From Chris Dodds
Psalm 115: Psalm 115 and 116 both end with an exhortation to praise the Lord! What is the basis for this praise? In Psalm 115, the Psalmist is emphatic that YHWH’s name is to receive glory because of his faithful, covenant love (v1). Even in a time of distress, when the nations are mocking and asking Israel where their god is, the Psalmist’s testimony to YHWH’s faithfulness is loud and clear - He is in heaven and all power lies with him (v3). Verses 3-8 acts as satire against the created gods of the gentiles. They may have a visible icon to worship but they are worshipping human-made, dead gods who can’t do anything, and those who worship them will become dead, just like them. The people of the covenant however, are to put their trust in the one who is their help and shield, who remembers his promises to them, and will bless them in keeping with his covenant. Their faith is not to be in a god who has been made by human hands, but in the God who is maker of the heavens and earth (v15). Praise the Lord! (v18).
Psalm 116: The exhortation to praise the Lord in this psalm is because YHWH is the God who saves. In the snares of death the Psalmist cried out to YHWH and was saved. The God of the covenant has heard his cries, been gracious and rescued him. On second reading, two things jumped out: Firstly, as the Psalmist remembers God’s faithfulness that he experienced in the past, and now he tells his soul to return to that rest (v7). It’s easy to become stressed as life situations take their toll on us, but remembering the God who has rescued in the past allows us to also rest in the present. Secondly, as the saving work of YHWH is remembered, the thanksgiving moves to an all of life response. The emotional plea of the psalmist for God to save - O Lord, deliver my soul (v4) becomes an equally emotional vow to serve and worship the God who has saved - O Lord, I am your servant (v16). Praise the Lord! (v19).
Isaiah 58:1-14: Isaiah calls out the difference between true and false worship. The charge against God's people is that they took pleasure in knowing his ways and in keeping fasts as though they were doing what was righteous, but in reality, all their deeds were filled with unrighteousness. The fast was therefore an exercise in self-deception and delusion, oppression and fighting (vv1-4) instead of what the Lord desires - the release of wickedness and oppression, and justice for the poor (vv5-7). It was only in the release of oppression and in seeking justice that the light would appear like the dawn and that recovery would come. If you’ve been praying morning prayer from our prayer book, you’ll recognize in the prayer of Zechariah that it is in Jesus that true righteousness comes and through him that the light enters darkness and the sunrise visits us from on high (Luke 1:78-79).