(15) The idols of the nations (are) silver and gold, the work of human hands. (16) They have mouths, but do not speak. They have eyes, but do not see. (17) They have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. (18) Those who make them will become like them, as will all those trusting in them. (19) House of Israel, bless Yahweh! House of Aaron, bless Yahweh! (20) House of Levi, bless Yahweh! You who fear Yahweh, bless Yahweh! (21) Blessed be Yahweh from Zion, the One who dwells in Jerusalem! Hallelujah! (Praise Yahweh!)
Two sentence patterns give a liturgical feel to this final segment of the psalm. First, we encounter repetitions of “they have...but do not” regarding the idols of the nations (three times in vss. 16 & 17). In contrast, the pattern, “House of ______, bless Yahweh!” is repeated (three times in vss. 19 & 20). “Bless” is found five times in the last three verses while Yahweh’s name is mentioned six times. One more word, “mouths,” occurring twice (vss. 16 & 17) receives emphasis.
I. The futility of worshiping man-made, inanimate idols (15-18)
II. The blessing of worshiping Yahweh, the living God (19-21)
The futility of idolatry should motivate those who worship Yahweh to appreciate and praise him all the more.
Despite the prohibition against idolatry in the Ten Commandments, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Ex. 20:4), Israel constantly struggled with the temptation to bow down to statues and images. What made idolatry so attractive to God’s chosen people and what makes it so attractive to idolaters everywhere?
First, idolatry appeals to the senses and the appetites. People are always drawn to what they can see, touch, taste, smell and hear rather than to the worship of the invisible God. Like those enticed by pornography today, Israel was lured by the immediate gratification of the senses that was always associated with idolatry.
More than that the Israelites were powerfully influenced by her pagan neighbors. Call it peer pressure or keeping up with the Joneses, Israel hankered to adopt the idolatrous worship of the Canaanites and other nations nearby. The calling to remain distinctive and provide a testimony to the godless by refusing to participate in their degraded worship practices did not appeal to the Chosen People.
Finally, idols front for demonic powers. For this reason, idolatry can produce immediate results and seeming benefits for those who bow down to them. The satanic forces behind the idols can work quick fixes and perform apparent miracles in areas such as healing, foretelling the future, and protection against enemies or rivals. Like a confidence game, idolatry becomes a snare by promising great benefits while actually enslaving those who are lured into its clutches.
Paul warned the believers in Ephesus: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God” (Eph. 6:12 & 13). All of us need our eyes opened to the dangers of idolatry. If we knew that our enemy and his demonic hosts are always seeking to enslave us and neutralize our spiritual effectiveness, wouldn't we seek to do everything in our power to avoid anything that even hints of turning away from our commitment to the living God?