Sufficient care is here taken to answer both the pretensions of self and the reproaches of idolaters.
I. Boasting is here for ever excluded, Ps. 115:1. Let no opinion of our own merits have any room either in our prayers or in our praises, but let both centre in God’s glory. 1. Have we received any mercy, gone through any service, or gained any success? We must not assume the glory of it to ourselves, but ascribe it wholly to God. We must not imagine that we do any thing for God by our own strength, or deserve any thing from God by our own righteousness; but all the good we do is done by the power of his grace, and all the good we have is the gift of his mere mercy, and therefore he must have all the praise. Say not, The power of my hand has gotten me this wealth, Deut. 8:17. Say not, For my righteousness the Lord has done these great and kind things for me, Deut. 9:4. No; all our songs must be sung to this humble tune, Not unto us, O Lord! and again, Not unto us, but to thy name, let all the glory be given; for whatever good is wrought in us, or wrought for us, it is for his mercy and his truth’s sake, because he will glorify his mercy and fulfil his promise. All our crowns must be cast at the feet of him that sits upon the throne, for that is the proper place for them. 2. Are we in pursuit of any mercy and wrestling with God for it? We must take our encouragement, in prayer, from God only, and have an eye to his glory more than to our own benefit in it. “Lord, do so and so for us, not that we may have the credit and comfort of it, but that thy mercy and truth may have the glory of it.” This must be our highest and ultimate end in our prayers, and therefore it is made the first petition in the Lord’s prayer, as that which guides all the rest, Hallowed be thy name; and, in order to that, Give us our daily bread, etc. This also must satisfy us, if our prayers be not answered in the letter of them. Whatever becomes of us, unto thy name give glory. See John 12:27, 28.
II. The reproach of the heathen is here for ever silenced and justly retorted.
1. The psalmist complains of the reproach of the heathen (Ps. 115:2): Wherefore should they say, Where is now their God? (1.) “Why do they say so? Do they not know that our God is every where by his providence, and always nigh to us by his promise and grace?” (2.) “Why does God permit them to say so? Nay, why is Israel brought so low that they have some colour for saying so? Lord, appear for our relief, that thou mayest vindicate thyself, and glorify thy own name.”
2. He gives a direct answer to their question, Ps. 115:3. “Do they ask where is our God? We can tell where he is.” (1.) “In the upper world is the presence of his glory: Our God is in the heavens, where the gods of the heathen never were, in the heavens, and therefore out of sight; but, though his majesty be unapproachable, it does not therefore follow that his being is questionable.” (2.) “In the lower world are the products of his power: He has done whatsoever he pleased, according to the counsel of his will; he has a sovereign dominion and a universal uncontrollable influence. Do you ask where he is? He is at the beginning and end of every thing, and not far from any of us.”
3. He returns their question upon themselves. They asked, Where is the God of Israel? because he is not seen. He does in effect ask, What are the gods of the heathen? because they are seen. (1.) He shows that their gods, though they are not shapeless things, are senseless things. Idolaters, at first, worshipped the sun and moon (Job 31:26), which was bad enough, but not so bad as that which they were now come to (for evil men grow worse and worse), which was the worshipping of images, Ps. 115:4. The matter of them was silver and gold, dug out of the earth (man found them poor and dirty in a mine, Herbert), proper things to make money of, but not to make gods of. The make of them was from the artificer; they are creatures of men’s vain imaginations and the works of men’s hands, and therefore can have no divinity in them. If man is the work of God’s hands (as certainly he is, and it was his honour that he was made in the image of God) it is absurd to think that that can be God which is the work of men’s hands, or that it can be any other than a dishonour to God to make him in the image of man. The argument is irrefragable: The workmen made it, therefore it is not God, Hos. 8:6. These idols are represented here as the most ridiculous things, a mere jest, that would seem to be something, but were really nothing, fitter for a toy shop than a temple, for children to play with than for men to pray to. The painter, the carver, the statuary, did their part well enough; they made them with mouths and eyes, ears and noses, hands and feet, but they could put no life into them and therefore no sense. They had better have worshipped a dead carcase (for that had life in it once) than a dead image, which neither has life nor can have. They speak not, in answer to those that consult them; the crafty priest must speak for them. In Baal’s image there was no voice, neither any that answered. They see not the prostrations of their worshippers before them, much less their burdens and wants. They hear not their prayers, though ever so loud; they smell not their incense, though ever so strong, ever so sweet; they handle not the gifts presented to them, much less have they any gifts to bestow on their worshippers; they cannot stretch forth their hands to the needy. They walk not, they cannot stir a step for the relief of those that apply to them. Nay, they do not so much as breathe through their throat; they have not the least sign of symptom of life, but are as dead, after the priest has pretended to consecrate them and call a deity into them, as they were before. (2.) He thence infers the sottishness of their worshippers (Ps. 115:8): Those that make them images show their ingenuity, and doubtless are sensible men; but those that make them gods show their stupidity and folly, and are like unto them, as senseless blockish things; they see not the invisible things of the true and living God in the works of creation; they hear not the voice of the day and the night, which in every speech and language declare his glory, Ps. 19:2, 3. By worshipping these foolish puppets, they make themselves more and more foolish like them, and set themselves at a greater distance from every thing that is spiritual, sinking themselves deeper into the mire of sense; and withal they provoke God to give them up to a reprobate mind, a mind void of judgment, Rom. 1:28. Those that trust in them act very absurdly and very unreasonably, are senseless, helpless, useless, like them; and they will find it so themselves, to their own confusion. We shall know where our God is, and so shall they, to their cost, when their gods are gone, Jer. 10:3-11; Isa. 44:9