Scripture: Nehemiah, chapters 5-6; Psalm 146; Luke, chapter 24
Psalm 146 (NASB) – Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, my soul! I will praise the Lord while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not trust in noblemen, in mortal men, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit 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 everything that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of those who are blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked. The Lord will reign forever, Your God, Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!
I think it’s easy for us to just skip over the phrase “Praise the Lord!” when we read from the Psalms, because it’s such a common phrase. In the Bible that I’m using this year for my daily readings, Psalms 145-148 are all on the same two pages. Psalms 146, 147, and 148 all begin with the phrase, “Praise the Lord!” But we shouldn’t skip over it, because we were created to glorify God. The Westminster Catechism, written to instruct people in the Christian faith, says that the chief end (or purpose) of mankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Praising the Lord is at the core of who we were created to be!
However, the psalmist does not just tell us to praise God; he gives us plenty of reasons why we should praise Him.
He made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them
He keeps faith forever
He executes justice for the oppressed
He gives food to the hungry
He frees the prisoners
He opens the eyes of the blind
He raises up those who are bowed down
He loves the righteous
He watches over strangers
He supports the fatherless and the widow
He thwarts the way of the wicked
I would suggest that all of us can find strength and encouragement in these ways that God works. He keeps faith with us even when we are unfaithful to Him. He brings justice when we are oppressed. He is the source of what we often call “compassionate ministries” – feeding the hungry, defending the oppressed, caring for those in need – and He calls us to join Him in that work.
“Do not trust in mortal man”
Finally, notice what the psalmist says in verses 3-4: Do not trust in noblemen, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. The world has never experienced a shortage of people who have great plans and programs. They claim to work for the good of others, but those plans are always tinged with some degree of self-interest. I’m not saying that because I’m cynical; I say it because it’s true of every one of us. Apart from God’s work in our hearts, we are incapable of being truly selfless. And history tells us that all of these “great people” – no matter when or where they lived, no matter what their programs were – eventually come to naught.
Except for Jesus.
Of course, Jesus is not “just” a mortal man; He is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. He is the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. When He “returned to the earth,” his plans did not perish; they were just getting started!
Praise the Lord!
God is reminding us that our trust and hope is in Jesus, and Jesus alone. As I’m writing this morning, I’m sitting in a restaurant having coffee. I can hear conversations at the tables around me. Almost all of them are talking about the upcoming election. Depending on people’s political views, I’ve heard cries of despair and shouts of joy after each of the past two presidential elections. So many people invest so much energy and time and resources in our elections. What would happen if we invested the same time and energy and resources into proclaiming and embodying the kingdom of God?
Do not trust in noblemen, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. As followers of Jesus, we should not put our trust or hope in the outcome of any election. We should be informed. We should vote. But we do not trust…in mortal men. Our trust is in God.
Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding us that You are our hope and our strength. “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Help us to put our trust in You, for You alone will reign forever. Amen.