Psalm 146 Sermon
Weeping with Those Who Weep
This week has been fraught with more details of the disturbing reality that is happening all around the world, the death toll climbs in Haiti…And Afghanistan, the images that we’ve seen from there, are horrific. Much of these tragedies stir various emotions within us. Some of us its anger — at people who made the decisions that lead to these kinds of heartbreaking events. Some of its deep sorrow — literally weeping with those weeping who have lost loved ones to building codes that cannot withstand the earth giving way.
And yet when there is just so much division throughout the world — we have this glimpse of brothers and sisters, a community, coming together for a small organization in outstate Haiti next to the Caribbean. Three churches that are different — yet are the same in their pursuit of Christ and His holiness. Thank you for those of you that are able to support JiHM it has been a great blessing to see our little town rally around.
Those are things that we find it easy to praise God for right? Those are the things that we can rejoice and see that glimpse of restored relationship with God’s people. But, what about those tragedies — the raw emotions that are stirred within us?
How do we approach God, in the midst of tragedies?
I think as many of you have already heard from our reading of Psalm 146 — Even in the midst of heartache—we approach Him with Praise. This Psalm emotes that very idea —This Psalm displays why we praise, even when we have difficulties in our lives, or we see the difficulty of others’ lives. So with that, I want to take a moment and lift up the people trapped, in Afghanistan and the people weeping and suffering from the earthquake in Haiti.
To give a little context here, we are near the end the book of Psalms. This last small section is set apart as a type of ending to the book. These last 5 Psalms are often referred to as the Hallelujah Psalms. We spoke briefly of this Praise the LORD — that is the translation of Hallelujah—Praise—YHWH.
We are going to first look at just verses 1 +2. This is where we get the name hallelujah psalms. Praise the LORD, Praise the LORD. This word soul — נַ֝פְשִׁ֗י it is a complete substance of a person—The root has a wide ranging usage but all center around this very elemental part of what makes a person a person. The Psalmist continues with the understanding of praising YHWH as long as one has life. And yet again — “while I have my being” or while I still am. You start to get the picture that there is not a corner of our life that we are able to withhold praise. Yet, this is in reality a tall order for our life isn’t it? To really praise Him in all manners of our life. To yet praise Him when these horrible things are happening in the world. To yet praise Him when we don’t get the answer we see as the obvious good. To yet praise Him for the seemingly insignificant times of our day.
Dear people it is with every part of us. We praise God for the grace He continues to show us — our life should reflect that praise of Him. Not just when we are in a Sunday morning praise and worship service. But in our coming and our going —In our waking and in our sleeping —In our strength and in our weakness —In our hunger and in our filled —We praise God with every breath He has given us to do so —But brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not merely stop praising Him upon our death do we? We anticipate the life after death — where we will “Be” with Him. We will have a being — it will be different but yet have similarities —So we will still have being to praise Him with —
I thought this quote from Augustine was insightful —
“The first thing I would do regarding these words is warn you, dear friends, against assuming, when you hear or say “as long as I live I will play music to my God,” that when this life comes to an end that is the end for us of God’s praises. Not at all; we shall praise him then much more, when we are living without end. If we praise him during the exile we are passing through, how, do you think, shall we praise him at the home we are never going to leave? As it is said, read and sung in another psalm, “Blessed are those who dwell in your home; they shall praise you forever and ever.” Where you hear “forever and ever,” there is no end. And living the blessed life in which God is to be perceived without any uncertainty, to be loved without any weariness, to be praised without end, why, yes indeed, that will be what our being alive consists in—seeing, loving, praising God.”1
Wow — what a hope — I love that picture of praising him during the exile we are passing through now, compared to praising Him “at home” where we belong — with Him. I have said this before, but we are beings made to worship and praise which we will do — but who or what will we praise? The creator or the created? It is clear with all that we are — we are to Praise the LORD.
We approach God with praise from our entire being.
It’s sounds so straightforward — but as I said, we often let other things come between us throughout this exile between us and our praise of God. There are no reserved spaces in our life for when its appropriate to praise God —He gets all the space.
The next few verses serve as the contrasting element between the meat of the reason we Praise YHWH.
Verse 3 + 4
As we have seen and talked about recently — man falls very short — why would we put our trust in any man — No man can make things truly right — no man can have a plan of restoration that will set things as they should be. The psalmist most certainly plays on the words about breath and earth from the poetic beginning of all creation. When God formed the earth into man — put His breath within him. Returns to the earth — and the ruah has gone out from him….All of those human plans fall and perish just like the man. The contrast to hoping in man — is hope in YHWH — Which blesses that person. Look again at the character of God that we praise — the character that we hope in — the character from which blessing comes.
Look at all the action verbs —Made — keeps — executes — gives. Who does all those things — YHWH — the one that we put our hope in. The one that blesses His people for hoping in Him. We need creation — We need His faithfulness — We need justice —We need provision. We can’t put our hope in man for those things — Then the Psalmist zero’s in on the action that YHWH takes on our obvious need. Those who are prisoners by outside forces — He is the Savior. Us — we are all imprisoned by our sinful nature — our captor Satan —The LORD is our Savior.
The afflictions we face throughout this exile — when we are “home” with Him he promises for all eyes to be opened. Those afflictions will be no more — He is OUR HEALER!
Those who are oppressed — being hunted down door to door — those silently praying for boldness in the face of bodily death and torture. The LORD lifts them up — up to Him. Those who are weary and seeking for shelter — sojourners — attempting to find a “home”. The widow. The fatherless. These are the three powerless that God continues to stand beside throughout the biblical narrative. The ones He watches over — the ones that have traditionally been seen as given a harder and more difficult lot in life. He is the one that upholds and watches over them.
Do you see the needs of humanity? Remember this is contrasted with putting hope in man to set things aright. The beginning was a blessing — now we see the wicked — they are to ruin. We may not fit every one of these human need categories — but we surely resonate in some way with this weak state of humanity. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with life decisions — one that seem oppressive. The LORD is the one who lifts you up.
Maybe you feel like you’re wandering in this life unable to find a home. The LORD is watching over you. Are you feeling like you’re alone in this world — like you have nothing giving you a foundation? The LORD is the one who upholds you — who is your rock of foundation! t is He the LORD who does all of these things.
We approach God with praise for His strength in our weakness.
A crucial part of this point — admitting that we are weak. No one wants to be weak — but we must see our weakness in comparison to His strength. We praise Him for that strength — look at WHO He is and WHAT He has done. The Psalmist now concludes with somewhat of a summary of this praise. Rhetorically questioning — why do we praise Him? Because He will reign forever — for all time. It is sure — there is no wavering.
I mentioned last week, that it is every knee that will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD — this is as sure as His eternal reign. Zion is frequently referred to in the entire biblical narrative as denoting God’s place with God’s people.
To all generations —Literally in the Hebrew it is from generation to generation. There is a continuity in the aspect of this phrase. It doesn’t stop with the generation of the Psalmist. It doesn’t stop with King David — King Solomon. This attitude of praise continues from each generation to the next. There is a crucial passing down that must happen. We must display our praise as the Psalmist outlines throughout this Psalm to the next generation. I think that is one of the most beautiful things about our church family. We have a diversity in our generations — which continues to display the importance of one generation to the next. Again, there is a wisdom, a hope, an anticipation that needs to continue to be displayed from generation to generation. This approach of praise to God is never just good news for one generation, but for all generations. We want our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren and their children on and on to praise God for the fact that indeed. He will reign for eternity over His creation. That is why we approach God with praise.
We approach God with praise for His eternal reign over all creation.
That is very hopeful — news. News that we anticipate its complete fulfillment. We are as Augustine referred to earlier are merely exiles in this land now. We are living in the already — not, yet. Jesus has already ushered in the beginning of His Kingdom. All the things that the Psalmist attributes to YHWH — Jesus began doing. Jesus Himself says as much to John the Baptist’s followers —
“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.”
Jesus was showing us a preview of the complete fulfillment of the kingdom that He will be enthroned upon for eternity.
This is where we see God’s overlapping presence in our sinful world. We see Jesus bringing to fruition the promises that God has made — to His people. He is faithful! But, we call it the not yet — because its not been fully consummated or fully completed. The war has been decided, but battles still continue.
I read in a book that a pastor wrote about how when Allied forces landed on D-Day that was the clinching event — the war was decidedly won by the Allies. Yet — some of the most horrific battles and loss of life still came. That’s what we’re in now — the war has been won when Jesus died on the cross on our behalf to bear the penalty for our sin and rose victoriously conquering sin and satan. But battles continue to rage — we are yet in our sinful world. We still see awful things happening. But Praise the LORD! Because Jesus sent His Holy Spirit!! So we are like little kingdom outposts. We are to bear the image of the true King we give all our allegiance to! That is how we are able to praise God in the midst of all of this heartache. We know the war has been won — yet we continue to follow the example of our Savior. Loving the hard to love. Serving those in need. Caring for those that need care. With the Spirit’s help doing Kingdom Work just like Jesus.
Praise the LORD in anticipation for the fulfillment of that Kingdom. But, what does it look like to actually approach God with praise?
Take away – 1
We must not compartmentalize our life of praise to God, our whole life is consecrated to Him.
Take away – 2
We must understand that He is our Savior and His Kingdom is not of this world.
Take away – 3
We must diligently proclaim this good news to every generation in our midst.
That is the best news — that Jesus’ perfect life. That He sufficiently and sacrificially gave in our place. And rose from the grave conquering sin and death— in order that we might have peace with God once more. Believe this — trust Him to be your strength for your weakness. We can’t do it on our own — only through Christ! Turn from the ways of old—And join with generation after generation in singing praise. To our Savior — our God — our Eternal loving King! Hallelujah — Hallelujah Indeed!
1 Quentin F. Wesselschmidt, ed., Psalms 51–150, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT 8 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 415.