Their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.
The work of men's hands. Denunciation of the idolatry of the heathen is characteristic of the psalms of the restoration. With this passage may be compared such passages as Isaiah 44:9-20
. In treating of idols it should be borne in mind that they are differently regarded by their intelligent and unintelligent worshippers. The mystical Hindu will tell us that his idols are to him nothing more than are to us the pictures of absent or dead friends. They are helps to memory and imagination. But to the great mass of heathen the idol-figure is the actual god worshipped, the embodiment of the god, the shrine of the god. So Scripture is justified in its scorn of the idol-deities. The point presented here is the helplessness of idols, in that they have organs of sense, but no sensibility. There is an argument in the simple statement that they are "the work of men's hands."
I. MAN'S HANDIWORK IS INFERIOR TO HIS BEST THOUGHT. No man ever yet reached with his hands what he had conceived in his mind. The artist's idea is better than his picture. It is inferior to the artist himself. The sculptor's figure is better than the model he produces. The literary man never writes as good a book as he intends to write. It is the universal fact that a man is always greater than anything he creates, or anything he accomplishes. And this must be true when a man attempts to mould with his hands the figure of his thought of God. He cannot imprison in gold, or silver, or clay, or wood, his whole thought. And he himself remains a nobler being than the god he creates; and so the god should worship him, and not he the god.
II. MAN'S BEST THOUGHT MUST BE INFERIOR TO DEITY. This is true of the best man's best thought. But what guarantee can we have that the idol-maker is a best man, and that best man at his best? Grant that the primary creations of Baal or Vishnu were the best conceptions of best men, still we face the fact, that, necessarily, the conception was short of the reality. No man by searching can find out God; and no man by imagining can find him out so as to represent him. Then this follows: God himself must give to men the earth-pattern of himself. He has done it. But the earth-pattern is no thing, no likeness of any thing in heaven and earth and sea. It is the living Being, the "Man Christ Jesus," "express Image of his Person." - R.T.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
Babylon was a land in which life was overshadowed by a vast idolatry. What this idolatry was, we may see, in part, by a visit to the British Museum. There are to be seen at this hour figures and inscriptions which might well have been gazed on by the writers of this very psalm, and which show how the Baal worship which, in its different forms, prevailed from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, was the most striking feature of the life of the Imperial race that had conquered Palestine. To this hour, the ruins of what was the great Temple of Belus within the city, and of the Temple of Nimrod without the city, show how powerfully this idolatry must have addressed itself to the senses of the people. And the same conclusion is warranted by the anxious warnings of Isaiah in anticipation of the captivity, and by the language of the later psalmists who wrote in Babylon. Isaiah describes with a fine and indignant irony how in Babylon, too, the smith with the tongs, and the carpenter with his rule, would combine to make an idol according to the beauty of a man, and how worship would be paid to what was, in reality, only the stock of a tree. And the psalmist of the later epoch was, we can hardly doubt, inspired to write at the sight of the splendid images in the Babylonian temples, and notably, perhaps, by that of the golden image of Belus. "Their idols are silver and gold," etc.
). It was this idolatry which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego resisted at the risk of their lives, and at which Daniel struck a deadly blow when, according to the Alexandrian account — till lately read in our churches, and undoubtedly embodying a germ of substantial history — he exposed on a great scale the fraud of the priest of Baal and destroyed his image.
Eyes have they, but they see not
The rich and varied gifts, the pure exalted pleasures, which the eyes of the body are intended to minister to man, are marred by want of sympathetic observation even more than by want of knowledge. Two boys went out one summer's day, each alone, to spend a holiday in the fields. I have forgotten every detail of the story, but whatever the story was, it is easy to imagine what it might have been. The one boy came back in discontent. He had seen nothing, done nothing. He was tired; he had wasted the holiday. The other came back full of delight. He had watched the cattle and the fishes and the birds. He had noted the flowers and the hedgerows and the corn. They had spoken to him with voices which — though he knew it not — his spirit heard. They had told him — though he felt it only, understood it not — they had told him of the marvels of their nature, of their fitness for their appointed place, of the ever fresh beauties which man could see in them, if he would but enable the eyes of his body with the spirit of thankfulness and love. You have this contrast, thus drawn, set before you every day in many ways. I suppose that no one here would wish to live a merely material — animal — life, a life of the body only; to spend his time in securing the largest amount of pleasure — harmless pleasure if you will — for the delight or solace of his bodily senses; to feel more and more sad, as the years run on past middle life, that one sense and another is become less keen, is capable of less pleasure; to watch the sands of life running out apace, with no sense of compensation, no quiet conviction that as one transient pleasure after another becomes less bright or passes away, the place of each is taken — is taken and more than filled — by consolations of no transient kind, by blessings that make their abiding home with him. We must, if we would avoid a growing discontent, we must live the inner — the Spiritual — life too. The eye of the spirit must be an eye that sees. The life of the spirit must be a real life. Not a life apart from that of the body, but a life spiritualizing and etherealizing the bodily life. To teach the eye of the body to see in the higher sense, to observe, to interpret, to enjoy, to minister to the intellectual capacity of man, and be in turn quickened and brightened by man's intellect, we educate the man; working in faith and hope; not discouraged by the many discouragements; sure that it cannot but be right that man should learn to know. How shall we treat the eye of the spirit? how shall we help it to see? how give it insight? I speak not now of what our holy religion may do; for the moment I am not referring to the realms of grace. That which the spirit of man most needs, for its full play and development, is just that which in this hurrying age is ever more and more difficult to obtain, — rest and quiet, time and place for contemplation. This is no idea specially of the Christian revelation; it is common to all ages and all peoples; it is the natural demand of the spirit of man. We have all of us probably seen and noted the highest oriental ideal of spiritual isolation from things and thoughts of the world, — a seated figure with inscrutable face, the eyes for ever cast down, gazing endlessly into the palm of the hand. This was one of the ideas connected with the prophet of old times. He sat apart in rapt contemplation; the things of the world and of the flesh shut out from his sight; his eyes fixed steadily on some unmoving thing; the spiritual element ever growing in relative importance, and at last overpowering the material and dominating the whole man. And then there welled up within him, from some spiritual source, some inspiration, the thoughts and the words that were to frame and to form his prophetic utterance; and he poured forth dark sayings, or declared, as one inspired, the will of God. But need I really go further than the experience of each one of you, to find evidence of the power of contemplation on the spirit, the need of it, if we would have a spiritual sense, a spiritual insight? You know of what extreme importance it is, if you have any serious matter in hand, to put yourself in the right frame of mind to consider it duly and make a wise resolve. How often it happens that you cannot shut out the disturbing presence of other things. You know that for this special purpose you ought to isolate yourself, to be clear of confusing voices, confusing thoughts. And what you have to make your resolve about is coming on so rapidly; a resolve will be forced upon you so soon; there is such a sense of rush and hurry; you cannot properly decide the matter without previous quiet thought and communing, and quiet thought you cannot get. You feel this in matters of business; you feel it in difficult moral questions; you feel it in many a decision, which circumstances force upon you, in your relations with those who are of your bone and of your flesh. You feel it whenever you think of yourself in your higher relations, as a spiritual existence, as having duties beyond the realms of sense, as being under some conscious obligation to be guided in your walk through life by aims which shall of themselves ennoble your endeavours, by principles which are of eternal truth and justice.
TopicsGold, Hands, Idols, Images, Man's, Men's, Silver
Outline1. Because God is truly glorious
4. And idols are vanity
9. He exhorts to confidence in God
12. God is to be blessed for his blessing
Dictionary of Bible ThemesPsalm 115:4
1080 God, living
8780 materialism, and sin
8023 faith, necessity
8748 false religion
"And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered abroad. Howbeit, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee. But Peter said unto Him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, that thou today, even this night, before the cock crow twice, shalt deny me thrice. But he spake exceeding …
G. A. Chadwick—The Gospel of St. Mark
Letter xxxiv. To Marcella.
In reply to a request from Marcella for information concerning two phrases in Ps. cxxvii. ("bread of sorrow," v. 2, and "children of the shaken off," A.V. "of the youth," v. 4). Jerome, after lamenting that Origen's notes on the psalm are no longer extant, gives the following explanations: The Hebrew phrase "bread of sorrow" is rendered by the LXX. "bread of idols"; by Aquila, "bread of troubles"; by Symmachus, "bread of misery." Theodotion follows the LXX. So does Origen's Fifth Version. The Sixth …
St. Jerome—The Principal Works of St. Jerome
FAITH. FAITH! Peter saith, faith, in the very trial of it, is much more precious than gold that perisheth. If so, what is the worth or value that is in the grace itself? Faith is so great an artist in arguing and reasoning with the soul, that it will bring over the hardest heart that it hath to deal with. It will bring to my remembrance at once, both my vileness against God, and his goodness towards me; it will show me, that though I deserve not to breathe in the air, yet God will have me an heir …
John Bunyan—The Riches of Bunyan
Impiety of Attributing a visible Form to God. --The Setting up of Idols a Defection from the True God.
1. God is opposed to idols, that all may know he is the only fit witness to himself. He expressly forbids any attempt to represent him by a bodily shape. 2. Reasons for this prohibition from Moses, Isaiah, and Paul. The complaint of a heathen. It should put the worshipers of idols to shame. 3. Consideration of an objection taken from various passages in Moses. The Cherubim and Seraphim show that images are not fit to represent divine mysteries. The Cherubim belonged to the tutelage of the Law. 4. …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Stedfastness in the Old Paths.
"Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."--Jer. vi. 16. Reverence for the old paths is a chief Christian duty. We look to the future indeed with hope; yet this need not stand in the way of our dwelling on the past days of the Church with affection and deference. This is the feeling of our own Church, as continually expressed in the Prayer Book;--not to slight what has gone before, …
John Henry Newman—Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. VII
Messiah Derided Upon the Cross
All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. F allen man, though alienated from the life of God, and degraded with respect to many of his propensities and pursuits, to a level with the beasts that perish, is not wholly destitute of kind and compassionate feelings towards his fellow-creatures. While self-interest does not interfere, and the bitter passions …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1
Triumph Over Death and the Grave
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. T he Christian soldier may with the greatest propriety, be said to war a good warfare (I Timothy 1:18) . He is engaged in a good cause. He fights under the eye of the Captain of his salvation. Though he be weak in himself, and though his enemies are many and mighty, he may do that which in other soldiers …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2
Divine Support and Protection
[What shall we say then to these things?] If God be for us, who can be against us? T he passions of joy or grief, of admiration or gratitude, are moderate when we are able to find words which fully describe their emotions. When they rise very high, language is too faint to express them; and the person is either lost in silence, or feels something which, after his most laboured efforts, is too big for utterance. We may often observe the Apostle Paul under this difficulty, when attempting to excite …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2
The Last Supper
189. On Thursday Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem for the last time. Knowing the temper of the leaders, and the danger of arrest at any time, Jesus was particularly eager to eat the Passover with his disciples (Luke xxii. 15), and he sent two of them--Luke names them as Peter and John--to prepare for the supper. In a way which would give no information to such a one as Judas, he directed them carefully how to find the house where a friend would provide them the upper room that was needed …
Rush Rhees—The Life of Jesus of Nazareth
The piety of the Old Testament Church is reflected with more clearness and variety in the Psalter than in any other book of the Old Testament. It constitutes the response of the Church to the divine demands of prophecy, and, in a less degree, of law; or, rather, it expresses those emotions and aspirations of the universal heart which lie deeper than any formal demand. It is the speech of the soul face to face with God. Its words are as simple and unaffected as human words can be, for it is the genius …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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