In every situation we are to give glory to God alone. We can do this successfully only when we trust Him through the trials we face, continue to praise Him and invite others to join us, and look to His Word for hope and encouragement.
Portraits of our Redeemer
Our Wisdom Journey today will cover the final four songs in what’s called the Egyptian Hallel grouping. The Hebrew word hallel means “praise.” When you say “hallelujah,” you’re combining hallel with ya, a shortened form of Yahweh. Hallelujah means praise Yahweh—praise the Lord. We have just as much reason to sing hallelujah today as the Israelites did back then.
The opening verse of Psalm 115 sets the tone for the entire psalm: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.” The people here are giving God the glory, but you might be wondering, for what exactly?
Verse 2 gives us a clue: “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” This question is recorded throughout Israel’s history as a Gentile taunt. It was about the unkindest thing you could say to someone you didn’t like. I’ve noticed lately that professional athletes are now being penalized for taunting their opponents.
Well, the opponents of Israel are taunting them with this question: “Where is your God?” In essence, they are saying, “Your God doesn’t seem to be taking very good care of you.” The Israelites hated this taunt because it reminded them that the discipline they were experiencing was their fault, not God’s. But to these opposing nations, it looked like Israel’s God had abandoned them. And they taunted Israel because of it.
Have you ever found yourself on the wrong end of a taunt that God has failed you? Maybe Satan has whispered that accusation in your ear; maybe some unbeliever at work taunts you because of some difficulty you have experienced. Don’t ever agree with your accusers that God has abandoned you. Take that opportunity to defend God’s reputation, as the psalmist does here, when he writes in verse 3, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
The psalmist challenges those taunting him with the truth that they are the ones following false gods. He reminds them in verses 4 through 8 that their idols cannot speak, see, hear, smell, feel, or even walk. He is saying here, “Don’t make fun of my living God; your gold and silver gods might look good, but they cannot do a thing for you.”
“Their idols [were visible] but [had] no power; Yahweh was [invisible] but [He had] all power.”
That is why, here in verse 11, the children of Israel are told to trust the Lord to be “their help and their shield.” God is alive and trustworthy and able to defend His people.
Beloved, no matter what prompts the world to taunt you for your faith in God, God is not intimidated, and you shouldn’t be either. You can say with the psalmist here in verse 18, “Bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.”
Psalm 116 moves us from a congregational hymn to a very personal song; we might even call it a solo. The first-person pronoun is used thirty-seven times here in these nineteen verses, not in a prideful way but in a personal, testimonial way.
It sounds like this anonymous psalmist received an answer to some prayer, and he is walking right over to the temple to give his testimony of praise to the Lord. Some scholars believe the composer of this psalm was the terminally ill King Hezekiah, who cried out to the Lord.
Verse 3 seems to fit that context really well as the author writes, “The snares of death encompassed me . . . I suffered distress and anguish.” This event is recorded back in 2 Kings 20, where King Hezekiah prayed for healing, and the Lord sent Isaiah the prophet to give him the good news that he had been healed by the Lord.
We do not know for sure that Hezekiah wrote this psalm, but we do know that whatever crisis we are facing today—physical, financial, emotional, or spiritual—verse 4 models for us the best response: “Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”
Beloved, let me encourage you to read this psalm whenever you are facing your own “Hezekiah crisis.” It can be a crisis of any kind, but boldly pray and then trust the timing of the Lord as you wait for His answer.
Sometimes He chooses to develop you and deepen you as you wait for the answer; sometimes He delivers you with little delay. No matter what happens, do what the composer of this psalm does. He publicly testifies to the faithfulness of God, writing here in verse 9, “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” In other words, don’t allow your crisis to silence your testimony of faith in the Lord. Tell others about your faithful God.
Speaking of telling others, Psalm 117 now speaks to the world of God’s grace and goodness. This is the shortest of all the psalms—only two verses long.
Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol Him, all peoples! For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!
Well, that just says it all! Let me make two observations about this powerful little psalm.
First, it’s an evangelistic invitation. God’s people are calling out here for others to join with them in praising God. It’s as if they are saying, “Look, you need to follow our faithful and loving God. Join us in praising Him.” Why do you do evangelism? Because you should? Is it to grow your church attendance? Well, those might be popular reasons, but they miss the best reason.
Someone wrote that missions and evangelism exist because worship does not. Our ultimate objective is finding those who are worshiping all the wrong things—all the wrong gods—and inviting them to worship the true and living God. And by the way, when you are sharing the gospel, you are actually joining the Father, who is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).
So, this little psalm is an evangelistic invitation. But second, it’s also an extensive invitation. No one is left out. This invitation is for all the “nations” and “peoples” of the world. Those who are not yet saved from the penalty of their sins are invited to praise God.
If you have not accepted the sacrificial payment for your sins through the death of God’s Son on the cross, I invite you today, right now, to believe in the Lord—to place your faith in Jesus Christ alone. If you do, you can join me and start singing this little psalm of God’s steadfast love and of His faithfulness, which endures forever!
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Now we come to Psalm 118, the last of these Egyptian Hallel psalms. We are not sure who composed this final psalm, but we do know that for hundreds of years, the Jewish people have been singing it as they celebrate the Passover. And these psalms paint a wonderful portrait of our Redeemer.
This psalm is almost certainly the last song Jesus sang with His disciples before they left for the garden of Gethsemane, where He was betrayed. It includes a prophetic statement about the Messiah here in verse 22, which reads, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” This verse is quoted at least fourteen times in the New Testament in relation to Jesus Christ. The stone the nation of Israel rejected was their true Messiah, Jesus Christ.
But can you imagine Jesus singing this psalm on the night He was betrayed? Frankly, I can’t imagine singing at all, if I knew the suffering that was just hours away. But Jesus did. And that is because His death was not an accident. It was all planned by the Lord for your redemption and mine.