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Psalm 146

Sermon Transcript

In children’s Sunday School in the 1960s I learned a little, catchy worship song I still remember.  Perhaps you know it too.

Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children,
God is love, God is love;
Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children,
God is love, God is love.

Verses two and three call Christians to “love Him” and “thank Him.”

Combining these three verses together, we can safely say this short tune teaches believers their purpose in life is simple: praise God for who He is.  And who is He? He is the God of love who cared enough about us to die as our sin substitute to provide the means by which we could be saved (Acts 4:10-12).  He is the God of love whose care reaches down into our lives at the most intimate levels.  He is the God of love who cares for His created order even though the majority of the human side of that order rejects Him. He is the God of love who one day return and set all things straight so justice .  .  . and love will reign supremely (Isa. 2).

Based on this emphasis as a child to praise God, I am not shocked to discover how the Psalter, Israel’s ancient worship manual, concludes it last six worship songs on the theme of praising Him who is worthy (Psalms 145-150).  Psalm 146 is no exception.  All ten verses underscore one central theme we, as saints, should know and implement:

Divine Praise Should Captivate Our Lives (Psalm 146:1-10)

The mere construction of this ancient “hymn” validates this conclusion. How so?  The psalm opens and closes with the same call for saints to “Praise the LORD” (Psalm 146:1, 10).  Structurally, this is  called inclusio where you begin and end in the same fashion to highlight one key, pivotal emphasis.  Here that emphasis is on divine praise.  Think of it, as I’ve said before, like a beautiful bow on a magnificent package, while the inside of the package contains the divine gift of details regarding the how and why of our praise.

How do we make sure our lives are captivated, consumed, and driven by divine praise? Answer?  You learn from and apply the four concepts embedded in Psalm 146.  Join me as we work our way through them in a systematic fashion.

The Rule Of Praise (Psalm 146:1)

The psalmic author, who probably wrote in the post-exile period, opens by informing us that praise is not optional:

1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!

Both verbs here are imperatives denoting what God wants from us.  So what about it?  Is praise woven into your busy life on a daily basis?  Do you not just think about God and what He has done for you and how great His character is, but you actually and verbally extol Him with specific praise?  Praise gets your mind off your issues and on the main issue: God.  Praise moves you from an earthly perspective of life to a heavenly one, which is quite spiritually and mentally refreshing and invigorating.  Praise lifts you from the problems of the moment to the feet of the One who can adequately address those perplexing, angst-ridden issues.

In case you are fresh out of ideas about praise, then the Psalmist invites you to think about who you are praising.  Twice he says here your praise should be first and foremost directed to “the LORD.”  This designation for God is used a whopping seven more times in the next nine verses, therefore, this reality should cause us to ask “Why this name? and “Which divine name is this?”

Capital LORD can also be translated Yahweh.  We know from our study of the Psalter this is the tetragrammaton name is  built on the Hebrew verb “to be,” hayah, (YHWH).  This is the most used title of God in the OT, appearing 5,321 times.  It is also the name God gave to Moses at the burning bush:

13 Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?" 14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you'" (Exod. 3).

 Exodus 3:14 וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר֙ לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל

אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃

Why did God chose this particular title, which Jesus applied to His life as well (John 8:58)?  He chose it because it underscores His eternal nature.  He is the God who always is, ontologically speaking.

Regarding Him, Paul writes in Romans chapter 1:

19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Rom. 1).

Man internally, in his heart and mind, knows He is there because He makes His eternal presence and personality clearly known to them by “what has been made.”  Hence, to be a skeptic, an agnostic, or an atheist is to argue against reason, which is what they claim Christians do who cling to the God concept.  Really, it is the other way around.  The great I AM exists and various lines of evidence point in this direction.

It is certainly not our purpose at this limited juncture to present these evidences, it would do us well to consider just a few of them.  When I graduated from college, I read Francis Schaeffer’s He Is There And He Is Not Silent.  It changed my life and perspective on the world about me.  This world-class apologist did an amazing job developing all the reasons why there is a great I AM over this wonderful and beautiful created order.

Chapter one is rightly titled The Metaphysical Necessity. Here Schaeffer shows how a universe, which consists of matter which is not eternal, could not have sprung out of nothing.  From nothing comes nothing.  What is true is that from something or someone comes something. It’s only logical.  Further, he states, “No one has ever demonstrated how time plus change, beginning with an impersonal, can produce the needed complexity of the universe, let alone the personality of man.”[1]  He is so right.  The impersonal and the complex can only logically spring from One, God, who is personal and highly complex.

Peter Atkins, an Oxford Chemistry Professor, can smugly claim, “Humanity should accept that science has eliminated the justification for believing in cosmic purpose, and that any survival of purpose is inspired only by sentiment;”[2] however, there can be no science without a trustworthy, rational God who created an cosmos scientists can rationally study with their hypotheses. Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton spend the first two chapters of their excellent book The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy showing how science up tile modern times was grounded in believing in God.  As they rightly conclude, “The early scientists did not argue that the world was lawfully ordered, and therefore there must be a rational God. Instead, they argued that there was a rational God, and therefore the world must be lawfully ordered.”[3] This conclusion led many world-class scientists to conclude that science is only intelligible because God, who is rational, exists.

God is, therefore, metaphysically necessary because His presence and existence provides the basis for all the great questions of life:  Why can there be science?  Because there is rational God who gave man rational minds to study the rational construction of the cosmos.  Why is there irreducible complexity in a cosmos if it can about by blind, random chance?  Regarding this, John Lennox observes:

‘It is hard for us to get any kind of picture of the seething, dizzyingly complex activity that occurs inside a living cell, which contains within its lipid membrane maybe 100 million proteins of 20,000 different types and yet the whole cell is so tiny that a couple of hundred could be placed on the dot in the letter ‘i.’”[4]

A complex little machine like this is the clear evidence Paul spoke about. The design rightly speaks of a rational, thoughtful, and extremely intelligent Designer, God.  And He not only created the irreducible complexity, it continues to function because He is (Col. 1:16-17).

Next time you start wondering what you should praise God for, praise Him for His great name, Yahweh. And if you want to dig down into this praise, then why not work your way through praising Him for the various anthropic principles which demonstrate our cosmos was/is fine-tuned to make way for us to live on this magnificent blue planet. Concerning this, J. P. Moreland states the obvious:

“If gravity’s force were infinitesimally stronger, all stars would burn too quickly to sustain life. If ever so slightly weaker, all stars would be too cold to support life-bearing planets. If the ratio of electron to proton mass were slightly larger or smaller, the sort of chemical bonding required to produce self-replicating molecules cannot take place.”[5]

And so on and so forth.  No wonder the Psalmist calls us to specifically praise this particular LORD.  He is the LORD who is and who made all that is.  This makes Him worthy of all praise, adoration, and worship.

In addition to this rule of praise, which should logically lead to a life of praise, we next delve into what I’ve titled:

The Resolve Of Praise (Psalm 146:2)

Listen and learn from the Psalmist:

2 I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

His commitment is clear: He tells the great I Am he will praise him as a lifestyle until his short life is over.  The second commitment clause employs a Hebrew word for praise, zammir (זַמֵּר ), which speaks of praising God with an actual instrument. If you play a cello, flute, guitar, piano, organ, accordion, French horn or the like, it should, at some point, but used to praise and glorify God.  It might even be your voice if God has blessed you with great vocal ability.  As I’ve told you before, my sister, Marla, who majored in piano and sang professionally for a Christian group out of Nashville, used both her voice and her piano to bring praise to God.  Sitting on my desk is a reminder of her in happier days before she contracted ovarian cancer praising God in song.  Even as she lay dying in a Hospice  house in Spokane, she mustered the strength her final week to sing her favorite hymn to the Lord, Blessed Assurance.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of his Spirit, washed in His blood

This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

She sang this song because she praised the living God who had redeemed her and made dwelling in his marvelous, spectacular presence for all eternity a reality (John 10:28; 12:50; 17:2-3; Rom. 5:21; 6:23).  I wonder. What song will you sing to Jesus as you stand at the door of death and life?  A life a praise now will prepare you for praising Him then.  So, what about it?  Who among us will commit this day to the psalmist’s statement: Until I draw my last breath, LORD, I will live to give you praise?

Praise is our command from the living God, and this should naturally lead us to having no issue with verbally telling Him He can count on us for praising him constantly.  Additionally, this commitment is certainly not without a firm foundation.  We find this in verses 3 through 9.

The Reasons For Praise (Psalm 146:3-9)

What are some of those reasons?  Here’s one:

3 Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. 4 His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Israel historically trusted in help from more powerful countries like Egypt, Syria and so forth, while God called them to trust solely in Him no matter what.  They also, like we are all prone to, placed much to faith in their politicians to solve their national problems.  To read through their history is to readily see this all went south, fast.  Hezekiah, even though he was a godly man, a man of prayer, in a moment of prideful weakness, showed Babylonian emissaries the national wealth (2 Kings 20:13).  They later returned to seize it with brute, militaristic force (2 Kings 20:17). Joash reigned forty years over Judah and led the charge in repairing the holy Temple; however, he didn’t have the political and spiritual courage to demolish the high places where Israel worshipped countless idols (2 Kings 12:1-3).  Uzziah, another God-fearing king of Judah, in a moment of utter pride and love of power traversed the holy boundary between the King and the Priest and attempted to burn incense in the Temple (2 Chron. 26:16ff).  God struck him with leprosy for this sin and he went to his grave covered with the disfiguring marks of the dreaded disease (2 Chron. 26:21).  The point is well-taken.  It is one thing to respect and follow earthly leaders and we should because God places them in their positions of power (Dan. 2:21).  But it is quite another to think they are the be-all, end-all. Why? They are mere mortals who will only be here for a brief moment of time before they pass on and give account to the living God.  In addition, they cannot bring true, lasting salvation.  True, they can use their powers to save you physically, at times; however, even this is limited as we see from the political and medical fight against Covid.  Real salvation, physical and spiritual, rests with the great I Am.  Regarding the spiritual side of salvation, Peter’s words are most appropriate. Speaking of the resurrected Christ, the lead disciple states:

11 He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very corner stone. 12And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4).

Are you placing too much emphasis on political leaders to save you and us from chaos and mayhem? Be not deceived.  They all have clay feet and cannot bring perpetual, lasting, peace and joy, physically or spiritually.  These two wonderful commodities only come from the hand of the One who is eternal as opposed to temporal, and this is God. This, in and of itself, gives us good reasons for praising Him.

But there is so many more reasons.  Here’s another.

5 How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God;

With this last beatitude in the psalter, the Psalmist waxed eloquent regarding how blessed a person is who finds their help in Jacob’s God.  Why does he employ this title?  Good question.

Joseph had his share of character deficiencies, didn’t he?  I’d dare say at the top of the list had to be lying and deception.  He used these, along with his devious mother, to trick his near blind father, Isaac, into giving him the coveted right of the firstborn (Gen. 27).  Wow.  He willfully deceived his older brother AND his father, and he did it with great zeal.  In fact, he did everything with great zeal, even when wrestling with what appears to be a preincarnate form of Jesus, all for the sake of a divine blessing . . .  despite his many personal failures (Gen. 32:22-32).  He received the blessing and also a new name to represent a new life: Israel, which means “God fights.”

But what is most interesting is what occurs in Genesis 28 as Jacob fled to Haran to escape the wrath of his muscular and skilled-at-hunting brother, Esau.  At a place he later called Bethel, which means the House/gate of God, God allowed him . . . of all people . . . to see angels ascending and descending from earth to heaven, and God gave him this profound promise, despite all of his failures and sinful dysfunctions:

13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Gen. 28).

Jaw dropping, wouldn’t you agree?  This tells us all we need to know as to why a man is blessed when the God of Jacob is his God.  He’s the living God who knows your sinful side, who also sees your potential, and who decides to work in and through the mess of your life to accomplish things which will literally bless others, while also echoing in eternity.  Could you think of a better reason to offer praise for God, because I’m sure each of us have a little bit of Jacob in our lives.  But praise be to the LORD who still decides to use us to bless others, and also conform us into His holy image.

Another reason to praise the LORD is inscribed on the parchment of verse 6:

6 Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;

Here God puts evolution on notice.  He made the heavens above our heads.  The observable universe is a whopping 93 billion light years across, while our little Milky Way Galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter.  Bear in mind that one light year represents how far light will travel in one year, which is 6 trillion miles!  Blows the mind, doesn’t it?  With a word from His powerful mind and mouth, all of this vastness appeared, along with all of its complexity.  Yes, with a word and 100,000 thousand million pulsating stars appeared in our galaxy alone.

Everything that is under and on the earth appeared by the power of His creative word: valleys, mountain ranges, ravines, jungles, molten lava, volcanoes, and so on.  With one creative word, the massive blue seas were filled with all kinds of fish: King Salmon, Blue fish, Red fish, Pacific Halibut, Lingcod, Tuna, and so on ad infinitum.  All of this shows not only His power, but His creativity, as well as His love of beauty.  Who hasn’t caught a fish in the depths of the ocean only to be amazed at the eye-popping color it possesses, along with all types of camouflage?  He could have made this old earth a boring place, but He didn’t.  In a flash that which wasn’t became that which was, and all by His creative word (Gen. 1).

All of these glorious effects, of course, gives us the evidence we need to know, as Paul says in Romans one, that He is there.  The cosmological argument helps us here.  He states:

  1. Everything that beings had a cause.
  2. The Universe had a beginning.
  3. Therefore, the Universe had a cause

Regarding this horizontal version of the cosmological argument, Moreland concludes,

Things don’t just pop into existence from nothing with no cause. It is metaphysically absurd to think such a thing could happen . . . . But nothingness is the absence of anything whatsoever. It is hardly a candidate for generating a universe! . . . The laws of nature can govern only changes/transitions in things that already exist.[6]

Since we know from the so-called Big Bang that things did spring from nothing, then the laws of nature did not, and do not apply.  Something, or should I say, Someone bigger was the first cause.  Regarding this, Moreland adds,

Some may also object that if we hold that all events in which something comes to be need causes, then what caused God? But we can consistently hold that all such events need cause and that God does not need a cause because God is not an event . . . But God, if he exists at all, is a necessary being (a being which, if it exists, couldn’t be such that it did not exist; the self-existent, uncreated Creator of all else who simply exists in and of Himself, period).[7]

In a cause/effect cosmos where this series cannot go on forever, you need a purely actualized God, who simply is (the great I AM), to set it all in motion.  Again, I say, no wonder we have reason to praise Him.  I could say more, but I’m sure you get the point.

Further reasons for praise are introduced in verses 7 through 9.

7 Who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free.

Collectively, these verses remind us that the God who is eternal and highly transcendent, condescends to our lowly, temporal estate so He can care for us.  You might need to read that one more time.

How does He execute justice for the oppressed?

  • He can personally intervene like He did when Israel were captives in Egypt
  • He can work behind the scene through believers like He did in the lives of Esther and Mordecai.
  • He can call people to give account as He will on Judgment Day (1 Cor. 3; Rev. 20).
  • He can work through leaders as He did with Moses and David, Deut. 10:18; 2 Sam. 8:15).

This is amazing. He who is quite busy with the cosmos is not too busy to help you in an oppressed state.

How does He give food the hungry?

  • He can simply make food as He did with the feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:44ff).
  • He can work through saints to bring food the hungry (Matt. 25:42).This happens everything we/you give food and/or money to the Lamb’s Center or to Echo.
  • He worked through His Law to Moses to make sure the poor were cared for (Deut. 15:14; 24:19; Ruth 2:3).
  • He sends rain on the just and the unjust to make sure there is food for all.

Again, this is simply mind-numbing.  A God as great as He condescends to care for the less fortunate.  How could we do any less?  How can we not praise Him, as well?

He is also to be praised for He is concerned about prisoners being set free.  Does this mean He doesn’t support the premise “if you do the crime you should do the time?”  No, far from it.  God is a God of justice, so He  supports prison time for crimes served.  What I think this is about references those who are incarcerated unjustly.  Consider this informative chart.  The point is some people are imprisoned in an unjust fashion, and these are the ones the Lord is deeply concerned about because justice was not served.  Along these lines, think of Joseph in the pit and then the prison, or Daniel in the lion’s den, or John imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos.  God’s heart and eyes rest on folks like this and He is working behind the scenes to see that justice is done. Once more this gives us all the reason we need to praise Him, and it should motivate us to care the incarcerated as well, which will be part of our judgment when we see Him (Matt. 25).

God’s compassion is further described in verses 8 through 9:

8 The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous; 9 The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow; but He thwarts the way of the wicked.

How many blind people received their sight when He walked among us? Many (Matt. 9:27; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30; 20:30).  He who created light wasted no time giving light to their darkened eyes.  What power! What love.  How many people brought low by disease? Many.  Think of the woman with an embossing issue of blood (Mark 5:29), or the man with leprosy who said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Jesus fulfilled this man’s faith request with five words: “I am willing; be cleansed” (Matt. 8:3).  The same God seeks to touch you in your bowed condition too. Perhaps He already has. Either way give Him praise.

He protects strangers too.  The Hebrew word here, ger, refers to foreign immigrants who were legally in the nation.  These folks followed legal procedures to live in the land of Promise. They received legal protection from the dictates of the Mosaic Law (Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:33; Deut. 10:19).  As resident legal aliens life would not have been easy: new language, new customs, finding a job, and so forth.  God’s Law was designed to protect them as they legally entered the country.  An illegal immigrant, a nekhar, did not have the same protections for they were breaking the law by entering the country and flouting its laws.  God, who is a God of justice, called for His people to deal with them in a human manner; however, they still had to face the music for their illegal intrusion.  From this we learn the importance of doing our part in protecting strangers and caring for them for such is divine duty.  We learn, additionally, how praise should be given to God for caring for even these.

And if you are fatherless or widow, know God has His eye on you, too.  If you are single and divorced with or without children, you are special to Him as well, for He wants to make sure you are taken care of.  He will go before all of you, healing your hurts, and working in and through complex life events and people to make sure you don’t go wanting.  So don’t fear. He goes before you to make the crooked path straight.

These are just some reasons to praise your Lord and God.  May you praise Him soon by going down through this list and highlighting praise for the ones which readily apply.

And just in case you need to be reminded about who should live each day, the closing verse tells you.

The Reality of Praise (Psalm 146:10)

10 The LORD will reign forever, Thy God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD! (Ps. 146).

Because God reigns forever as the great I Am, we should never cease making sure our lives are literally consumed and driven with praise before His glorious throne.

                  [1] Francis Schaeffer, He Is There And He Is Not Silent (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1972), 9.

                  [2] John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2009), 15.

                  [3] Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton, The Soul of Science (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), 26-27.

                  [4] Lennox, God’s Undertaker, 123.

                  [5] J. P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2012), 181.

                  [6] J. P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2012), 167.

                  [7] Moreland, 167-168.