If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Psalm 146, the first of the final hallelujahs of the Psalter. These psalms supply us with the substance of the praise that we will be giving to God forever. In that day, when we stand before Him for the first time to begin never-ending worship, none of us will say, “Lord, I wish the preacher had told me more about how to make money. Lord, I wish the preacher had told me more about how to be successful in this world.” But we’ll never ever regret every syllable we've learned about how to praise God, because we’ll be doing that forever. And the psalmist is so kind to end the Psalter preparing us for something that will never end — the praise of God.
So let's look to Him in prayer before we read and hear Psalm 146.
Our heavenly Father, to end Your day with Your people in Your praise and in Your Word is a blessing not to be taken for granted. Not only is it something in this our world and culture that is sadly becoming rarer and rarer, it is a unique blessing and privilege even as we've just heard in the children's message tonight that the blessing of worship and fellowship and rest is something that You prepared for us not because You needed it but because we needed it. So we ask, O God, that we would delight in Your Word and that You would speak to us into the deep places of our hearts about Your praise and about Yourself so that we can, with the resolve of the psalmist say, “While I am, I praise.” We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it in Psalm 146:
“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
In this psalm, we are called to the activity of the praise of God and we are called to the preoccupation with God Himself and we are called to a resolution to engage in the worship of God, and I'd like you to see four things tonight as we consider this psalm.
A CALL FOR ALL TO WORSHIP THE LORD
The first thing is this, and you’ll see it in verse 1. The psalmist here, calls all of us and each of us to worship the Lord in this psalm. The psalmist calls all of us and each of us to worship the Lord. Notice his words, “Praise the LORD!” — that's plural — “Praise the LORD, O my soul!” And so along with that plural call for all of us to praise the Lord there is an exhortation for our souls individually to give themselves to the Lord in praise. Who knew, that when you were a little child in Vacation Bible School or in Sunday school singing, “Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah! Praise, ye the Lord!” that you were being instructed that hallelujah was a plural exhortation. Praise ye — or in southern — praise y’all, the Lord. All of us are called to give the Lord praise and yet the psalmist says, “Praise the LORD, O my soul,” as well. There must be public and private, corporate and individual praise, in the people of God. And we need one another to give the Lord the glory due His name and we're called each one of us to give to the Lord the praise that belongs to Him. We need both. We need both. It's not enough to worship the Lord in private. We’re called to worship Him in public. It's not enough to worship the Lord individually. We’re called to worship Him together. And in the very opening exhortation of this psalm, the psalmist calls all of us and each of us to worship the Lord.
RESOLVE TO WORSHIP GOD
But then you’ll see again in verse 2 another word here. The psalmist gives us an example of resolving to worship. “I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” The psalmist is saying here, “I intend to praise the Lord as long as I live. I mean to praise the Lord as long as there is breath in me. As long as I am, I will praise. While I am, I will praise God.” It's a resolution; it's an expression of determination to praise God. And that's important. We just sang, as we were singing Psalm 146 in Lowell Mason's wonderful rendering about this same resolve to praise. And there are situations in life where it requires resolve to praise God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had a choice to make — were they going to worship the king or were they going to worship God? It took resolve for them to worship God.
Habakkuk, when he saw the destruction that was going to be wrought upon God's people, had to resolve to worship God. Take a look at the end of Habakkuk chapter 3 and notice that those words of resolve — let's look at them — that those words of resolve are taken and they are given to the choir director. In Habakkuk chapter 3 after the Lord has shown the destruction that He's going to bring upon Israel, Habakkuk prays a prayer that is set to music. And if you look in the very final verse at the end of verse 19, it is “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”
This is to be sung. And here's what he says in verse 17:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer's; He makes me tread on my high places.”
And all of us are in situations like that in life where it takes resolve to worship the Lord, where the circumstances in life do nothing to encourage us to worship Him, they do nothing to encourage us to rejoice in Him, they do nothing to encourage us to trust in Him and to praise Him and it requires resolve to do that. And so the psalmist exhorts us. “I will praise the LORD as long as I live. I mean to praise Him. I mean to praise Him. I intend to praise Him. I am determined to praise Him. I will praise Him no matter what, and as long as there is a breath left in me I will be praising God.” Can you worship the Lord with all your might? Have you resolve to praise Him like that? The psalmist is encouraging us by giving us an example of resolving to worship God.
PUT YOUR TRUST IN THE LORD AND NOT IN MERE MEN
And then if you look at verses 3 and 4, the psalmist – and this is the great contrast of this hymn of praise – the psalmist reminds us to put our trust in the Lord and not in mere men, however powerful they may be. The psalmist, thirdly, reminds us to put our trust in the Lord and not in mere men, however powerful they may be. Not only does he call all of us and each of us to worship, not only does he give us an example of resolving to worship, but he also reminds us to put our trust in God and not in mere men. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is no salvation.” Again, there's the phrase, “son of man,” not being used as a Messianic title but being used as a description of the children of men, those who are mere mortals. “Put not your trust in princes, put not your trust in mere humans, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; and on that very day his plans perish.” No matter how powerful human beings can be, and they can be very powerful, they’re going to die; there's going to be a transition; there's going to be a succession, and somebody else is going to come along and they’re going to be powerful for a while. And then they’re going to die and there is going to be a succession; there's going to be a transition.
Al Mohler was with an African-American pastor a few years ago and in the course of conversation that Africa-American pastor looked at him and said, “You know, one day, they’re going to put us in a box and they’re going to lower us into the ground and they’re going to throw dirt over us and they’re going to go back to the church and eat potato salad.” (laughter) It was a rather stark reminder of our mortality! “One day they’re going to put us in a box, lower us in the ground, throw dirt on top of us, and go back to church and eat potato salad!” Human beings are not going to last, and isn't that important for us to remember, especially a month away from an election. I agree with everything that was prayed tonight and in fact everything that we've been praying for many, many weeks here, but on the Wednesday morning after Election Day, God is still going to be sovereign and He's still going to be in charge and nobody elects Him; His position isn't up for candidacy for another occupant. Thank God. Put no confidence in princes. Whether your man wins or your man loses, put no confidence in princes, but your confidence in the Lord your God.
History is littered with the disappointments of people who have put all their marbles in the basket of mere men, and they've failed them, but the Lord will not fail His people. And that's the great contrast of this psalm. And it's the great contrast of this psalm because we are so tempted to do just that. The psalmist wouldn't have to say, “Put no confidence in princes,” if we weren't tempted to do that. He wouldn't have to say, “Put no confidence in mere men,” if we weren't tempted to do that. He wouldn't have to remind us that there's no salvation in mere men if we didn't act that way sometimes. You know sometimes we think that what another person can give is absolutely essential to our life and only God is absolutely essential to our life. And the psalmist is reminding us of that in this very passage. “Don't put your trust in mere men; put your trust in the Lord.”
TRUE BLESSEDNESS BELONGS TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD
And then, fourth, the psalmist points us to the blessedness of God, to the perfections of God, and thus he reminds us that true blessedness — and by that I mean true, deep, rich, lasting happiness belongs to God's people. And he does this by reminding us of what God is like and what the blessing is that we have because our hope is in Him. In verse 5, for instance, he said, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob and whose hope is in the Lord his God.” In other words, he reminds you if you have put your trust in God not in mere men, then your help, your aid, and your hope, the one who is your ultimate fruition and satisfaction, is the Lord Himself. And then what he begins to do from verse 6 all the way to the end of the psalm is tell you what your God is like. It's a gigantic exercise in theology proper. Theologians call the study of the person of God Himself theology proper because theology means the knowledge of God or the study of God or the truth about God revealed by God to us in His Word. And theology proper is the truth revealed to us by God about God in His Word. And so the end of the psalm is a gigantic exercise in theology proper. Our help and our hope is in God and it's essentially like the psalmist is saying, “And what is your God like?” And if you’ll follow along he tells you twelve things about your God in verses 6 to 10.
GOD IS THE CREATOR OF EVERYTHING
In verse 6, first, he says that your God is the Creator of everything. “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” He's the Creator of everything. The doctrine of creation is so important for us having confidence in God. William Plummer meditates on that truth and he says it's so interesting that those who make much of the glory of nature very rarely, and he's speaking of the deists of his day, they very rarely pause to worship the God who made that nature. They glory in the nature and they don't pause to worship the God who made that nature. Recognizing that God is the Creator of everything is an enormous comfort and gives us confidence that He is our help and our hope.
GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IS EVERLASTING
Second, look at verse 6. “He keeps faith forever.” His faithfulness is everlasting. God's lovingkindness and His faithfulness are everlasting. He is forever faithful. He will never ever let you go. You know, you should read a little bit about George Matheson who wrote the hymn that we sang tonight, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” There's a pensiveness and a sadness to that lyric, isn't there? And the reason is because he wrote it in a very sad time. You know, you don't write a song, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” unless you have experienced a love that has let you go in this life. And George Matheson did, very heartbreakingly, twice. And so in contrast to a human love that let him go, he bids us sing of a love that is forever faithful, that will not let us go. There are some of you here tonight that need that kind of a love. In fact, all of us need that kind of a love here tonight.
GOD GIVES JUSTICE
Third, look at verse 7. “He executes justice for the oppressed.” The psalmist rejoices that our God, what's He like? He's a God who gives justice to those who have been abused by human injustice. You know there has been a lot of joking about the torturous experience of football fans watching the replacement referees over the last three weeks or so. It has been abysmal, some of the refereeing we've watched. And all sorts of interesting jokes have been spread about them, like, “Now that the replacement referees are out of work, they’re being called upon to call the election” etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. And we can laugh about that and we can now laugh that they’re gone, about what they did in sports. But you know, the bad calls that they made weren't intentional, but there are intentional human injustices in this world all the time. And the psalmist is saying, “The Lord intends to put that right. He's going to give justice to those who have been abused by human injustice.” And that should be especially significant to us who have brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted simply because they are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. They’re experiencing human injustice. And the Lord cares about that and He knows about that and He intends to do something about that and He will do something about that.
GOD FEEDS THE HUNGRY
Fourth, “He gives food to the hungry.” He opens His hand and He gives those in need the food that they require. He feeds the hungry. That's what our God is like.
GOD SETS THE CAPTIVES FREE
Fifth, “The Lord sets the prisoners free.” The Lord sets captives free. And you can think, in the Bible, there are so many captives that are set free by the Lord, starting with — you can think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego or you can go further back and think of Joseph who was a prisoner. They were imprisoned wrongly and they were set free. You can think of Peter, you can think of Paul, set free. John Knox was a captive and set free. He was captured and put on a French slave galley for eighteen months. Usually when you are a rower on a French slave galley in the 16th century, the way you ended up is tossed over the boat after you died into the ocean. And he came free. And the Lord used him for the reformation in Scotland. And John Bunyan was a captive and while he was in captivity he wrote a little book that you might have heard of; it's called Pilgrim's Progress, and the Lord set him free. The Lord sets the captives free. Oh, sometimes there are captives like Stephen who aren't set free in this world, but when they enter into heaven the Lord is standing and waiting for them and they’re free indeed. He sets the captives free. That's the fifth thing that he says.
GOD OPENS THE EYES OF THE BLIND
But the sixth thing is this. Look at verse 8. “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.” Don't you love that refrain that you find in Scripture? He causes the eyes of the blind to be opened and the ears of the deaf to be unstopped. Have you watched some of the videos on the internet of people hearing for the first time? Have you seen the one that circulates of the little child who hears his mother's voice for the first time? The Lord does that. He gives eyes to the blind and He unstops the ears of the deaf. And there's no more powerful way in which He does that than in conversion. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see!” William Plummer says, “Every saving spiritual illumination is a moral miracle.” Every time a blind sinner sees Christ, every time a dead sinner comes to life, God has performed a moral miracle. He has changed a heart. He has opened blind eyes. He has unstopped deaf ears. The Lord does that.
GOD EXALTS THE HUMBLE
Seventh, if you continue on there in verse 8 he says, “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.” Over and over the Bible celebrates the fact that He exalts the humble, that He lifts up the lowly. I was reading a Church history book a few weeks ago and the author of that Church history book made this observation by asking a question. He said, “Who is the most important person in the world today? The answer is, ‘We don't know. We don't know.’” Because it may well be that the most important person in this world today, and we may only find out in eternity it's someone we've never ever heard of that the Lord is using in His own marvelous way for His own marvelous purposes and in eternity we’ll know, because the Lord loves to use the overlooked and He loves to lift up those who are bowed down and He loves to exalt those who are humble in the eyes of others. And over and over that is celebrated in the Word. That's what our God is like.
GOD LOVES HIS PEOPLE
And look again in verse 8. We see an eighth thing. “The Lord loves the righteous.” He loves His people. And again, I'm thinking of the lyrics that we just sang from George Matheson. “O love that will not let me go.” The Lord loves us with a love that will not quit. In this world, who knows — human love is a fickle thing. But the Lord's love won't quit. He loves the righteous and He’ll never stop.
GOD WATCHES OVER THE SOJOURNER
And then ninth, if you look in verse 9, he says, “The Lord watches over the sojourners.” And thus, because here we have no lasting city. We’re pilgrims; we're on the way. We’re not home, but the Lord is watching over us and He's caring for us and He's protecting us. On the way home from the RUF Mid-South Retreat on Saturday night, I was driving down 49 and that rain had been coming all afternoon and had gotten stronger by the evening and I was thinking, “This is a treacherous road, and it's dark, and some of our young people are going to be on it.” And I prayed, “Lord, these three hundred or so young people who spent their own money to come down here and listen to preaching for two days instead of going off to a party or a football game — protect them; watch over them on this treacherous road.” I saw a bunch of them here this morning and just seeing them in the Lord's house led me to thank the Lord. “Thank You, Lord, for protecting those and making them safe and bringing them here.” The Lord's watching over us all the time. That's what our Lord is like.
GOD UPHOLDS THE WIDOW AND THE FATHERLESS
Tenth, again in verse 9, “He upholds the widow and the fatherless.” He undertakes and supplies widows and orphans. That's what our God is like.
GOD EXECUTES JUDGEMENT ON THOSE WHO ARE EVIL
And then, you’re expecting it, aren't you? You’re not going to get out of a psalm without the mention of the wicked. It comes there at the end of verse 9, “But the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.” He executes judgment on those who are evil.
GOD LASTS FOREVER AND HE RULES FOREVER
And then twelfth. What is it about the character, about the perfections of God? What's God like? He lasts forever and He rules forever. “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” This is the ultimate contrast with what he said in verses 3 and 4. The breath of man departs and he returns to the earth and on that very day his plans perish…but the Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations.” He lasts forever, He rules forever; men don't, however influential. Do you see what he's done? The doxology, the praise of God here, is about theology, about the person of God, the character of God, the nature of God, the perfections of God, the attributes of God, the care of God. The doxology is about the theology. And the theology supplies both the substance of the doxology and the motivation to doxology. What the psalmist knows about God because God has revealed it to him in the Word and in the world, moves him to praise God for God and to resolve to praise Him while he is.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for the guidance that the psalmist has given us for our own praise. We ask, O God, that we would greatly value the blessing of praising You not only individually but together. We pray, O God, that we would have the same resolve as the psalmist to worship You. We ask, O Lord, that You would keep us from being fools by putting our trust in princes, but we would only trust in You. And we ask, O God, that You would teach us Your blessedness so that we can praise You for You and so know our true blessedness. And we ask all these things in Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand for God's blessing? And please, please don't forget the Ukraine report right after the service.
Receive God's blessing. Peace be to the brethren and love with faith from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ until the daybreak and the shadows flee away.