free Church, trust in the LORD–he is their help and shield.”
“O Lanse Free Church, trust in the LORD–he is their help and shield.”
“O Lanse Free Church, trust in the LORD–he is their help and shield.”

“We extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD!”

***

Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 / Winter 2021 / Spring 2021

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2
17. "Search Me" - Psalm 139
18. "Cleanse Me" - Psalm 51
19. "A New Song" - Psalm 96
20. "Hear My Prayer, O LORD." - Psalm 86
21. "May All the Peoples Praise" - Psalm 67
22. "A Wedding Song" - Psalm 45
23. "My Feet Had Almost Slipped" - Psalm 73
24. “Rejoicing Comes in the Morning" - Psalm 30
25. 'The Waters Have Come Up To My Neck" - Psalm 69
26. "Cast Your Cares on the LORD" - Psalm 55
27. "“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" - Psalm 22
28. "You Will Not Abandon Me To the Grave" - Psalm 16
29. "He Will Rule" - Psalm 72
30. "Taste and See That the LORD is Good" - Psalm 34
31. "Since My Youth" - Psalm 71
32. "Your Statutes Are Wonderful" - Psalm 119

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