So Who is in Charge?
Sermon Text: Psalm 146
Sermon Theme: The Lord alone is Lord, and He alone holds authority.
If it is our delight to praise the Lord while we live, we shall certainly praise him to all eternity. With this glorious prospect before us, how low do worldly pursuits seem! There is a Son of man in whom there is help, even him who is also the Son of God, who will not fail those that trust in him. But all other sons of men are like the man from whom they sprung, who, being in honor, did not abide. God has given the earth to the children of men, but there is great striving about it. Yet, after a while, no part of the earth will be their own, except that in which their dead bodies are laid. And when man returns
to his earth, in that very day all his plans and designs vanish and are gone: what then comes of expectations from him?
The psalmist encourages us to put confidence in God. We must hope in the providence of God for all we need as to this life, and in the grace of God for that which is to come. The God of heaven became a man that he might become our salvation. Though he died on the cross for our sins, and was laid in the grave, yet his thoughts of love to us did not perish; he rose again to fulfill them. When on earth, his miracles were examples of what he is still doing every day. He grants deliverance to captives bound in the chains of sin and Satan. He opens the eyes of the understanding. He feeds with the bread of life those who hunger for salvation; and he is the constant Friend of the poor in spirit, the helpless: with him poor sinners, that are as fatherless, find mercy; and his kingdom shall continue for ever. Then let sinners flee to him, and believers rejoice in him. And as the Lord shall reign for ever, let us stir up each other to praise his holy name.
(From Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
- The psalmist leads worshipers by encouraging them to “Praise the Lord.” The well-known Hebrew phrase Hallelujah opens and closes the psalm. This phrase isn’t just an offering of praise—it is a command directed at God’s people that they “Praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). In what ways and situations do you praise God? How are you neglecting to do so? The dictionary defines the word praise as “to glorify, especially by the attribution of perfections.” God is absolutely perfect in every attribution, which means that He is worthy of praise! There are three Hebrew words found in the Bible that explain praise in nuance. These words are yadah, which means “praise, give thanks, or confess;” zamar, which means “sing praise;” and halal, which means “to praise, honor, or commend.” All three terms indicate giving thanks and honor to one who is deserving of acclamations. For “The most holy service that we can render to God is to be employed in praising His name” (John Calvin).
- When the psalmist exhorts us to praise the Lord, does he mean that we should keep repeating that phrase over and over? If not, what does he mean? The term “repetitive prayer” can imply a few different things; some the Bible warns against and others it encourages. It is important to understand that prayer is not a means by which we manipulate God. It isn’t about saying just the right words in just the right way to bring about your desired result. Rather, prayer is a gift from God to His children as a means of communication. There is power in prayer, but the power is the God to whom we pray. Repetitive prayer in the sense of chanting or speaking some sort of magical incantation or mantra is spoken against in the Bible. Jesus told His followers, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7–8). Again, it is not our words or the repetition of our words that gives power to prayer, rather it is the God to whom we pray who answers prayer according to His will. For repetitive prayer in the sense of persistent prayer is encouraged in the Bible. In Luke 18:1 Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow. Luke says the parable was “to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
- What does it mean to praise the Lord? Praising the Lord means we do our best to give Him all the adoration and approval He deserves. Every living being has the purpose of giving God praise: “Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!… Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:2, Psalm 150:6). So, why do we praise the Lord? First of all, He is our Creator. We praise Him for His salvation, provision, protection, love, faithfulness, kindness, and goodness, to name a few. Paul says this is “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12). Hallelujah to the One who has saved us! Here is a list from the apostle Paul of some of the ways God has been good to us in Ephesians 1:
- He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (verse 3),
- Chose us to be holy and blameless (verse 4),
- Adopted us as His own children (verse 5),
- Redeemed us with His own blood for the forgiveness of our sins (verse 7),
- Made the mystery of His will, His plan of redemption through Christ, known to us (verses 8-10),
- Gave us an inheritance (verse 11), and
- Sealed us with the Holy Spirit (verse 13).
- Do we have to remind ourselves of the faithfulness of God in the moments when it feels darkest? When we offer the sacrifice of praise to God out of obedience, soon enough, we will start to believe it again as well. We do not deny our pain; rather, by praising the Lord, we are choosing to remember that He is there with us in the midst of it. Hoping in God and praising God go together: “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more” (Psalm 71:14). We have the assurance of God’s faithfulness. What God has done before He can do again. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Our God is always worthy of all praise; praise the Lord!
- Do we have a genuine praise response to the goodness of God? We bring praise to the Lord when we choose to glorify Him, thank Him, adore Him, honor Him, and obey Him, to name a few. He alone is worthy of all our worship (Psalm 148:13). Our actions (Colossians 3:17), our words (Psalm 35:28), and our hearts (Psalm 86:12) should all bring praise to the Lord. When we live righteous lives before God, it brings Him glory and results in praising Him (Philippians 1:9–11). Psalm 119:7 says: “I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.” Praise is not motivated by a hypocritical desire to look more “spiritual”; instead, true praise is motivated by seeing and experiencing God’s goodness to us and others and by learning the ways of the Lord. For a growing Christian is one who is growing in the fervency of his praise of God. Wherever there is advancement in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be an ever-increasing sacrifice of praise ascending from his heart to the Lord. Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). That is, what fills the heart overflows the mouth. When Jesus Christ is genuinely loved, there will be a growing surge of adoring praise. A soul enraptured with God will be evidenced by a mouth exalting him.
- How do we find the balance between “not trusting in princes” and properly using the means that God provides? Is it wrong to solicit the help of a government official or influential people? If you ask a person in high places to help you and he comes through, it’s not wrong to give credit to the official who helped you, but you must not rob God of His rightful glory. For our trust must be in the Lord, who can direct the hearts of people whichever way He chooses (Proverbs 21:1), then we will praise the Lord if those in high places show us favor. For you can see His hand behind what the official did, so He gets the glory. As Psalm 50:15 states, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” We should put our full trust in God because, while humans don’t keep all of their promises, God does. For we cannot expect too little from man, or too much from God.
- Why has God forbidden mankind as very unfit objects upon which to place supreme dependence? Is it because of mankind’s mortality? frailty? fickleness? The young depend upon the old, and the old upon the young. The poor depend upon the rich, and the rich upon the poor. The servant depends upon his master, and the master upon the servant. The subject depends upon the ruler, and the ruler upon the subject. The child depends upon its parents, and the parent on the child. Is it strange, therefore, that such creatures as we are, in our present state, should depend too much upon each other? We early form this habit, which is constantly strengthening through all the changes and periods of life, and which God originally intended we should form and cultivate. But He never meant that our dependence upon each other should be a just ground of our renouncing our supreme dependence upon Himself.
- Some godly people seem to be blessed more than others. Is this due to human factors or to God’s sovereignty alone? What human factors hinder or open the way for God’s blessing? The Lord’s people are not exempt from difficult trials. They are oppressed, hungry, imprisoned, blind, bowed down, strangers, fatherless, and widowed. There are wicked people in the world who persecute them. But, we can take heart in knowing that “in all these things we are more than conquers through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). So we can’t base our praise for the Lord on happy circumstances or on the mood of the moment. Praising the Lord always doesn’t rest on having an upbeat, happy personality. Rather, it must be the determined choice of those who know God’s love through Jesus Christ. In whatever trials or joys we may find ourselves, we must join the psalmist in preaching to ourselves, “Praise the Lord, O my soul!”
- How is eventual ruin of the wicked an encouragement to steadfastness and righteousness? Charles Spurgeon put it, “Where they [the wicked ones] looked for joy, they experienced disappointment; where they expected success, they met with defeat; and whereas they thought to heap to themselves pleasures according to their lusts, they find that they have only increased their misery.” Or, as Isaiah 48:22 succinctly states, “‘There is no peace for the wicked,’ says the Lord.” For what is the reward of the wicked but God’s eternal judgment and separation from the righteous? Now for those who have placed their faith in God (the God of Jacob), will be happy indeed for their eternal life will be spent in heaven with Him. The hope spoken of, is the hope of the resurrection. He is our Resurrection and our Life. He is our God. Because He arose, we shall rise. Heaven will be in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are the church who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who have chosen the narrow way leading to a life of peace and joy where “We will sing praises unto our God” (Psalm 104:33-35). Not only in this world, but in the world to come. For men have a being or existence after death, and the saints have a most comfortable and happy one then. And will be more capable of singing praises to their incarnate God which will be their work to all eternity. For in heaven “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).
- Are you asking Him to work far beyond all of your shortcomings and imperfections? Too many people today seek an experience and a feeling in worship. They seek to get something out of it for themselves. And sometimes our trials momentarily obscure our view of God and threaten to steal away the praise that belongs exclusively to God. But in this Psalm, the psalmist brings himself into worship and offers all of himself to God. The praise commended in this psalm is perpetual. It is an every-day element of life in the family and church. Even as we get older, we begin to lose our physical health and strength. At points, we may have little mental capacity. Sleeplessness may curtail our ability to think or to emote. However, the psalmist commits all of the faculties still available to him to the task of praise. He may be reduced to the mental condition of a two-year-old as he falls into dementia. It doesn’t matter. For the rest of his life, he dedicates his mind, his emotions, and his soul to the worship of God. We must maintain our God-centered focus and choose God-enthralled praise of the Lord with every breath that is left as the sharks of death ravage us at the end. For theologians tell us that the great purpose of all of life is to glorify God.
1) I am sorry to see that great word, Hallelujah, Hallelu-Jah, praise to Jah, Jehovah, become so hackneyed as it is, by talk about “Hallelujah lasses,” and Hallelujah—I know not what. The Jews will not even pronounce the word Jah, or write it; it seems a great pity that it should be thus draggled in the dirt by Gentiles. “Praise ye the Lord.” Whenever you make use of the word Hallelujah, let it be with the due reverence which should be given to that blessed name, for remember, “the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.”
(From C. H. Spurgeon)
2) A story of trust: A man was having trouble trusting God to give ten percent regularly off the top of his paycheck to the Lord’s work. But this man wanted to tithe, but he couldn’t see how he could tithe and meet his bills. So he shared his fears with his pastor. The pastor replied, “John, if I promise to make up the difference in your monthly bills if you should fall short, do you think you could try tithing for just one month?” After thinking about it for a moment, John replied, “Sure, if you promise to make up any shortfall, I guess I could try tithing for one month.” The pastor mused, “Now, what do you think of that? You say you’d be willing to put your trust in a mere man like myself, who possesses so little materially, but you couldn’t trust your Heavenly Father, who owns the whole universe!” John got the point and started giving faithfully off the top, trusting God to provide.
3) The following is from “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” 29 Vols
GOD ALONE IS THE SOURCE OF ALL BLESSINGS (By John Cassian): For it is not free will but the Lord who “looses those who are bound.” It is not our strength, but the Lord who “raises those who have fallen” (Psalm 145:14-19). It is not our diligence in reading, but “the Lord who enlightens the blind” where “the Lord makes wise the blind.” It is not our care, but “the Lord who cares for the stranger.” It is not our courage, but “the Lord who assists (or supports) all those who are down.”
DO NOT PUT YOUR TRUST IN PRINCES (By Augustine): A Christian sees this, poor laborer moaning and groaning at his daily drudgery, and perhaps he says to himself, “What’s the good of my having become a Christian? Has it made me any better off than that fellow who isn’t, than that guy who doesn’t believe in Christ, than that so-and-so who blasphemes my God?” That psalm warns him, “Do not put your trust in princes.” Why do you take pleasure in the flower of the field? … All flesh is grass, and all the honor of the flesh as the flower of the field. The grass has withered, the flower fallen. So has everything perished then? Heaven forbid! “But the word of the Lord abides forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Why take pleasure in grass? Look, the grass has perished. Do you want to avoid perishing? Hold fast to the Word. So too in this Psalm. Perhaps a poor, lowly Christian had his eyes fixed on a pagan, rich and powerful perhaps, had his eyes fixed on the flower of the field, and was perhaps halfway to choosing him for a patron rather than God. The Psalm has a word for this person: “Do not put your trust in princes and in the sons of people, in whom there is no help.” He immediately replies, “It cannot be speaking of this person, can it? He was very well off. Look how healthy he is. This very day I see him flourishing. It is me, rather, who am constantly and miserably ill.” Why are you obsessed with these things as the only means of pleasure and satisfaction? That is not well-being. “His spirit will go out, and he will return to his earth.”
CARE FOR THE FATHERLESS AND WIDOWS (By Chrysostom): For as long as your blessed husband was with you, you enjoyed honor and care and zealous attention. In fact, you enjoyed such as you might expect to enjoy from a husband; but, since God took him to himself, [God] has taken his place with you. And this is not my saying but that of the blessed prophet David, for he says, “He will take up the fatherless and the widow,” and elsewhere he calls him “father of the fatherless and judge of the widow.” Thus, in many passages you will see that he is earnestly concerned about the cause of this class of people.
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