Morning Sermon: Psalm 146, Praise The LORD, O My Soul

New Testament Reading: Matthew 11:1–6

“When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.’” (Matthew 11:1–6, ESV)

Old Testament Reading: 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 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!” (Psalm 146, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

Psalm 146 is the first of five “hallelu-jah Psalms” which bring the Psalter to a grand finale. Hallelu-jah means “praise the LORD”. And this is the repeated refrain of Psalms 146-150. At the very least each of these Psalms begins and ends with the exhortation to “praise the LORD”. And in every single line of Psalm 150 we find an exhortation to praise him. That Psalm says, “Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150, ESV). What a fitting conclusion to the Book of Praises.    

Here is what I wish for you to see by way of introduction. The flow of the Psalms from beginning to end matches the experience of God’s redeemed, both in the Old Covenant and the New. The Psalter began just as our life in Christ began, with a presentation of God’s law in chapter 1, and of God’s justice and grace in chapter 2. Chapter 2 concluded with good news. There is refuge to be found in the Son! We were urged to run to him and to kiss him lest we perish under God’s wrath.

From there the Psalms take us on a journey involving confrontation, communication, devastation, maturation, and finally consummation. As I have said in previous sermons, the flow of the five books of the Psalter matches the history of the Kingdom of Israel from David to the consummation of the Kingdom of Christ. And here I am saying that generally speaking, the flow of the Psalms matches our individual experience too. 

At the beginning of the Christian life we heard the law of God and we heard the gospel. We were convinced of our sin, of the just wrath of God, and of the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God come in the flesh. By God’s grace, we ran to him for refuge. And what is the end of the Christian life? It is the unceasing praise of the LORD in the new heavens and earth! And that is the very thing that the Psalter calls us to as it concludes — unceasing praise. And so the beginning and end of the Psalms correspond to the beginning and end of the Christian life.  

Our stories are all different, of course, but we share enough in common that I can say with confidence that in between the beginning and end of our Christian life we have all experienced the confrontation, communication, devastation, and maturation described in the Psalms in one way or another. This is why the Psalms have spoken so powerfully to the people of God living in all times and places. There is a Psalm for every emotion, experience, and season. But note this: the Psalms conclude with praise. The praise of the LORD is the climax of the Psalms. The unceasing worship of God is the end of the matter. So the aim of the Psalter is to move us to praise the LORD — Hallelu-jah. 

And so as we begin I ask you, is this the aim of your life? Is the worship of God your highest goal? Is the praise of the LORD your driving purpose? It ought to be, brothers and sisters, for we were made for this. 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with the question, “What is the chief end of man?” What a marvelous question. “Chief” means highest or supreme.  “End” means goal or purpose. So the question is, what is the supreme goal of mankind? What is our highest purpose? Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This is what we were made for. To know God, to worship and serve him, to glorify him, and to enjoy him forever and ever. 

Friend, I ask you, is this what you are living for? Are you living for the glory of God? Is your highest aim to praise him? Is he your greatest delight? If our answer is “no”, then our lives are misdirected, for we were made for this. We were designed to know God, to worship and serve him, and to enjoy him to all eternity. Psalm 146 exhorts us to do this very thing.

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Make The Worship Of God Your Highest Aim In This Life (vs. 1-2)

In verses 1 and 2 the Psalmist exhorts us to praise the LORD in this life. More precisely, he exhorts himself to praise the LORD! But of course, he wrote this Psalm for all of God’s people to sing, and so it is an exhortation for us too. Verse 1: “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.” (Psalm 146:1–2, ESV)

The phrase, “praise the LORD!” is a command. It is stated twice in verse 1. And after the second time, it becomes clear that the Psalmist is speaking to his own soul. “Praise the LORD, O my soul!”, he says.

Now, why would a man need to exhort himself to praise the LORD? I suppose this may simply be a poetic way of saying, I will praise the LORD, but it may also have something to do with the fact that we do not always wish or think to praise the LORD. Sad as it is, the truth of the matter is that we do not always feel like doing the thing that we know we should do. Our mind, will, and affections are not always set in the right direction. And this is true even for the one who has faith in Christ and has been renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Corruptions remain in us. It is possible for us to go astray, and so we must continually speak to ourselves saying, “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!” So here in verse 1 we have a little conscience and personal call to worship.

In verse 2 the Psalmist responds to his own call to worship, saying, “I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” 

Brothers and sisters, is this your resolve? Is this your aim? Are you committed to live for the glory of God and to enjoy him forever in Christ Jesus? I pray it would be. I pray that each and every one of you, no matter how young or old, would run to Christ for refuge and make the worship of God your highest aim in this life.

How then do we praise the LORD?, you ask. Well, in many ways. 

We praise the LORD when we assemble with the church on the Lord’s Day for corporate worship. Are you resolved to do this, brothers and sisters? Or are you easily derailed? We praise the LORD in our homes and with our families as we talk about the things of God and give him thanks. And of course we praise the LORD individually too. In each of these spheres of life we may worship the LORD in song, through prayer, with the words of our lips, through our giving, and through our obedience to God’s revealed will. No matter the sphere, and no matter the form, we must be sure to worship the LORD from the heart. Remember, the Psalmist did not call upon his hands or his feet, nor his lips, but upon his soul to praise the LORD. “Praise the LORD, O my soul!”, he said. If our praise is to be pleasing to God it must be offered up in faith and with gratitude in our hearts towards him. 

Brothers and sisters, I pray that you would make the worship of God your highest aim in this life.

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Trust Not In Man, For He Will Perish (vs. 3-4)

In verses 3 and 4 the Psalmist delivers a word of warning, both to himself and to us, saying, “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.” (Psalm 146:3–4, ESV)

This is an important warning for us to consider. We are so prone to misplace our trust. We trust in ourselves. We trust in friends and family. We trust in our leaders. And while it is right for us to trust others for some things, it is foolish to place ultimate trust in a son of man. Why? Because the sons of men die. Their plans perish with them. There is therefore no true salvation in them. 

So be very careful, brothers and sisters, with where you place your trust. Yes, there is a sense in which it is right for you to trust in family and friends, in leaders and rulers, etc. But no mere man is worthy of ultimate trust. That is what the Psalmist is here referring to – ultimate trust. Something similar is said in Psalm 118:9: “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” 

So where is your trust placed ultimately? Is it placed in man? Your spouse? Your parents? Your friends? Your pastors? Your governor? Your president? If your trust is set on the sons and daughters of men, they will fail you in the end, for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever’” (1 Peter 1:24–25, ESV). Be sure to trust in the LORD above all else, and then you will free to place the appropriate kind of trust in your fellow man.  

This is an important warning for us to consider, but I think it was an especially important warning for Old Covenant Israel to hear. For a time, Israel was set apart by God from all of the other nations of the earth. For a time, their kings were anointed by God in a special way. Prophets and priests ministered in their midst by God’s appointment. Because of this, there would have been a special kind of temptation for Israel to trust, not in God, but in their rulers and leaders. Think of the promises made to David concerning the succession of kings descending from him and an everlasting kingdom. We know that all of these promises made to David were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in his heavenly kingdom. But imagine the temptation that the Israelites would have felt to trust in King David, or King Solomon, or any of the other kings who would descend from them. Anointed as they were, they were mere men. They would eventually die and be buried. Or to quote Peter as he preached on the day of Pentecost, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” Neither David nor any of the earthly kings who would come after him (with the exception of one), could not bring ultimate salvation, therefore. The Israelites were to be especially careful to place their trust, not in mere men — not in their earthly kings or princes — but in God. Ironically, many of them stumbled in this very way when the Messiah did appear. They were looking for an earthly king to establish an earthly kingdom. They failed to recognize that God Anointed One came to do so much more. 

Trust not in man, for he will perish, is the warning of verses 3 and 4.

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Trust In God, For He Is Most Powerful, Ever Faithful, Kind, And Just (vs. 5-9)

Instead, we are to place our trust in God, for he is most powerful, ever faithful, kind, and just. 

That is what is urged in verses 5 through 9. Here the Psalmist says, “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, 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” (Psalm 146:5–9, ESV). Do not place your ultimate trust in man, for man will perish. Trust in God, for he will never fail you. 

The Psalm says, “Blessed [or happy] is he whose help is the God of Jacob.” Why does the Psalmist here refer to God as the God of Jacob? There are two reasons that come to mind. 

One, it was to Abraham, Isaac, and then Jacob that the promises of God concerning salvation coming to all the nations of the earth through Israel were given. When the Psalmist urges us to have the God of Jacob as our help, he is reminding us of the precious and very great promises that God made to the Patriarchs of Israel. He is reminding us of the covenant that God transacted with Abraham and his offspring. The meaning is this: trust not in man. Trust in God! Trust in his promises. 

Two, it may also be that Jacob is emphasized here because he was such a flawed man. Think of it. God does accomplish his purposes through men and women. He used Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He used David and Solomon. It is right that these men be honored. And yes, these men were to be trusted, to a degree. But, like you and me, they were flawed. They sinned. They had wavered in the faith from time to time. They all died and were buried. None of them could save us from our sins. Do not hope, therefore, in King David, but in David’s King. Do not trust in Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, but in the God of Jacob. That is the message, I think.

Trust in God, for he is powerful. He “made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them…”, the text says.

Furthermore, we are to trust in God because he is faithful. He “keeps faith forever”, verse 6 says. The NET says he “remains forever faithful”. That is the meaning. If God were only powerful, but not faithful, then he would not be worthy of our hope and trust. But he is most powerful and he is ever faithful. He is unchanging and constant. He will surely do all he has said. He will keep all of his promises.

And here is another reason to trust in God: He is kind. Verse 7: He is the one “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…”

How should we interpret these verses? On the one hand, we know that the LORD will do these things for his people literally, on earth, and in this life. He does give us our daily bread. He does lift us up when we are bowed down. But on the other hand, we know that the righteous do sometimes suffer, the blind are not always healed, the prisoners are not always freed, and injustice does sometimes seem to prevail here on earth. These truths must ultimately be interpreted spiritually and eternally, therefore. When will God execute justice for the oppressed, satisfy the hungry, set the prisoners free, open the eyes of the blind, lift up those who are bowed down? Sometimes he will do it in a most literal way now. He surely does it for his people now in a spiritual sense. And he will do it fully, ultimately, and eternally in the new heaven and earth after Christ returns. Until then, he surely “watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless.”

Remember, we are talking about ultimate things here. Man is not to be trusted ultimately, for all men perish along with their plans. But God is to be trusted ultimately, for he will never perish. He will never change, but will surely keep all of his promises. And we should keep our minds fixed upon the ultimate as we consider what is said here regarding the LORD’s kindness shown to the  oppressed, the hungry, the sick, and the vulnerable. Though God’s people will suffer trials and tribulations in this life, their hope is set on God knowing that he will deliver us from all evil forever and ever in the life to come.

So God is worthy of trust for he is powerful, faithful, and kind. And do not forget that he is just. In verse 7 we are reminded that he “executes justice for the oppressed”, and in verse 9 we read, “The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” God will do what is right and just on the last day.  

And this he will do for us through Jesus the Messiah. Jesus the Messiah is everywhere present in this Psalm, brothers and sisters. 

One, he is present in the mention of the “God of Jacob”. Again, hear verse 5: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” What did God promise Abraham, Issac, and Jacob? Answer: To give them many descendants. To give them a land. And to bring the Messiah (Savior) into the world through their offspring. To hope in the God of Jacob is to hope in the LORD who entered into a covenant with the Patriarchs. To hope in the God of Jacob is to trust in the promises he made  in that covenant.

Two, the Messiah is also present in the warning of verse 3, “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.” In general, this is true. But there is one exception. There is one “son of man”, one “prince”, who is worthy of our trust, for when he died his plans did not perish, for he rose again from the grave and lives forever more. He is the Son of Man. He is a descendant of King David. But he is not only David’s son, he is David’s LORD, for he is also the eternal Son of God come in the flesh. He is worthy of our trust, for he is no mere man. He is the Messiah, the Anointed one of God. And he is the Savior, for he died for the sins of God’s elect, rose on the third day, ascended to the Father, from there he will return on the last to judge and to make all things new. Jesus the Christ is the exception to the rule, “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.” This is true of every other son of man, but not Jesus. He is worthy of our trust. To trust in Jesus is to trust in the God of Jacob, for he is the true Son of Abraham, the true Israel, the LORD’s Anointed. 

And finally, the Messiah is present in the description of the LORD’s kindness towards the children of man. It is through Jesus the Christ that God “executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets the prisoners free, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, and loves the righteous.” Think of it, the righteous would not be righteous were it not for the Messiah. We are righteous only because he is righteous. His righteousness is imputed to us and received by faith. And think of it, God loves us only through the Messiah, for by his shed blood we have been reconciled to the Father and adopted as his beloved children. 

That Jesus is the one through whom we come to have these blessings from God was demonstrated by the wonders that he performed in his earthly ministry. When John the Baptist was in prison and struggling with doubt and despair he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he was really the One. And what did Jesus say? “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” This was enough for John. John would not be freed. In fact, he would be killed for his witness not long after this. But because Jesus performed these signs he was reassured that Jesus was the One. The miracles that Jesus performed were signs which demonstrated that he was the long awaited Messiah who had come to heal our spiritual sickness and to set us free from spiritual bondage, now and for all eternity.  

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Praise The LORD For He Will Reign For All Eternity (vs. 10) 

Verse 10 is a marvelous conclusion to this Psalm. Here we are once again urged to praise the Lord. This time the stated reason is that the LORD will reign for all eternity. “The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 146:10, ESV)

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Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, as we move now into our second decade together as a congregation I could not think of a more important exhortation to deliver to you than to say, Hallelu-jah, Praise the Lord! Live your life, brothers and sisters, not for things of this world, not for your own pleasure, nor your own glory, but for the glory of God. Praise him! And if you are to praise him, you must first trust in him. You must be found in Jesus the Messiah, being washed by his shed blood. He is worthy of our hope and our trust, for he has risen from the grave for our salvation. 

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that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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