Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.Psalms 115
Non Nobis Domine was the battle-song of the heroic John Sobieski, King of Poland, 12 September, 1683, when he marched down from the heights of Kalenberg, and defeated the immense army of the Turks which was besieging Vienna, and had reduced it to the last extremity. It was a turning-point in history, the final great Eastern invasion which has thundered at that gate of Europe; and ever since, the Turkish power and Mohammedan faith have been on the wane. There was indescribable enthusiasm as the Psalm was sung, 'Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased'.
True Knowledge Through Spiritual Insight
The heathen, with his idol gods about him, has challenged the champion of a spiritual religion to show him his God. The answer was simple and complete, though not, we may be sure, convincing to the opponent. It was this: 'As for our God, He is in heaven'. To have eyes, and yet not see, in body and in spirit, that and some of the several stages of it are the points which I ask you to consider.
I. Let me take first the eyes of the body, and illustrate my meaning, as to their seeing or not seeing, by one or two examples.
(a) You have seen a ray of light caught by a prism by some skilful operator, and thrown on to a surface carefully prepared to receive it. But striking and suggestive and beautiful as what you see is, you do not see all that is there. The human eye is not so arranged as to see it all. That is a case in which the eye of the body is unable to see that which science shows to be there.
(b) You stand before some monument of ages long gone by. Its surface bears the marks of time, and to the untrained eye shows nothing but irregular depressions. But the trained eye sees in one or another of the depressions the last lingering trace of what a thousand years ago was part of a letter, and sends to the brain the information which determines of what race they were who raised the monument.
(c) The rich and varied gifts, the pure exalted pleasures which the eyes of the body are intended to minister to man, are marred by want of sympathetic observation even more than by want of Knowledge. The unlearned, unlettered man will often read through the bodily eye in nature, and in his whole environment, lessons fair and touching, lessons far beyond the reach of that saddest product of this or any age—the man with well-trained head, and richly garnered mind and memory, and empty heart.
II. But none of us would long be satisfied with the life of the body alone, lived ever so well and worthily. We must, if we would avoid a growing discontent, live the inner, the spiritual life too. The eye of the spirit must be an eye that sees. How shall we help it to see? That which the spirit of man most needs, for its full play and development, is just that which in this hurrying age is ever more and more difficult to obtain—rest and quiet, time and place for contemplation.
III. If the eye of the spirit is by care and contemplation trained to see spiritual verity, to range as freely and keenly over the realms of the unseen as the eye of the body over the works of nature and of art, what shall it, in its furthest flight, its keenest insight, what shall it see? the eye of the spirit cannot but travel far, whatever and however the man believes. For the man who believes, ask him what in the end his inner eye can see. He tells you—they are his own words—'I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God'.
—Bishop G. F. Browne, Cambridge Sermons, p. 52.
St. John of the Cross explains this text as follows: 'He who loves the creature, remains as low as that creature, and in a certain sense even lower, because love makes the lover not only equal, but subject to the object of his affection'.
References.—CXV.—International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 392. CXVI. 7.—W. P. J. Bingham, Sermons on Easter Subjects, p. 119. CXVI. 9.—J. Baines, Twenty Sermons, p. 163.
Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?
But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.
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.
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.
The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.
The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.
But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.