We Become Like What We Worship: Psalm 115

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Psalm 115 (NIV)

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

Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but 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.

All you Israelites, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
10 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 his people 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 cause you to flourish,
    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 mankind.
17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord,
    those who go down to the place of silence;
18 it is we who extol the Lord,
    both now and forevermore.

Praise the Lord.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

When the Israelites came up out of Egypt, they received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, as we discussed in Psalm 114. The second of the Ten Commandments is the command to forsake all idols (Exod. 20:4). This psalm is an act of worship celebrating this commandment, expressing worship to the true and living God, in specific contrast to the idols that were being worshipped by the surrounding nations.

The surrounding nations were mocking Israel because they seemed to worship an invisible god, in contrast to their gods, who were visible and on display in their temples. The psalm virtually explodes with an act of praise contrasting the living God with the idols of the nations. Their gods are on pedestals in temples, whereas “our God is in heaven” (v. 3; see v. 16). Their gods are “made by the hands of men” out of “silver and gold” (v. 4), whereas our God made us. Their gods 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” (vv. 5–7). In contrast, the God of biblical revelation is the living God, who speaks, sees, hears, smells, feels, and walks!

The climax of the psalm is found in verse 8: “Those who make [idols] will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” This is a great reminder to us. If you worship a dead block of wood or stone, you will become like what you worship, dead and lifeless. If you worship the living God, you will become like him, with all his vibrancy, relationships, and character. Although we live in the twenty-first century, we still can see the widespread worship of false idols. Some worship the idols of money, houses, power, and position. However, these things have no more life than the dead idols of the ancient world. They will all pass away.

This psalm is a sobering reminder that we become like what we worship. Therefore, we should be careful not only to avoid false idols, but also to not worship some warped caricature of God that we have invented in our own minds, rather than the true and living God, who has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. In the end, those who worship falsely will “go down to silence” (v. 17); whereas those who extol the true God will be in his presence “forevermore” declaring, “Praise the Lord [Hallelujah]” (v. 18).

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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