Greater than… lesser gods

Psalm 115:1-11

In the Latin, Psalm 115:1 read, “non nobis Domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam.” “Not to us, oh Lord. Not to us, but to your name give glory.”

In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare retold thevictory on the field of Agincourt, and the great bard penned the King saying, “Let there be sung non nobis and te deum.”And the soldiers, as they collect the bodies of their wounded comrades begin to sing, “Non nobis domine” — not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory.

Years later, after William Wilberforce who had tirelessly toiled in the House of Commons to finally gain passage of the law abolishing the slave trade, quietly retired to his room and meditate, because he was blinded. Despite all his human accomplishments for the abolition of, in solitude, he would meditate on Psalm 115. “Not to us, O Lord, but to Your name give glory.” You’ve done this Lord. I’ve spent my life battling this, but You’ve done this, Lord. 

The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. That is why we exist: to glorify God.

The glory of God is the infinite beauty and greatness of God’s manifold perfections. God is glorified when He is given the proper place in your life, and everything else is given second place. God is glorified when we allow Him to exercise His control over every area of our life. Listen, anything that robs God of His rightful rulership over your life is an idol. When God is made greater than anything, He is glorified. When anything else takes priority over God it is idolatry.

The Psalm for our consideration, in my opinion, is not penned during a time of military victory, or personal victory. Quite the contrary. The context of the Psalm seems to indicate that it was penned during a time of persecution. Look at verse 2. “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” It seems that this is a time of national persecution. The sneering enemies of God jeer against the Israelites. “Where is your God? Is He asleep? Did he forsake you? Where is your God? Why are you in such a mess? Why are you suffering so?” 

It’s as if the army hoard of the unholy are gathered outside the city walls of the People of God hurling and heaping hateful allegations against them. “Where is your God? We know where our gods are! We hold them in our hands. We hide them in our tents! Where is your God? Show us! We want to see!” And it’s as if they are beating their drums, crashing their swords against their own shields, raising the guttural war-cries in their throats. “Where is your God?” The war-horses stomp their feet, working themselves into a sweaty lather. The trumpets blast, the horns blare. “Victory will be ours, for our gods are here and yours have abandoned you. Where is your God?”

And before there is military victory, before there is personal victory, the Psalmist has a spiritual victory, for he realizes with holy regard the rightful residence of the God who reigns. And above the din and the noise of the battlefield, he cries out, “Our God is in the heavens; He does what He pleases.”

Before a single arrow pierces the sky, before a single sword slashes through the air, before the siege is broken, before blood is shed, there is victory. When God is elevated and enthroned to His rightful place, and there is a recognition of His sovereignty and His beauty, there is victory! “Not to us (it’s not about us) O LORD (it’s about you), not to us (it’s not for us) O LORD, it’s all for you.” God is in the heavens (that’s His place). He does what He wants (that’s His power.)

It’s as if the Psalmist is standing on the walls of the city listening to the cackles and cries of the army hoard below, “Where is your God?” and he simply cannot contain himself. “He’s in heaven. He does what He wants.” 

The greatest enemy that you face is not the armies that gather against you, it’s not the arrows that seek to destroy you, it’s not the siege that comes against you, or the war that rages all around you. The greatest danger you face in your life is elevating the lesser things to the greatest thing, and subjugating the greatest thing to a lesser thing. It is putting your trust, your faith, your hope in the lesser things and not the greater things. 

“God is in the heavens. He does what He pleases!” Because of the infinite beauty and endless perfections of God, I can give you a phrase that will radically transform your thinking. “God is greater than…” You can finish that phrase with any word know to man. There is not a word spoken on the tongue of any man, in any culture or any civilization, of any time or any tribe, in any setting or any situation that will not fit in the equation. “God is greater than…” You give glory to God when you allow this phrase to be the anthem of your life. 

Now the converse is true is well. There is not a word spoken in any tongue of any man, in any culture or any civilization, of any time or any tribe, in any setting or any situation can reverse the equation. You can never, ever, never say, “_________ is greater than God.” Any word you insert in the blank is idolatry. I am greater than God. (Idolatry) Pleasure is greater than God. (Idolatry.) Fame, fortune, sports, school, the environment… All of that is idolatry, the worshipping of a lesser God.

And now, it’s as if the Psalmist turns to the cowering crowds behind the wall and begins to systematically destroy chasing after lesser gods and forsaking the true God. It’s as if he turns to them to remind them that although things were not going the way they would all like it to, God was still greater. He was greater than their circumstances. He was greater than the situation. He was greater than the hoards outside the walls. He was greater than their miniature statues which they clutched to as their gods.

Look how the living God of heaven, who does what he pleases, is greater…

  1. Notice the frailty of the lesser gods

Verse 4 says, “their idols (little gods) are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

Surely, there is earthly value in silver and gold. It’s expensive. Truly, there can be found beauty in expert craftsmanship. It’s exquisite. But brothers and sisters, though it is expensive and exquisite, it is not eternal!

Here is the contrast. The lesser gods of the world are fashioned from gold and silver and formed by human hands, but where did they come from? They came from the eternal God who is seated in the heavenlies Who opened His mouth and said, “let there be…” and there was gold, “let there be…” and there was silver. They are frail. They once were not, and one day will not be any longer. This same God, this greater God, He reached down with His own hands and formed man. The true and living God took the dust of the earth and made man, and then breathed the breath of heaven into his lungs. God is greater! 

  • He is greater than anything that man has found. 
  • He is greater than anything man has formed. 
  • He is greater than anything that man has fashioned.
  • He is greater than man! He is God, not made by man, but God who made man!
  • Notice the futility of the lesser gods

Not only are the lesser gods frail, they are also futile. Useless. Pointless. Ineffective. Ineffectual. Fruitless. Lifeless. Helpless.

Mouths that cannot speak(v. 5) “They have mouths, but do not speak…”

The lesser gods have a mouth, but no language, but the true God, the greater God is utterly inexpressible by man. No tongue can fully express His majesty. No words can fully express His beauty. No language can fully express His glory.

The lesser gods have a mouth, but no words. But the greater God spoke the world into being.

The lesser gods have a mouth, but no language. But the greater God has spoken through Creation (the world), spoken through revelation (the written Word of God), and spoken through the Incarnation (the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.) Our God is greater.

Eyes that cannot see (v. 5) The lesser gods have “eyes, but do not see.”

There is no light in their eyes, but God is the Light of the World. The lesser gods see nothing, but the God sees everything. The idols eyes do not move, but the eyes of God move to and fro across the land. His eyes are on the sparrow, so I know, He’s watching me!

Ears that cannot sense (v. 6)“Ears, but cannot hear…”

An idol has never heard a prayer, never heard a plea, never heard a petition, never heard a person. But not our great God.

  • He hears the wails of the worried and works on their behalf.
  • He hears the pleas of the penitent and pardons their sins.
  • He hears the moans of the mourning and moves to comfort them.
  • He hears the tear-filled cries of the terrified and tells them “I am with Thee.”
  • He hears the petitions of His people and provides for their needs.
  • He hears the praise of His people. He hears the song of the saints. He hears the thanksgiving of the thankful. He hears the rich and mighty, the lowly and the downtrodden, the senior and the little child kneeling by their bed. Our God has ears that hear. He is greater!

Noses that cannot smell(v. 6)

The wicked idolaters would worship their false idols by burning incense and sacrifices. They would burn these things in the presence of their idol. But these lesser gods could not smell them one bit. The incense and the sacrifice were burned to satisfy their lesser god. But they have noses and nostrils but no sense of smell. 

But no so with our God. The Scripture says, “the blood of bulls and cows you do not desire, or I would have offered them. But a broken and a contrite heart, you will not despise.” When your life is lived under the Lordship of God it is a sweet incense that is pleasing to His nostrils. Your life stinks. It stinks. It either smells like garbage or smells like God?

Hands/feet that cannot save(v. 7) “They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk.”

The hands and the feet of the lesser gods cannot save. They are still. They are static. They are stationary. They are stuck and their sides and the bottom of their lifeless legs. They cannot move. They cannot help. They cannot deliver. 

But our God is mighty to save. The lesser gods are powerless. Our God is powerful. Our God moves the mountains. Our God calms the sea. Our God speaks peace over the wind and the waves. Our God redeems, restores, remakes, refashions. He is greater than anything. His arms are not too short to save. His feet are not too slow to move. His power is not to weak. Our God saves.

The lesser gods have hands do not feel, but our God felt the nails pierce His hands on your behalf. Our God saves. The lesser gods have feet but do not walk, but our God has feet that walked the dusty road to Calvary, felt the piercing pain of the nail, and when His work was finished, when salvation had been bought and the price for sin had been paid, His feet walked out of the stone-cold tomb bringing victory over sin, death, and the grave. Our God is mighty to save.

Throats that cannot sound(v. 7) The final sign of futility of the lesser gods is that they “have throats that do not make a sound.”

But not so with our God. He speaks over you. He whispers your name in the Father’s ear, He intercedes on your behalf. Our God speaks. He whispers assurance over adversity, peace over your problems, promises over your perplexities, calmness over your consternation, healing over your heartache, compassion over your crying. Our God is greater, for our God speaks.

Where is our God? He is in the heavens. What does He do? He does as He pleases. What is He? Greater! More glorious! But what of those who follow after the lesser gods?

Notice the Folly of those who follow the lesser gods

Look at verse 8. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. When you sacrifice the greater God for the lesser gods you become like them. Mute. Blind. Unable to smell. Deaf. Lame. It’s folly. It’s foolishness. 

Let me be blunt. When you choose to follow lesser gods, when you chose to follow idols, when you choose to elevate anything but God to the highest place in your life, you’re the summary of your life is that you are Mute. Blind. Unable to smell. Deaf. Lame. 

Why? Because when you live your life chasing after lesser gods, you rob God of His glory. You do not reflect His glory. You do not return to Him His glory. Whenever you elevate something that is not God to the place of priority in your life, not only do you create a frail idol, you live a foolish life.  When God is not the greatest thing in your life, you fill the void created by vacating God from the throne of your life by installing yourself as a god. You kick God off the throne of your life, and you sit where He belongs.

You glorify a lesser god when you seek satisfaction in self.You have deluded yourselves into thinking “unto us, O Lord, unto us and not unto you belongs the glory.” This is folly. This is foolishness. When you fashion a idol of self you deceive yourself and think that your way is the best way, your comfort is preeminent, your experiences are the priority. It is the lie of the “I.” I think…I want…I feel…I desire… It’s folly. It’s foolishness.

You glorify a lesser god when you seek satisfaction in stuff. Some of us think if we can just have that next new thing, that new phone, that new car, that bigger house, the latest styles, then we will be valuable. Nothing will ever be enough until Jesus is enough. Nothing will ever suffice until you recognize the sufficiency of God. Nothing will ever be enough until God is enough. When God is your everything you don’t need anything.

You glorify a lesser god when you seek satisfaction in sin. It is so easy to make an idol of our sin. We think if we can just have that next buzz, that next experience, that next escape, that next pleasure, then life will have value. You will never be satisfied until you are satisfied with God.But when we get to the bottom of the bottle, we mourn that there is no more. When we empty the needle, we find ourselves needing more. When the romantic experience ends, we find ourselves really empty.

The idols of self, stuff, and sin will never satisfy. 

  • Don’t get your satisfaction from what you do. 
  • Don’t get your satisfaction from what you have. 
  • Don’t get your satisfaction from what you feel. 
  • Be satisfied with God.

For He is greater than

  • Your failures
  • Your disappointments
  • Your doubts
  • Your hurts
  • Your guilt
  • Your sin
  • Your brokenness
  • Your sickness
  • Your feelings

He is greater than all the gods made by man. So be satisfied. Glorify Him


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