Psalm 115

Psalm 115[a]

Hymn to the Lord, the One God

1 [b]Not to us,[c] O Lord, not to us,
but to your name give glory
because of your kindness and faithfulness.
2 Why should the nations ask,
“Where is their God?”[d]
3 Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever he pleases.[e]
4 Their idols are merely silver and gold,
the work of human hands.[f]
5 They have mouths but they cannot speak;
they have eyes but they cannot see.
6 They have ears but they cannot hear;
they have noses but they cannot smell.
7 They have hands but they cannot feel;
they have feet but they cannot walk;
their throats can emit no sound.
8 Those who make them end up like them,
as do all who place their trust in them.
9 [g]The house of Israel trusts in the Lord;
he is their help and their shield.
10 The house of Aaron trusts in the Lord;
he is their help and their shield.
11 Those who fear the Lord trust in the Lord;
he is their help and their shield.
12 [h]The Lord will be mindful of us and 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,
the small no less than the great.[i]
14 [j]May the Lord cause you to increase,
both you and your children.
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
16 [k]The heavens belong to the Lord,
but he has given the earth to humanity.
17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord,
those who sink into silence.[l]
18 It is we who bless the Lord
from this time forward and forevermore.[m]
Alleluia.

Footnotes

  1. Psalm 115:1 This psalm was probably used in the course of a celebration of the covenant, with choir and soloists in turn voicing their confidence in the Lord. Ridiculing the jerry-built gods venerated by the pagans, the community professes its attachment to the one true God, from whom it hopes to receive prosperity. The formulas are brief and striking, with a captivating rhythm; the satire against idols has the flavor of a popular caricature. This simple prayer is at the service of a deep and demanding religious thought and turns into praise. After the Exile, such a clear credo was needed for the community of Jerusalem and for the communities of the dispersion who all coexisted with pagan civilizations that welcomed countless gods. Today, it is still necessary for us to depart from idols fashioned according to our tastes and desires and to turn to the one true God.
    We can pray this psalm for the Church, the new Israel, who often experiences profound misfortunes and oppressions that seem to proclaim her inferiority and impotence before earthly powers and their satanic idol. We can beg Christ the Lord to intervene to restore the renown of the Church and especially his own in the world.
  2. Psalm 115:1 A song in praise of the living God who is faithful to his people and in derision of the pagan idols who are lifeless.
  3. Psalm 115:1 Not to us: God alone is responsible for Israel’s covenant blessings. Name: see note on Ps 5:12. Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
  4. Psalm 115:2 Where is their God?: implying that God does not help his people (see Pss 42:4, 11; 79:10; Joel 2:17; Mic 7:10).
  5. Psalm 115:3 The community expresses the belief that God is supreme and present; everything that happens to Israel, good or bad, is his doing.
  6. Psalm 115:4 The theme of this verse is one that is often found in the Old Testament: idols, unlike the God of Israel, do not speak, reveal, promise, or utter any spoken word; ultimately, divine revelation is the difference between the religions made by humans and the true religion of the Lord (see Ps 135:15-18; Deut 4:16; Isa 44:9ff; Jer 10:1ff; Bar 6:7ff).
  7. Psalm 115:9 In a litany, the various classes of people express their confidence in the Lord. The threefold division (house of Israel, house of Aaron, those who fear the Lord) occurs elsewhere (see Pss 118:2-4; 135:19f, refers to Aaron and Levi). It is unclear whether the phrase “those who fear the Lord” is a synonym for “house of Israel” (see Pss 34:8, 10; 85:10) or all of Israel (laity as well as priests) or whether it identifies a separate class from the house of Israel, namely the “God-fearers” known as the proselytes in the Old Testament (see 1 Ki 8:41; Isa 56:6) and in the New (see Acts 13:16, 26; 16:14).
  8. Psalm 115:12 Utilizing the same group of worshipers as in verses 9-11, the thought moves forward from God’s power to save to his power to enrich. The Lord does not discriminate among his people—all will be the recipients of his blessing. Although they may be put to the test by afflictions of various kinds, the Lord remembers those with whom he has made a covenant (see Pss 98:3; 136:23; Isa 49:14f) and delivers them, bringing to fulfillment the promises he has made.
  9. Psalm 115:13 The small no less than the great: the outcasts and the powerful. All will be treated alike by the Lord (see Jer 6:13; 16:6; 31:34; Rev 19:5).
  10. Psalm 115:14 Through these words of blessing, the Lord renews his promise that Abraham’s descendants will increase without end (see Ps 127:3-5; Deut 1:11; Isa 54:1-3; Zec 10:8-10).
  11. Psalm 115:16 The psalmist concludes with a short hymn of praise. In so doing, he reminds his people that they have been given the earth to enjoy and care for, while praising the Lord.
  12. Psalm 115:17 The psalmist stresses that the dead cannot praise the Lord; for, according to the idea of the ancients, in the netherworld the souls of the dead had a kind of shadowy existence with no activity or lofty emotion and could not offer praise to God. Silence: a euphemism for the grave (see Ps 94:17; see also notes on Pss 6:6 and 30:2).
  13. Psalm 115:18 Forevermore: some view this as saying that those who serve the living God will themselves live on, unlike the worshipers of lifeless idols (v. 8). This would then add its witness to an afterlife to such passages as Pss 11:7; 16:8-11; 17:15; 23:6; 49:16; 73:23ff; 139:18. Alleluia: i.e., “Hallelujah” or “Bless [or praise] the Lord”; the Septuagint and Vulgate add this line as the opening of Ps 116.

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