I was a gangly 16-year-old when our large church got a new pastor, J. L. McQueen. As I exited the sanctuary, he asked my name and I told him.
Several Sundays later I headed out a different door, and there was the new pastor. Several hundred other young people were in the church; I knew he wouldn’t remember my name. With a friendly voice and firm grip, he shook my hand and said, “Hi, George.”
How did he remember my name? I asked myself, and then I asked my friends. They all reported the same experience. Pastor McQueen remembered everybody’s name.
Almost 30 years went by. I was back in the church of my teen years for a homecoming. Pastor, now retired, had come back. After his sermon that morning, I watched an old couple with walkers edge their way through the crowd to greet him.
The little old man lifted his bent head and in a quavering voice said, “Pastor, you probably don’t remember us . . .”
Before he could say another word, Pastor McQueen folded them both into his long arms and endearingly said, “Oh, Bill and Mary, how could I ever forget you?”
The way Pastor related to Bill and Mary—that he had not forgotten them—is how Psalm 115 tells us God relates to us.
The taunts and doubts
The first eight verses of the psalm respond directly to the question, “Where is your God?” (v. 2), as though God has forgotten His people.
That question doesn’t faze you when everything’s going well. It does bother when you are in distress and need, vulnerable and seemingly powerless. You may feel the Lord is not doing much for you. You suffer the same outrageous blows of misfortune and fate as those who do not know or love Him.
The enemies of Israel evidently have a momentary upper hand as this psalm was written and are taunting Israel about its loyalty to an unseen God. Buttressed by the security of gods (idols) they could see, they throw the insinuation, “If you are so sure God loves you, why are you suffering? Why doesn’t your God make himself visible?”
This third of the Hallel (praise) psalms, which in all likelihood Jesus sang in the Upper Room before He went to Gethsemane, makes this powerful answer: “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (v. 3). Is it any wonder, that fresh from reciting this psalm, Jesus was able to say yes to “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10)?
The Psalmist turns the argument of his enemies against them by saying, in effect, “So you want me to serve visible gods? Well, why don’t you take a closer look? My God, who is unseen, is alive. Your gods, which you can see, are dead!” (vv. 4–8).
Trust and blessing
From verse 9 to the conclusion, this psalm calls upon you to deepen your walk with God by depending wholly upon Him.
Do you need assistance or protection? Whether you are an ordinary believer (“house of Israel”) or a priest (“house of Aaron”), three successive verses remind you He is your help and shield (vv. 9–11).
The Lord never forgets you—He is committed to blessing you (v. 12). Whether you are well-known or unknown, you have His favor when you reverence Him (v. 13).
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus could have read into the events of that evening the idea that the Father had abandoned Him. However, our Lord did not take His cue from the external but from the Eternal.
The blessed person does not shrink or shrivel away (vv. 14,15). The Cross did not diminish Jesus. He emerged from death, himself blessed and blessing us with the gift of eternal life. Likewise, God wants you to emerge from taunts and doubts with such strength you will be a marvelous resource and encouragement to others.
The highest heavens belong to Him (v. 16), but your feet are still on earth. If the dead don’t praise Him (v. 17), then you establish the fact you are alive by extolling Him “now and forevermore” (v. 18).