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Study 2 – Psalm 146

This study contains Greek or Hebrew words. They will appear as scrambled letters enclosed in <brackets> unless you have the appropriate fonts installed on your computer. See the Information about this web site page for more information.

Introduction

1. In what do you place your hope? What things help you feel confident in the future?

We place our hope in a lot of things. How many of you hope that you will some day win the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes? Or maybe you’ve been going over to the 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 Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 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 God.

Verse 1

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!

2. How does worshipping God help when we feel hopeless?

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 faith. When things appear hopeless, that’s when we should praise God. Worshipping 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 all my life long.

3. When you have been going through times of despair, do you feel like singing praises to God or not?

This verse doesn’t say I will praise my God 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 God when things are going great, the easier it will be for us to worship God even when troubles and tribulation come.

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."

What song or hymn has helped you through a difficult time?

Notice this verse talks about singing praises to God. Even though we may be going through times of despair, we need to force ourselves to sing songs of praise. Singing has a therapeutic effect on our spirit, especially when we are singing hymns or choruses about God. In fact Stuhlmueller suggests a meaning for this verse of, "let my entire life be music to my God." As we reach out to the Creator in song, we will discover new hope and faith.

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

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.

4. In what people do you place your trust? Have you had an experience where someone you trusted let you down?

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 Minister? 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 God. It is in God that we need to place our hope and our trust.

Share why you think we sometimes find it difficult to place our hope in God.

People will fail us, people 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 are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God,

5. What must we do to place our hope in God? How have you received God’s help?

When we learn to place our hope in God, 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 to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

This verse gives us a key to happiness. It’s a matter of our attitude. We need to adjust our thinking. Are we looking for others for help, or are we trusting in God? Sometimes it’s necessary 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 a greater help than any government, any employer, any friend or any family member can give us. God’s help is sufficient. We need to learn to place our hope in the only one who 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 forever.

6. What thoughts in this verse would cause you to place your hope in God?

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

When we hope in God, 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. God that can do all that can certainly 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 often means "truth." And it is also used to indicate stability, firmness, and reliability. This is why we can hope in God. God is our stability and is our firm foundation and the one we can rely on.

Comments from an Early Restoration Movement Leader

In 1835 Alexander Campbell wrote, "Hope differs from faith, in that it looks only forward to future objects. It looks not back, nor does it contemplate the present: ‘for,’ says Paul, ‘what a man sees, why does he yet hope for?’ Nor looks it on all the future; but only on future good. It desires and expects good and nothing else. There is not one dark cloud, not one dark speck, in all the heavens of Christian hope. Every thing seen in its wide dominions, in the unbounded prospect yet before us, is bright, cheering, animating, transporting. It is all desirable and desired. It is all expected. It is all ‘earnest expectation’; not a doubtful, but a ‘confident expectation of things’ desirable and to be ‘hoped for.’ "

Verse 7

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

7. How do you think God ministers to the hopeless? How are you best gifted to help others – spiritually, physically, or emotionally?

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. Many times God will use us to help those who are disadvantaged if we are willing to listen to God’s voice. We can care about the spiritual health of others and want to help them grow in their faith. But there are times when we also need to minister to the physical needs and the emotional needs. God will use us as hands to work, as arms to lift, as legs to carry, and as feet to journey for those who are oppressed, hungry, discouraged, or imprisoned.

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

The Old Testament and the Rights of the Disadvantaged

Even though the Old Testament was written at a time when most nations treated the disadvantaged with callousness and disregard, Biblical commands aimed at just treatment for all were required of the Hebrews. There were provisions in the Old Testament laws for the rights of slaves, for protection for women, provisions guaranteeing food for the poor, and releasing indebted obligations and property back to families. The practices of gleaning, redeeming property, and the safety in cities of refuge reveal a remarkable degree of enlightenment at a barbarous time of history. Even though there were probably many abuses, the fact that justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, and setting prisoners free was encouraged is a remarkable example of how divine compassion influenced the culture of the Hebrew nation.

Verse 8

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

8. According to this verse, what three ways does God minister to us?

In this verse we have a three-fold promise of God’s care for us. First, God opens the eyes of the blind. God ministers to our physical needs. God still hears our prayers, and cares about our physical well-being. When we are sick and afflicted, we can come to the Great Physician with confidence. Our God cares about our physical needs.

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

Third, God 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 Christ made for us. God ministers to us spiritual strength, helping us overcome the lusts of the body and the temptations of the mind by building up our spiritual side. God does this out of love for us.

Share how God has ministered to you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

Ballard points out, "This psalmist can help us to lift hearts and voices in adoration to see God in nature and history, to feel him in our thinking and willing." So what difficulty are you facing? Trust God who will heal your body, will heal your mind, will heal your spirit. Put your hope in God.

Verse 9

The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

9. How do you think God watches over the powerless? How can people hold onto hope even when circumstances seem dark and impossible?

God watches over the powerless. The strangers here are foreign transients. They have no home, are in a foreign land, and may feel lost and alone. But God is with them to help them along the way. In ancient times the widow and the orphans were in deep economic trouble. And yet God has promised to watch 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 we will also be watched over. God cares about our plight, and speedily comes to our aid. And as we receive God’s blessings, it should make us want to reach out to help others in need. A person who only receives from God and never gives out to anyone else will soon find their faith becoming stagnant and weak. God has called us to be ministers to others. As we learn to give to others and share our faith, we will discover a new spiritual strength and renewal taking place in our own life.

Verse 10

The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!

10. How long will God reign? How have you experienced God’s reign in your life?

We can put our hope in God, because we know the Lord will reign forever. God’s 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 it 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 God. Are you experiencing mental despair? Hope in God. Are you facing spiritual anguish? Hope in God. No matter how great the battle you may face, or how devastating the troubles may appear, don’t despair. Hope in God. We have the promises from this psalm that God will take care of us..

Footnotes:

This study on Psalm 146 1998 by David Humpal

All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New Revised Standard Version 1989, Thomas Nelson Publishers

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

Stuhlmueller: Harper’s Bible Commentary pg. 493 1988, Harper and Row Publishers

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

John 14:27 from the New King James Version 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers

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

Campbell: The Christian System, chapter XXI, pg. 51, Standard Publishing Company

Ballard: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4, pg. 748 1955, Abingdon Press

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

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