This psalm is untitled, and it is truly a curious composition—it is a scriptural mosaic. Most of this psalm is laid together like tiles from other portions of Scripture. One scholar has said that “every verse in this Psalm either echoes, quotes or is quoted in some other part of Scripture.” Consider verse 5 (Ex. 18:11), verse 7 (Jer. 10:13), vv. 15-18 (almost verbatim with Ps. 115:4-8), verse 13 (Ex. 3:15), verse 14 (Dt. 32:26), and more. This psalm is a collage from other places which then stands alone in its own right.
“Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the name of the LORD; Praise him, O ye servants of the LORD. Ye that stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God, praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: Sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant. For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure . . .” (Psalm 135:1–21).
Summary of the Text
The first portion of this psalm is a series of exhortations to praise God, with various reasons for this praise being given (vv. 1-14). The following section is a condemnation of idols and idolatry (vv. 15-18). The last section returns to the praise of Yahweh (vv. 19-21).
Those who serve God in the house of the Lord are charged to praise Him, as He is good, and it is pleasant to praise Him (vv. 1-3). God should be praised because He chose Jacob for Himself, and placed Israel in His own jewelry box (v. 4). God is to be praised because no other god compares to Him (v. 5). He is no effeminate god—He does whatever he pleases anywhere (v. 6). He is no effeminate god; He takes the initiative. He is the God of evaporation, lightning, and wind (v. 7). But He is also a political God—He is the one who struck the firstborn of Egypt, man and beast alike (v. 8). He not only threw down Egypt, but also sent tokens and wonders to Pharaoh (v. 9). He destroyed great Canaanite nations, and gave that land to Israel (vv. 10-12). God’s name is forever, and He will turn back from destroying His own people (vv. 13-14).
Idolatry is nothing but wind and vanity, the service and worship of tatterdemalion gods. Heathen idols are fashioned out of metal by men (v. 15). Despite their carved mouths, eyes, ears, and mouths, they are dumb, blind, deaf, and lifeless (vv. 16-17). Those who make them are just like them—deaf, dumb, blind, and lifeless (v. 18). Those who trust them are the same. These gods are just a bundle of infirmities—these gods get to park in the handicapped spots.
And then absolutely everyone who is associated with the Zion of God is summoned to gather around, in order to bless the Lord (vv. 19-21). Two sets of imperatives are the pieces of bread for this sandwich (vv. 1-3; 19-21), along with another imperative in v. 13. The rest is made of examples having to do with why we should praise Him.
Whatever He Pleases
What does God do? In this psalm we are told that God does whatever He pleases, wherever He pleases. That applies absolutely everywhere. In verse 6, we are told that the Lord does whatever He pleases in Heaven, in earth, in the seas, and down in all the deep places. This is the teaching of Scripture throughout all Scripture.
Nebuchadnezzar knew this was true (Dan. 4:35). Solomon knew that it was true (Prov. 16:33). Isaiah vaunted over the false gods over just this point (Is. 41:23). The apostle Paul exulted in the truth of it (Eph. 1:11). He works out all things according to the counsel of His own will. God works out everything in accordance with His divine purpose, and His purposes are not arbitrary, capricious, or conducted in fits of pique. This is the sovereign wisdom of a Father.
So pick out a typhoon in the middle of the Pacific, and pick out one particular rain drop in the middle of that typhoon as it hurtles down toward the ocean. God named that rain drop before the foundation of the world, and decreed the precise moment it would hit the ocean surface. He decreed the number of water molecules that it would contain throughout the course of its existence, along with the shape and contours of its surface at every instant. So be of good cheer—you are worth more than many rain drops. What on earth are you worried about? Remember v. 4. Where are you encased? You are contained within God’s jewelry box, chosen to reside there.
The Lord of Evaporation
The world is not governed by natural law. The world is governed by the words of the Lord Jesus—in Him all things hold together (Col. 1:17). He is the one who makes vapors ascend all over the earth (v. 7). He mixes lightning with the rain (v. 7). He has treasuries where He stores the winds, and He brings them out whenever it suits Him.
But whether we are talking about natural processes, or the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires, we are always talking about the activity of the one true Jehovah God.
This is the God who selected Jacob (v. 4), who upended Pharaoh (v. 9), who speaks to the water vapors as they rise (v. 7), who saw to it that Og king of Bashan was thrown down (v. 11), and who chastises His people (v. 14). This is all the same God, the one true God. Nothing that you have seen on the news this week is outside His control. Nothing.
Becoming Like What You Worship
Idolaters shape idols in their own image, and then those idols shape the worshipers into something even more misshapen. We become like what we worship. We see this principle here with regard to idolatry, but it is also the true driver of our sanctification.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:2 (KJV)
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)
Not only is it true that we become like what we are worshiping, it is also the case that whatever it is we are becoming is a true indicator of where our heart worship is. If you have a man who comes to the public worship of the triune God, and every week he sings praises to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he reads Scripture, and he says amen, and he partakes of the bread and wine, but with every passing month he gets angrier at home, and more sullen, and more given to fits of rage, then you may depend upon it—he has a small carved idol hidden in a closet somewhere. Probably some kind of little angry monkey god.