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A Study of Psalm 146:1-10

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We place our hope in a lot of things. How many of you hope that you will some day win the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes? Or maybe you’ve been sneaking over to the California Lottery display and hoping to pick the right numbers. Maybe you have been very biblical in trying to select numbers. Twelve for the twelve disciples, three for the trinity, forty for the forty days it rained on Noah, fifty for the fifty days to Pentecost, and twenty-three because that’s your favorite psalm.

I remember once my mother-in-law phoned me and told me to come right over. She thought she had won one million dollars. I’m sure all of you have received those kinds of letters. When I looked at the letter, I have to admit it was worded very cleverly. But I had to break the news to Mom that there was a stipulation. It said you have won if the numbers on the form matched the winning numbers. This disclaimer of course was written in much smaller print.

We find it easy to place our hope in a lot of other things, don’t we? So why do we find it so difficult to place our hope in God? Psalm 146 gives us good instruction about how to hope in the Lord.

Verse 1

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

This is one of the 14 Hallelujah psalms, named because of the first two Hebrew words in verse one: < w%ll;ha> halelu praise, and < h@yf> yah the Lord. It’s a call for us to praise the Lord. Praising God in spite of difficulties is an important start in the growth of our trust in him. When things appear hopeless, that’s when we should praise God. Worshipping the Lord takes our focus off of our problems and places them onto the One who can give us hope.

Augustine wrote in 400 A.D., "For sometimes in the tribulations and temptations of this present life, whether we will or no, our soul is troubled.... But to remove this troubling, he suggesteth joy; not as yet in reality, but in hope; and saith to it when troubled and anxious, sad and sorrowing, ‘Hope in God, for I will yet confess to Him.’ ..."

Verse 2

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

Spurgeon commented on this verse, "I shall not live here for ever. This mortal life will find a finis in death; but while it lasts I will laud the Lord my God. I cannot tell how long or short my life may be; but every hour of it shall be given to the praises of my God."

This verse doesn’t say I will praise the Lord only when things are going well with me. We need to learn to praise God in the bad times as well as the good times. The more time we spend worshipping him when things are going great, the easier it will be for us to worship him even when troubles and tribulation come.

This is why Paul could sing and praise God when he was thrown in the Philippian jail in Acts 16:25 and why he could write in Philippians 4:4 while in a Roman prison, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" If we rejoice in the Lord during the good times, then we will find it easier to rejoice in him during the bad times.

Addison wrote,

Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I’ll pursue;
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.
Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
But, oh! eternity’s too short
To utter all thy praise.

Verse 3-4

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help. When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish.

In whom have you put your trust? Is it in doctors and financial planners? Is it in medicines and pension plans? Is it in your family and your friends? Is it even in the people in your church and your Pastor? Even though all these can be a blessing and help to us, they are all human — all prone to weakness and error. There is only one who is steadfast and unchangeable. That one is the Lord. It is in him that we need to place our hope and our trust.

Man will fail us, man will disappoint us, but God will never let us down. As MacDonald wrote, "It isn’t long before most of us learn not to trust in man—not even in princes who are supposed to be superior. The best of men are men at best."

Verse 5

Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.

When we learn to rest in the Lord and place our hope in him, we find a peace and comfort sweeping over us. Jesus promised us in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

This verse gives us the key to happiness. It’s a matter of our attitude. We need to change our thinking. Are we looking for others for help, and do we place our hope in institutions of this world? Is our trust in doctors, or the government, our employer, or our medical insurance? Are we counting on them to help us?

We need to change our way of looking at things. Our help is the God of Jacob. Our hope is in the Lord. God’s help is greater help than any doctor or government, any employer or insurance plan, any friend or family member can give us. God’s help is sufficient. We need to learn to place our hope in him. He will not fail us.

Spurgeon comments, "Happy is he when others are despairing! Happiest shall he be in that very hour when others are discovering the depths of agony. We have here a statement which we have personally tried and proved: resting in the Lord, we know a happiness which is beyond description, beyond comparison, beyond conception. O how blessed a thing it is to know that God is our present help, and our eternal hope."

Verse 6

Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith for ever.

In this and the verses that follow, the psalmist begins to enumerate the reasons why we can place our hope in the Lord.

When we place our hope in the Lord, we are putting our trust in the Creator of the universe — the one who made all the stars and planets, all the plants and animals, all the rivers and the mountains. If he can do all that, certainly he can take care of our small problems.

The last phrase in this verse, "who keeps faith for ever," is instructive. The word for faith in the Hebrew is < tme)v> emeth which literally means "truth." But it is also used to indicate stability, firmness, and reliability. This is why we can hope in God. He is our stability and he is our firm foundation. We can rely on him.

Spurgeon comments, "Wisely may we trust our Creator: justly may we expect to be happy in so doing. He who made heaven can make a heaven for us, and make us fit for heaven. He who made the earth can preserve us while we are on earth, and help us to make good use of it while we sojourn upon it. He who made the sea and all its mysteries can steer us across the pathless deeps of a troubled life, and make it a way for his redeemed to pass over. This God who still makes the world by keeping it in existence is assuredly able to keep us to his eternal kingdom and glory."

Verse 7

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

God delivers the oppressed, feeds the hungry and sets the prisoners free. We may not be politically oppressed or without food or in prison, but we can take comfort that God takes care of those who are.

And we know he helps us when we are oppressed by trouble surrounding us. He provides us with blessings when we are financially strapped, and he delivers us from the bondage of depression, fears, drugs, and alcohol, or whatever other chains may be ensnaring us.

Verse 8

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.

In this verse we have a three-fold promise of God’s care for us. First, the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. God ministers to our physical needs. He still answers the prayers of his people, and he still is in the miracle-working business. When we are sick and afflicted, we can come to him with confidence. He cares about our physical needs.

Second, he lifts us up when we are bowed down with discouragement and ministers to our mind. He gives us peace and comfort in the midst of our turmoil. When we are in deep mental anguish and despair, we can come to him and know that his healing hand is stretched out to soothe our spirit and calm our soul.

Third, he ministers to our spirit. We are not righteous in our body, nor are we righteous in our mind, but we are righteous in our spirit because of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. God ministers to us spiritual strength. He helps us overcome the lusts of the body and the temptations of the mind by building up our spiritual side. He does this because he loves us.

So what difficulty are you facing? Trust God. He will heal your body, he will heal your mind, he will heal your spirit. Put your hope in the Lord.

Spurgeon gives a wonderful testimony of how God kept him from physical illness. He wrote, "In the year 1854, when I had scarcely been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. ... As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in a shoemaker’s window in the Dover Road. bore in a good bold handwriting these words:—"Because thou hast made the Lord which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall not evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." [Psalm 91:9-10] The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm."

What a wonderful story of faith and God’s healing hand upon this man. But one paragraph later, Spurgeon makes this remarkable statement, "It is impossible that any ill should happen to the man who is beloved of the Lord; the most crushing calamities can only shorten his journey and hasten him to his reward. Ill to him is no ill, but only good in a mysterious form. Losses enrich him, sickness is his medicine, reproach is his honour, death is his gain. No evil in the strict sense of the word can happen to him, for everything is overruled for good. Happy is he who is in such a case. He is secure where others are in peril, he lives where others die."

This is the same attitude Paul had when he was imprisoned in Rome facing execution and he wrote in Philippians 1:20-21, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." And Job could say
in Job 13:15 , "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

What are you facing? Are you ready to put your complete trust in God just as Spurgeon did, just as Paul did, and just as Job did?

Verse 9

The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

God watches over the powerless. The sojourner is a foreign transient. He has no home, is in a foreign land, and may feel lost and alone. But God is with him to help him along the way.

In ancient times the widow and the fatherless were in deep economic trouble. And yet God has promised that he watches over them. As Spurgeon wrote, "When the secondary fatherhood is gone the child falls back upon the primary fatherhood of the Creator; when the husband of earth is removed the godly widow casts herself upon the care of her Maker."

If God will watch over even the most helpless of humanity, we can be confident that he also watches over us. He cares about our plight, and he speedily comes to our aid.

Verse 10

The LORD will reign for ever, thy God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

We can put our hope in the Lord, because we know the Lord reigns forever. His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, even to all generations.

Dr. Curt Richter of John Hopkins University conducted experiments with rats. He took one rat and held it tightly. Eventually, the rat stopped squirming as it realized its situation was hopeless. Dr. Richter then dropped the rat in a tank of water. The rat sank to the bottom of the tank because he had lost all hope. Dr. Richter then took another rat which hadn’t been brought to hopelessness and dropped it in the tank. The second rat, of course, swam to safety. Are you like the first rat — hopeless, or are you like the second rat — hopeful?

What difficulties are you facing? Are you suffering from health problems? Hope in the Lord. Are you experiencing mental despair? Hope in the Lord. Are you facing spiritual anguish? Hope in the Lord. No matter how great the battle you may face, or how devastating the troubles may appear, don’t despair. Hope in the Lord. God has promised he will take care of you.


This study on Psalm 146 1997 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1971, A. J. Holman Company

Augustine: Expositions on the Psalms, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 8, pg. 661, Hendrickson Publishers

Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. III, pg. 401, MacDonald Publishing Company

Philippians 4:4 from the New King James Version 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers

MacDonald: Believer’s Bible Commentary, Old Testament volume, pg. 778 1992, Thomas Nelson Publishers

John 14:27 from the King James Version

Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. III, pg. 402, MacDonald Publishing Company

Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. III, pg. 402, MacDonald Publishing Company

The Treasury of David, vol. II, pg. 92-93, MacDonald Publishing Company

Philippians 1:20-21 from the New International Version 1984, Zondervan Bible Publishers

Job 13:15 from the King James Version

Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. III, pg. 403, MacDonald Publishing Company

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