Knowing and Trusting the Living God

Psalm 115

Our God is a Living God. That’s a distinction. There is no other God who is a Living God. There are other gods, but they are not living gods – they are dead!  We have a great privilege to know the Living God.  Some gods are material, made and shaped out of wood or shaped out of stone.  Other gods – you can’t see them and maybe if I speak about other gods you think of the pagans far away, but in fact many people have got gods of their own making in their minds because as they think wrong thoughts about God, they create a concept which they call god, different from the true God because maybe they hear or read some things in the Bible and they don’t like that and so they make adjustments and they end up with a god who doesn’t really exist except in the minds and that is their God.  But that kind of god which they create is not the Living God.  Interesting thought you either worship the one who created you or you worship the one that you created, isn’t it?  It’s one or the other.  But we serve a Living God.  
Jesus once asked Peter and the disciples ‘who do men say that I am?’ And Peter as very often, was the first one to speak and to answer, said ‘you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’  The Son of the Living God – not any other god, the Living God – there’s only one.  He is the Living God.  When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he wrote to the Christians, the saints at Thessalonica.  I’ve just been doing a study on the introduction to the letters that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and looking at Paul’s visit in Acts 17 to them.  But in his letter, he writes that you turned from idols to the Living God.  What a privilege to serve a Living God!  Many people have dead gods.  We serve a Living God!  A dead God is quite useless.  He can’t do anything for you and is quite harmless.  Let’s turn to Psalm 115.

1Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your Name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!
2Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
3Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.
4Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
5They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
6They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
7They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
9O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
10O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
11You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
12The LORD has remembered us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron; 13He will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great.
14May the LORD give you increase, you and your children!
15May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth!
16The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth He has given to the children of man.
17The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence.
18But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!”

You may know that there’s a group of Psalms that they call the Hallelujah and if you look at those psalms, you’ll notice how they all at least end on the words ‘praise the LORD’ and in the Hebrew, what is praise the LORD?  Hallelujah!  And so we see those Psalms there.  During the Passover Festival the Jews used to sing these Psalms (113 through to 118).  So it’s not surprising that when Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover that year and there you see some quotation or some use of these Psalms, especially Psalm 118.  As you page through your Bible and look there, you’ll see some familiar words: ‘the stone that the builders rejected has become the Chief Cornerstone…’ and even: ’Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD.’ Those words are from Psalm 118.  
But as we look at these Psalms, they in some ways look back to the Exodus, because of course that’s where the Passover started – with the Exodus.  So the Jews even today they would be singing these songs around Passover time, many of them.  So they look back to the Exodus at the great Deliverance – how the LORD delivered the Jews from Egypt – from bondage in Egypt.  And they don’t just see it as just that event, but they see even the events that followed it during the time of Moses, because obviously these Psalms were not written immediately after The Exodus, they were written some time afterwards, but you look at a little bit of the history. In fact, maybe you can turn to Psalm 114.  It’s a very short Psalm, but it looks back at The Exodus and points to some of the events there in slightly more poetic language.  ‘When Israel went out of Egypt’ there you have it – it speaks about in verse 3: ‘the see saw it and fled.’  Which see was that? – The Red Sea. ‘Jordan turned back.’  You can see they’re looking a bit beyond just The Exodus; they’re looking at how Joshua crossed the Jordan River and the Jordan turned back so that the Israelites could pass over. ‘The mountains skipped’, and so on – ‘What ails you Jordan that you turn back?’ …tremble o earth at the presence of the LORD!’  They are thinking back at The Exodus and about the Miracles and how God worked for them – how God did these great works.  And probably year after year when they had this Passover they would think back and they’d say: Wow, those days God really worked. He really delivered us, but where are the Miracles now? Where is this Mighty God now, we don’t see Him at work.  Even our enemies are saying ‘where is your God?’  And we will touch on that in Psalm 115.  Verse 8 of Psalm 14:  ‘who turned the rock into a pool of water’.  Well, that was also during the wonderful Exodus, isn’t it?  We remember it there.  So Psalm 115 – Passover Psalm – one of those Psalms they used at the Passover.  Psalm 115 seems to consider a time when the enemies were mocking and it stirs up faith as we look at the words of Psalm 115 you’ll see the people are singing to one another saying ‘let’s trust in our God’, these Idols – they are dead.  In fact, when it speaks about the idols it’s actually speaking about the LORD.  The implication is: well, the idols can’t see, they can’t hear, but our God can, so the implication throughout those words is ‘we have got a living God; a God who can respond, a God who sees a God who acts – a living God’.
And then you hear the words coming out again and again trust in Him, trust in Him!  He is the Living God – He’s not a dead God. Trust in Him – stirring up faith in the Living God.  And remember this Psalm is not for the pagans out there. It’s for us this evening. It’s for us to remember that we’ve got a living God.  Sometimes discouragements are there and in our time maybe many of you would be saying: LORD, where are You?  Where is Your hand of power?  And then this Psalm would say: ‘take courage – don’t be discouraged. God has got power and He is very much alive.’  And of course, it’s a praise Psalm, that’s why it ends on those words: ‘Praise the LORD, hallelujah’.  So maybe you are in need of such a reminder, many people are in need of this.  Christians, you might be a true Christian but you are in need of this reminder that your God; the God you are reading about, the God that is much more than just a Doctrine, He is a living God – draw near to Him.  And I trust that even more than now when we come to the end of the service from your heart, from the depth of your heart there will be a very genuine Hallelujah, looking at our God.

Verse 1 and 2:
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your Name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
Notice how it starts, pointing not to us.  Somebody once wrote: ‘ambition and praise cannot fill the same spot.’  We cannot try to lift ourselves up and lift God up at the same time.  If we are exalting ourselves – well we can’t pull God down, but we certainly are not worshipping Him when we are lifting ourselves up.  So not to us, the glory doesn’t come to us, but to the LORD.  There are many good things about us. We don’t need to say that we are nothing; there are many good things about us. There is righteous living; there is a body that’s been created. There are abilities. There is a mind that can think; we can do good deeds.  There are good things about us, but all the good things we can say about ourselves come from the Living God, they are reflections – maybe not perfect reflections – in fact, definitely not perfect reflections, but they are reflections of the Living God. The glory must go to the one whom we are reflecting – the glory must not go to the reflection. The glory must not go to us.  So the Psalm starts with these very sensible words ‘not to us’ and then points to the Living God. He is worthy. Let us remind ourselves – we can’t remind ourselves enough. We can’t remind one another enough. The LORD is worthy, isn’t He? I see many are nodding. Well, you’re hopefully in your experience even and definitely by faith you’ll say: ‘The LORD is worthy; very worthy’. The word ‘steadfast love’ – well maybe that steadfast love (or that mercy in the New King James version) – maybe you’re saying ‘well LORD, yes at the cross – yes, You forgave my sin, that’s mercy, but where is your mercy in my everyday living? I want to see more of it.  What about the words their ‘faithfulness’?  Is God faithful to His Covenant? Yes, He made a covenant with us at Mount Sinai or maybe you say ‘yes, there’s a covenant which God made with me when He forgave my sins, when He became my God and I became one of His people – there is a covenant there’. Where is God’s faithfulness to His Covenant to look after me like a father cares for His children and maybe other people are looking at our lives and saying ‘is your God faithful to His Covenant and maybe they are mocking’.  And then this Psalm brings up our faith and strengthens it.  Those words: ‘Where is their God?’ Well, I’ve heard similar words where people are saying: ‘where is your God?  They are criticizing, mocking unbelievers. It reminds us quite a lot of Psalm 2 where the people were mocking: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot a vain thing?  The kings of the earth set themselves, the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His anointed’.  There’s always that against Christ, against the Bible attitude all over!  And what are the next words?  (similar to Psalm 115:3): ‘He who sits in the heavens shall laugh. He shall hold them in derision. He shall speak to them in His wrath and distress them in His deep displeasure.’  Here we have something similar.  Our God is in heaven and He sees what happens and He is a living God.  So they taunt, they say ‘where is their God’?  In our hearts we must know: our God – He’s there all right – He’s not a dead God – He is there and you can speak back to such people.  Maybe they will argue with you – it doesn’t matter, we serve a living God – they do not.  They need to be told about Him. Criminals also mock God, they do their crime, they cut the fences and they go in and one of the tricks that they use in our area is they light fires and when the people go to look to try and put out the fire then they do their business and they steal whatever they want to steal. They’re doing it very regularly. But what is the thief really doing? He’s basically saying: ‘Living God? I don’t believe in Him. He’s not there. He can’t see me, He can’t do anything. I can do what I want to – see if He cares. I don’t see him responding.’ Well, that’s what they say.

Verse 3 and 4:
This is a response of faith regarding our God. ‘Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases’. That’s how we can answer those people who taunt and mock. Our God is in the heavens He does all that He pleases.  ‘Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.’  Even if they are not silver and gold, they are the work of human hands and human minds, their gods.  A stone can’t do what it wills – what it wants to.  A stone is dead, it lies there – you can kick it, you can trip over it – it can’t do what it pleases.  A pen can’t write what it wills.  I can put it down there, I can put it on the paper – it’s not going to write anything.  Even if I help it a little bit, it’s still not going to write anything.  And if I start writing, the pen’s not writing what it wants to write, its writing what I want it to write, because the pen is dead – a pen doesn’t have life.  I have life and I can move because I’m alive, but even I can’t do what I want to. Do you agree? Is there someone here that can do exactly what he wants to?  I can’t walk out here and uproot a tree – I can’t!  I’ve got my limits because, although I’m alive, I’m not God.  But our God is God and He’s alive and He can do whatever He pleases.  He can go where He wants to go.  He can do what He wants to do with whom He wants to do it at any time.  Our God is the Living God.  I’m weak – He is strong and very much alive.  God can be glorified because He is alive and He is God.  Think about that – He’s the only being in this universe that can do whatever He pleases. He’s absolutely free to do what He wants to do – and so He must be glorified.  Those who say where is your god?  Some of them, they can’t see Him.  That’s why it’s some of the early critics of the Christians of the early church said that the Christians were atheists because ‘where are their Gods?  We don’t see any gods in their houses! Where are their gods?  They don’t have any gods – they are atheists.’  But in fact our God is simply invisible.  We’ve got a living God whom they can’t see but He’s very much alive.  He’s just not like their gods.  He’s not silver and gold.  He’s not just a religious idea.  A religious idea can’t do what it wants to.  A god created by our minds can only do what we think he can do. He hasn’t got freedom to do what he wants to do. Silver and gold might look nice.  It might be precious in some ways, but it’s not alive.  I don’t need to fear it – it cannot do anything to me. There’s something that you need more than money. Maybe you say I need some money. Please give me some money, but there’s something you need much more than money – You need a Living God and I need a Living God.

Verse 5 and 6:
He now starts talking about our God – not directly but indirectly – our God speaks – that’s what He says indirectly. Our God speaks and He sees and He hears and He smells. ‘They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses but do not smell.’  
The idols have mouths, but they can’t speak – our God can speak and He does speak – the first words we know about Him speaking were ‘let there be light!’, and those were not idle words – there was light.  And He spoke many other words as well.  He spoke to Noah – He said: “I’m going to send a flood, build an ark!”  He spoke – not like the idols – idols can’t speak. Our God speaks.  He spoke to Moses. He said to Moses: “Take the sandals off your feet, this is Holy ground. Go to Egypt, go to Pharaoh. Tell him: “let my people go”.  God spoke The Ten Commandments and He wrote them with His finger as well. God spoke to Saul on the Damascus Road: “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?” He spoke – He can speak to anyone. He speaks to us. Maybe He speaks in some special way, but that’s not His normal way in this time – the church age. How does He normally speak?  Through the Bible! He opens our minds to understand and we read and He speaks, because this is God’s word speaking and we need to hear His word and know that it’s He speaking. So God speaks. Why? because He’s alive – He’s not a dead God. In fact, you can read words and in a certain sense, they can jump to life because the Holy Spirit conveys them to you and in that way He speaks even more directly and He can do that.  The idols have eyes, but they can’t see.  The idols you see in pictures – many of them have got beautiful eyes. Some have got ugly eyes. There is an Indian goddess with many eyes – it looks terrible!  But none of those many eyes can see – not one of them. If you are alone in your room – guess what? God can see you!  When Jonah was under the sea – not just under the sea but in the whale – or in the big fish – God could see him.  God sees everybody!  I had a friend named Thomas in Namibia; he was in prison there for six years.  I only got to know him afterwards when he’d come out.  But he said during those years there was a time where he was converted – he heard the Gospel message, God opened his heart, he responded and became a Christian.  But he was still smoking dagga whenever he got a chance.  One day he was smoking dagga in the toilets. And the reason of course was because he didn’t want other people to see him, because what about his testimony? He calls himself a Christian!  But then one day it struck him: ‘Thomas, what are you doing? Did you repent before people or did you repent before God – the God who sees you even where you are now!’ And it struck him – it spoke to him and he confirmed his repentance before the God who is very much alive!  Yes, God can see you – He can see you when you do a kind deed to somebody – when you’re washing the dishes or whatever you do, even if nobody else sees, God sees.  He sees when you suffer unjustly for something – God sees – He always sees. God is alive, He can see!
The idols have got ears, but they can’t hear.  I’ve seen some illustrations of some of the gods and they’ve got ears!  But you can even shout and scream – they’re not going to hear you because they can’t hear.  The idols cannot hear, but God can hear!  When Hagar and Ishmael were there in the desert – far from any person in sight – God heard Ishmael crying.  God can hear.  God heard Hannah praying with her lips.  Eli couldn’t hear – he could only see her lips moving.  God could hear the prayer.  So God can hear – God can hear when you pray when you speak in your room. You don’t have to shout. Maybe you’ve heard some people shouting when they’re praying.  I’ve been in some Churches and wow, they really treat God as if He’s completely deaf!  When I was at Dorothea, there was a mountain just behind us and sometimes they were some Zionists, sometimes some Pentecostals, but they would climb the mountain and they would pray!  They would pray to God and they would shout!  Our God is not deaf – He can hear us, even when we whisper.  
The idols have got noses, but they can’t smell.  Our God is wonderful.  By the way – regarding God hearing – maybe you know Samora Machel of Mozambique. He was one of these people who mocked God.  He was loved by many people. He always had a friendly smile and seemed to be cheerful and good-natured. But he had no time for God. The one day he gave God what they call the ‘one minute treatment’. He in public, people watching him, said ‘God I give you one minute to strike me dead.’ And then he would count ‘60, 59, 58, come on – can you hear me?’  And he wouldn’t mock God.  When he came down to zero he said “see?” and everybody would have a good laugh, he would receive some shine and walk off.  A few months later, some of my friends were monitoring the radar station at Mariepskop and there was a blip that moved across the screen and they recorded it and then it stopped.  Later on they were asked to present the records, because they wanted to find out about this aircraft that Samora Machel was in.  They said well, that’s the time that it stopped over there in that mountainous area. Yes, maybe God did hear, maybe He was responding.  
More recently, somebody else spoke out and gave God the one minute treatment ‘60, 59 …’ there were some people listening, and one man made a comment at the end.  He said ‘well that man really made a statement today didn’t he?’  And the man next to him was a Christian he responded. He said ‘Yes, we’ve learned something today. ‘God doesn’t listen to disrespectful idiots.’ But God does hear – even if He doesn’t listen to certain ones.
 Does God smell?  Yes, we often read about God smelling the sacrifices, the sweet aroma and I’m sure God smelt when Mary poured that fragrant oil on Jesus’ head – our God smells.  

Verses 7 and 8:  
They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them;’ – frightening thought! – ‘so do all who trust in them.’  The idols have hands – at least most of them have got hands – but they can’t feel. I think I can take a bit of liberty there and move beyond the word feel and say what do we normally do with our hands?  We do things with our hands.  If your God is a just a religious idea, can he do anything? He’s not going to do anything for you. Our God can do things. He created the heavens and the earth. He created people.  He created animals.  He can meet needs.  He raised Jaïrus’ daughter.  He raised Lazarus from the dead.  He healed blind people.  He did tremendous things.  God can work.  I was reading recently about a man named Merle in Germany – big man who used to work in the mines. He had no respect for God.  He would often criticize when Christians would speak to him.  Often Pastor Bush used to visit him.  But one day he was working in the mines, and as he was working there. There was a tremor and some rocks fell on this man Merle – harming him terribly – injuring him badly! When he came out of hospital, he was paralyzed.  His back had been badly injured.  His legs were both completely lame – in a wheelchair.  And Pastor Bush visited him again.  As he came, he saw that there were some friends around the wheelchair and Merle shouted out: “Oh, here comes the Preacher!  Go away with your nonsense and your good God.  Where was your good God when this happened to me?  Isn’t that a taunt saying your God can’t do anything?  Well after some time, fortunately Merle had some friends who were miners, and some of them spoke to him and some of them prayed for him.  And the day came when God softened his heart; he committed his life to Christ; he trusted in the Saviour; he became a Christian.  And Pastor Bush visited him a few times. He became weaker, and the time came when he was close to dying.  And Pastor Bush visited him again, and he said, “you know Pastor Bush, I’m so grateful.” Pastor Bush said, “What are you grateful for? “I’m so grateful that God broke my back.” He said, “What?  How can you say you’re so grateful God broke your back?”  He said “well, I was going in a certain direction and the fact that God broke my back is what turned me around. I am today a Christian.  I have eternal life because of what God did.  He might have spoken in a harsh way, but that was a loving way and I’m a Christian today.” And then he said these last words. He said “I would much rather enter heaven on a wheelchair than jump into hell with strong legs.”  Our God is a living God and He does things, even today.  Maybe you are trusting Him – even now – for doing something – through people or whatever way – but God can do things.  God is alive.  God can do anything.
These idols have got feet. Some of them have got feet, but they cannot walk – they cannot move. In fact, they have to be carried. Can you imagine it? They’ve got to be carried wherever they go – not very useful feet. In fact, they can’t go anywhere unless they are invited. But our God can go everywhere and anywhere at any time, there’s nowhere where God cannot go. Thieves don’t believe that, otherwise they wouldn’t do what they do. They wouldn’t be so foolish. They’d know that they won’t be able to get away from Him. And by the way, you can’t leave God in church when you go home.  Some of you might say ‘but God mustn’t come to my home. He must stay here at the church.’ No-no – God is at your home as well. God is everywhere, He can move around.
 Verse 8 is a serious warning – it says that such gods are not only useless. Well, what is the warning there? Those who make such Gods will become like them – not beautiful – gold and silver and so on – become like them – dead! And then those who trust in such gods, if you don’t trust in the Living God you will also be like that, because the Living God gives life. Amen!

Verse 9 to 11:
After speaking about God, saying that He is alive in that indirect way, he now says such a God, trust Him! ‘O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.’  These verses might sound a bit strange. It’s as if he’s switching people. ‘O Israel’ he is speaking to Israel and he says ‘He is their help’. Well, this is common for a song – you can imagine different voices speaking the different parts, then it works quite well.  So, the second part of the verse responding to the first part of the verse – quite beautiful.  There are some songs we sing here at Constantia Park which are something like that. I think we do Psalm 24 more or less like that.  All must trust in God. The Israelites must trust in God. The priests must trust in God. The God-fearers – maybe we should classify ourselves a little bit more with them – must trust in the LORD.  God is a living God – trust Him!  Trust Him to help you. I don’t know what your specific need is at this time. Trust the Living God.  Call on Him, because He calls on you to trust Him when you are in trouble.

Verse 12 to 15:
The LORD has remembered us.”  Look at these confident words: “He will bless us.” Maybe the people are going through a difficult time, but with faith they look forward. They say “He 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, both the small and the great. May the LORD give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the LORD who made heaven and earth!”
Yes, since He is the God who made heaven and earth, we can trust Him. He blessed His creation and He blessed the people that were there, Adam and Eve. He is a God who blesses and He will bless us. He will bless those who fear the LORD.  I must say, I’m richly blessed.  I’m blessed materially. Very recently I heard that our neighbours are really battling.  We share a semi-detached house. They were not able to pay their rent the last few months.  We have been able to pay our rent the last few months.  Why is that?  God is blessing us materially.  And by the way, Constantia Park has been part of that provision for which we’re so grateful for.  
Spiritual blessings: One of the great spiritual blessings I’m enjoying at this stage is that I’m teaching some bachelor degree modules. One of them is John and his books – I’m presenting it for the first time and what a joy!  I love John and first John and Revelation.  These books inspire me when I read them.  So I present to the class and I try and do it quickly, so that there are some 40 minutes left at the end and then I say, right let’s open our Bibles and tackle a chapter and then we go through the chapter, looking at the meaning, applying it – what a tremendous spiritual blessing that is!  God is a living God. He can bless. Trust Him.

Verse 16 to 18:
The Psalm ends with the words: The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth He has given to the children of man. The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!”
The physically dead cannot praise the LORD here on earth.  Irving Steggles can’t praise the LORD here on earth.  He’s praising the LORD somewhere else yes, but here on earth he can’t.  Those who are spiritually dead can’t praise the LORD because they don’t know Him.  A graveyard is a quiet place.  I don’t know whether you’ve noticed.  If you walk through a graveyard, it’s a quiet place.  The dead are quiet.  But those who are alive, we can praise the LORD.  God has given us hearts and voices to praise Him.  Remember that our God is the Living God.  I trust that this Psalm, which was designed to bring Hallelujah from the heart – no matter what the time is – I trust that it is done that for us this evening. May your heart really call out to the LORD, trusting in Him and praising Him!