Psalms for Troubled Times – Psalm 115b

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Trust in the LORD

These words repeated thrice at the beginning of the final section of the psalm (v9-11), must have been a great boon of strength for the Lord Jesus as He made His way from the upper room and out to Gethsemane. The reason given, and also repeated thrice, is that ‘He is their help and their shield’

‘O Israel, trust thou 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. Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.’ (v9-11)

It is interesting to note the names. Israel is the name of Jacob’s higher calling – ‘as a prince’ (Gen 32:28), whereas ‘the house of Aaron’ refers to those born into priestly service. In both of these cases the individual was passive, but the last category concerns our active, personal and humble response to what God has made us.

These categories apply to us just as much today, for we think of the words of Peter: ‘Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9).

And as Peter goes on to say that ‘if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God’ (2:20), so the psalmist calls us to keep trusting in the LORD as the days get darker, the oppression grows, and the afflictions intensify.

The reason is that the LORD is our ‘help’ and ‘shield’. We have confidence that ‘God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tested above that ye are able; but will with the testing also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it’ (1 Cor 10:13).

Blessed by the LORD

We saw yesterday that we are brought through these trials ‘according to the good pleasure of His will’ (Eph 1:5), and this psalm reminds us that it is all for our ultimate blessing.

‘The LORD hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth.’ (Psa 115:12-15)

We note the same three-fold structure as used in verses 9-11 is repeated. However, what is more interesting is the added material here.

Particularly, I want to focus in on the phrase ‘shall increase you more and more’, which in Hebrew is one word: ‘Joseph’.

How beautifully Joseph’s life illustrates this psalm. Aside from his father, who loved him greatly, he was oppressed by all and for years suffered great affliction.

Yet, through it all, he continually trusted in the LORD, and knew the blessing of the LORD ‘with him’. This was seen in that ‘the LORD made all that he did to prosper’ (Gen 39:3). His affliction was not removed immediately, but in little ways the LORD made Joseph to ‘increase more and more’, until he was eventually raised up to rule over Egypt.

Later, we see this blessing continuing to his children. To Joseph, who had everything taken from him by his brethren, the LORD grants a double portion of the inheritance, through his sons Ephraim & Manasseh. Indeed, it was under the leadership of Joshua, an Ephraimite, that the whole nation came into that inheritance – though not completely.

It is of this that the writer to the Hebrews makes reference: ‘For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God’ (Hebs 4:8,9).

[The Jesus referred to here is Joshua, for the name ‘Jesus’ comes from the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Joshua’, both meaning ‘Yahweh saves’. The reason the writer to the Hebrews uses the Greek form ‘Jesus’ when referring to ‘Joshua’, is because he was using the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) as his source material.]

This brings us neatly back to where we started, meditating upon our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom both Joseph and Joshua are types, as He sung this psalm on the night He was betrayed.

How He would have been strengthened to remember the path Joseph trod? For as He walked obediently into the lion’s mouth, the Hebrew writer tells us it was the thought of the blessing that would ensue, the exaltation to glory, and ‘the joy that was set before Him‘, that He ‘endured the cross, despising the shame’. Now He ‘is set down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Hebs 12:2).

Now, as the greater Joshua, Christ says to us: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matt 11:28).

This is the place of our inheritance, and the Lord brings us into this ‘rest’ that He may ‘increase (us) more and more’, for consider His words: ‘He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing’ (John 15:5).

In response, we close the same way the psalmist does, and determine that ‘we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.’ (Psa 115:18)

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