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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Praise the LORD for He is good
Text:Psalms 146:1-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2013-03-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Praise the LORD for He is good           

Ps. 145: 1

Ps. 1: 1 – 3

Ps. 146: 1 – 5 

Ps. 111: 1 – 5

Ps. 150: 1

 

Scripture reading:       Psalm 146

Text:                              Psalm 146

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

The book of Psalms, as we have it in Scripture, is well structured so that all the psalms together form a beautiful unity as one book.   The psalms are arranged in a specific order.   Each individual psalm fits perfectly into the bigger framework of the whole book.  

And so the book of Psalms also has a beginning and an end.

Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 form the introduction to the whole book, and provide the basic themes that are fleshed out in the rest of the Psalm book.  

The Psalm book also builds up to a climax of praise, ending with 5 psalms that contain nothing but praise to the LORD.

 

The last five psalms all start and end with the words: “Praise the LORD!”

Psalm 146 starts with the words: “Praise the LORD!” and then it ends in verse 10 with the same words: “Praise the LORD!”

We find the same in the next psalm, Psalm 147.   It starts with “Praise the LORD!” and ends with “Praise the LORD!”

And so also in Psalm 148, Psalm 149 and Psalm 150 – each psalm starting with the words “Praise the LORD!” and also ending with these words.

 

These five psalms, forming a climax of praise at the end of the Psalm book, also have in their arrangement an inherent build-up towards the end, so that the very last psalm, Psalm 150, reaches such a climax of praise that the words “Praise the LORD!” are repeated twice in every verse!

 

            “Praise the LORD!

            Praise God in His sanctuary;

            Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

            Praise Him for His mighty acts;

            Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

And then this crescendo of praise reaches its highest pitch in the very last verse:

 

            “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.   Praise the LORD!”

 

 

Now, this final crescendo of praise at the end of the Psalm book starts with Psalm 146.

 

But before we look at this psalm, we also have to go back one psalm.

Psalm 145 also contains nothing but praise to the LORD.   Moreover, Psalm 145 forms the introduction to this final crescendo of praise.  Although it doesn’t have exactly the same structure as the last five psalms, it sets the tone and actually provides a summary of the praise that will be fleshed out in the last five psalms.

 

            “I will extol You, my God, O King; and will bless Your name forever and ever.

            Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.

            Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; His greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”

 

These words of Psalm 145, speaking of the greatness of the LORD, our eternal King, and the glory of His eternal kingdom and His mighty deeds, run like a refrain through the last five psalms.

This theme of the LORD, being our God and great King reigning forever, also returns here in Psalm 146.

 

These are the things for which the LORD is praised: His unsearchable greatness, the glory of His kingdom, the blessedness of His reign, the power, wisdom, righteousness, love and faithfulness revealed in His mighty deeds; the blessedness of having Him as our God, our help and our hope.

 

It is now within this context that we look at Psalm 146.

 

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

Praise the LORD for He is good

 

We will note…

1.      That we are summoned to praise Him

2.      That we are to praise Him for His faithfulness

3.      That we are to praise Him for the blessedness of His reign

In the first place we note that…

We are summoned to praise the LORD

 

Our text starts with the words: “Praise the LORD!”   In Hebrew: Hallelujah (Hy"Wll]h;).

It is a command by which God’s people is summoned to praise Him.

The word LORD has in our translation four capital letters; that is the Hebrew word Jahve, the great I AM WHO I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who remains the same, our faithful trustworthy God who made His covenant with us.

 

Praise Him!

 

But what does it mean to praise the LORD?

Is it only to say: “Praise the LORD, Praise the LORD!”? 

What is the content of this praise?

Each time when the psalms summon us to praise the LORD, the command to praise Him is accompanied by a description or summery of His greatness and of His great deeds – His mighty deeds, His deeds done in love and faithfulness, His righteous deeds, His deeds wrought in wisdom and executed with justice.  

The psalms proclaim the praise of the LORD by recalling His mighty deeds in the history of salvation.

 

To praise the LORD is not to make a mindless noise!

We praise Him by recalling what He has done for His people, His church.

 

 

 

 

 

The psalms praise the LORD by proclaiming His holiness and goodness and greatness in all that He has done.   He revealed Himself to us in all His words and in all His doings.    And thus the psalms praise the LORD for His revelation and instruction and for all His wondrous and mighty works wrought in love and faithfulness towards His covenant people, Israel.  

 

Yes, the Psalms are covenantal songs.   It is the praise of the LORD, Jahve, our covenant God; praising the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and God of Jacob, Who is God and King of Zion, Jerusalem.  

It is God’s covenant people singing the praise of their covenant God.  

 

What then about other people, and what about the rest of creation?

Is this command, “Praise Jahve!”, not also intended for them?

Well, it is true that all of creation is summoned to praise the LORD.   In fact, all of creation exists with this one purpose: to praise the LORD with constant praise.

All things are of Him, through Him, and unto Him.  

All things exist for the very purpose to praise the LORD.

 

And therefore also the sun, moon and stars, join in this choir of praise.

Heaven and earth proclaim His worth.

But the Psalms are the covenantal songs of God’s covenant people who know Jahve, their God, and who praise Him for His covenant faithfulness.

 

Moreover, He has shown to us mercy and favour which He has not shown to others.

We, His church, are therefore called to extol and honour and praise the LORD, our LORD and our God, and we are called to do so even much more than the rest of creation!

 

And thus we find it also here in Psalm 146.

“Praise Jahve!”

“I will sing praises to my God…”

“…the God of Jacob…”

“…your God, O Zion…”

 

We cannot tear this psalm lose from its covenantal context and covenantal content, and make it the so called “pious religiosity” of the private individual who worships his own private god in his closet.

 

When we sing the psalms in the book of Psalms, when we sing the praise of Jahve, we are not singing about ourselves and our religiosity.   We, together with the church of all ages, are singing about the fullness of life in covenant communion with our God, so that His covenant encloses our whole life – all of life – and regulates our whole life, and even determines the content of our praise!

 

After exhorting God’s people to praise the LORD their God, the Psalmist, in this case king David, also exhorts himself:

 

            “Praise Jahve, O my soul!”

 

Yes, let my soul also be one with God’s people in praising Him.

By addressing his soul, he exhorts himself to praise the LORD not with outward show, but with his whole being: with his whole heart, mind, and soul.

 

“While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” – verse 2

 

It means: for as long as I live, I will praise the LORD; for as long as I exist I will praise my God.

His whole life, his whole existence, he devotes to this purpose: to praise the LORD his God.

 

Dear congregation, is this also your confession?  

Do you know and confess that you live with the purpose to praise the LORD all your days as long as you exist?

Has that become your sole purpose in life?

 

Yes, let us learn anew to sing these words with David:

 

“While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”

 

And note the words: “my God”.

 

Who gives David the right to call God, the almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, his God?

It is God Himself who, by virtue of His covenant with us, calls Himself our God, your God, my God.  

And in faith God’s covenant people respond by calling Him: our God; my God.

 

We have here a covenant child reconciled to God through Christ, who, together with God’s people, His church, praises the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; praises the God who revealed Himself in the history of salvation, in the history of His dealings with His people.

And it is by remembering this goodness and faithfulness of God towards His people that the psalmist is able to praise his God.

 

Our covenant God has proven His faithfulness.   He is our help and our hope.   And that brings us to the second point, that we are to…

Praise Him for His faithfulness

 

When we read about God’s faithfulness, His faithfulness refers to His faithfulness in keeping His covenant – His faithfulness in keeping His promises, and also His faithfulness in executing judgement in accordance to the same covenant.  

When the psalms speak of God’s love, it is His covenantal love, His choosing of Israel, His favour towards them whom He adopted as His own.

 

And what a privilege, what riches, to have this God as our God; to have Him as our help and our hope.

 

“Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.  

His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish.

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God…”

 

With these words David reminds us of Gen. 2: 7:

 

“…the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

 

And he combines this with Gen. 3: 19 where the LORD said to Adam that he will return to the ground:

 

            “… for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

 

In ourselves we are nothing but dust.

We have our life and our being in God alone.   Apart from Him we have no life.

And that becomes clear from the very way in which man was created.   The LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.

And when man dies he returns to dust.  

 

By reminding us of this, David shows us how foolish it is to seek any help in man or to build our hope on man.   Even the best and the greatest of men remain mere men, with the breath of life in their nostrils.

Today they appear great and strong; tomorrow they are gone.

 

But David does not only speak of man in general; he speaks of man in opposition to God.   Not only does such a man perish, but his plans perish with him.

How often did Israel sought help from the Egyptians, or from the Assyrians, from princes and world powers, while turning away from their God!   Or how often did Israel trust in their own strength and wealth and in their own wisdom!

 

In that context the LORD also says:

 

“…Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.” – Jer. 17: 5

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD.” – Jer.17:7

 

As He also says in Isaiah:

 

“Sever yourselves from a man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for of what account is he?” – Isaiah 2: 22.

 

Over and again the LORD forbids His people to trust in anyone or anything, but to trust in Him alone – He, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.  

 

Blessed is the man who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God – verse 5.

 

The word for “happy”, here in verse 5, is the same Hebrew word used in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man…”

Blessed with the true and lasting blessing of the LORD is he who has Jacob’s God for his help, and whose hope is the LORD his God.

 

What then is the reason?   Who is this God who is called the God of Jacob?   Is it not the One who has revealed Himself in the history of Israel His people?

 

The “God of Jacob” is the One who made His everlasting covenant with Israel to be their God, to be their help and their hope – their unfailing help and their unfailing hope.

 

Yes, this name, “the God of Jacob” brings to mind the whole history of Israel in which the LORD has revealed Himself.   He revealed Himself with a mighty arm when He delivered them from Egypt from the house of bondage.   His mighty deeds and wonders are recorded in their journey through the desert.   His unsearchable greatness and His steadfast love and faithfulness, and His righteousness and justice are written in all His dealings with them.

 

And thus David, to remind us of the name which the God of Jacob made for Himself, gives us a short description.   He is the One…

 

“…who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry…” – verses 6, 7.

 

We see in this short description His power: He made heaven and earth.

 

We are reminded of His faithfulness: He keeps truth forever.   The word “truth” refers here to faithfulness, and this word is used for God’s faithfulness in keeping His covenant with us, His faithfulness in being what He is, the I AM, unchanging, reliable, fulfilling His Word.  

 

In this short description of “the God of Jacob” we are also reminded of His justice: He “executes justice for the oppressed”.

The “oppressed” refers here to the people of God.

Yes, so often God’s people were oppressed.   It did not always seem as if it benefits His people to serve Him, especially not in times of trials.   Think of Ps. 73 where David looked at the prosperity of the ungodly, and considered his own misery and sorrow, so that his faith wavered and his feet nearly slipped, when he, in a moment of foolish blindness, said:

 

“Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence.   For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.” – Ps. 73: 13, 14.

 

Through all the ages this has remained a test to God’s people, for look at the sufferings of the church, look at its troubles, see how it is despised and afflicted and oppressed.  

We do not serve God because it pays so well!

That was the accusation of Satan against Job: that he serves the LORD only for the benefits of His blessings.

No, the apostle Paul also says that if the benefit of our faith pertained to this life only, we would be of all people the most pitiable (1 Cor. 15: 19)!

 

God’s people remain in this world an oppressed people; freed and yet afflicted.

 

Brothers and sisters, we are often oppressed and afflicted, but never forsaken.

For: the God of Jacob is on our side, and He remains faithful.   He executes justice and delivers His oppressed people again and again; yes, every time again.

 

The ungodly lives in the same world but their eyes remain shut to the way in which our God governs this world.  

Even when He clearly reveals Himself as the Judge of all the earth – who executes His righteous judgments on the ungodly and deliver His people from their distress – the ungodly still continues to deny Him.

 

But His people praise Him.

 

Praise Him, the God of Jacob, the Almighty, who made heaven and earth.

Praise Him, the I AM WHAT I AM, who remains faithful forever.

Praise Him, the Judge of the earth, who executes justice for the oppressed – yes, who deliver His people from their enemies, who executes His righteous judgements on the enemies of Christ and of His church.  

 

And then the description of the God of Jacob continues.   He is the One…

 

            “…who gives food to the hungry…” – verse 7.

 

Now, if he said that God always feeds His children with abundance, then those who suffer famine or hunger would think that they are rejected by God, but now even the most miserable may know that God’s help is near.  

He reveals His power and deliverance not as clearly to the rich and to the prosperous, as to the poor and afflicted.   Those in need are the first to experience God’s goodness and to acknowledge His favour, while those who lack nothing are often the last to acknowledge God’s goodness.

 

His love and faithfulness shines the brightest when the night is dark.  

It is the oppressed and the hungry and all those in need that becomes the greatest trophies of God’s grace and faithfulness when He delivers them.

 

In the same way He continues, saying:

 

            “…The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.

            The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

            The LORD raises those who are bowed down;

The LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers…” – the verses 7 – 9.

 

We have in the Hebrew five short sentences, each consisting of three Hebrew words.  It is short powerful sentences stating what the LORD, Jahve, does.   Literally it says:

Jahve frees the-prisoners.

Jahve opens the-blind.

Jahve raises the-down

Jahve loves the-righteous.

Jahve guards the-strangers.

 

Again it refers to the fact that His people, even those in the greatest need, may in the worst of circumstances wait on His help.   He never leaves them, but delivers them.

He is indeed speaking of God’s people who fear Him.   This is confirmed when He calls them “the righteous”.

To them He reveals Himself as a faithful and merciful God – their God.

 

This passage reminds us also of the prophecies:

 

“In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the scroll, and the eyes of the blind shall see…The humble also shall increase joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.   For the terrible one is brought to nothing, the scornful one is consumed, and all who seek iniquity are cut off…” – Isaiah 29: 18–20.

 

When the LORD visits His own He delivers them from their oppressors and satisfies all their needs.   The deaf, the blind, the humble and the poor, yes, all in need, will find in Him a faithful God and helper.

 

Brothers and sisters, with such words the LORD calls all who are in distress to come to Him.

 

The strangers, the fatherless and the widows stand for the most vulnerable and needy amongst God’s people.   To them He reveals Himself as their God and helper, and delivers them.

 

For all these things the LORD must be praised; praised by His people who have experienced His goodness and deliverance.

 

And not only are we to praise the LORD because He is faithful in keeping His promises; we also have to praise Him because He is faithful in executing His covenant wrath on the covenant breakers.  

And thus the Psalmist also praises the LORD for executing His righteous judgments on the ungodly.   Verse 9:

 

            “But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.”

 

Also this praise is necessary to make the praise of this psalm complete.

Praise the LORD, for He turns the way of the wicked upside down!

 

Siding with the LORD we rejoice in His righteous judgements when he turns the wicked, with all their plans, upside down.

 

Yes, the psalms are full of praise, praising the LORD also for His righteous judgements on the ungodly.

 

Now, for all these reasons mentioned we are called to praise the LORD, for He, the God of Jacob, has become our help and our hope.

 

Dear congregation, we stand at the beginning of a new year, and we do not know the future, but we do know the God of Jacob, who made His covenant also with us and our children.  

 

Princes, and governments, may falter and fall; a corrupt economy may even come to a crash, or persecution may come, or maybe nothing dramatic will happen; maybe life will continue on as in the past, but for all God’s children there will be many trials and afflictions even in our normal daily Christian life.  

For some there might be ongoing suffering because of illness, others may suffer under different sorrows and trials.  

And we all have a daily struggle against our own sin.

Yes, in this life of sorrow and trouble we may not expect Paradise on a cursed earth.

But in all our need we know our faithful God, His unfailing help, and our sure hope.  

And thus our future is sure; even our eternal future with Him.

 

He revealed Himself to us in all of Scripture and in all of history as a God worthy of our constant praise.  

 

We said in the beginning that Psalm 145 serves as an introduction to this last crescendo of praise at the end of the Psalm book, and that Psalm 145 also provides the theme that runs through these last psalms of praise.

Psalm 145 presents our covenant God to us as our King.   His greatness is unsearchable, and His kingdom all glorious and everlasting.   All generations shall praise Him and declare His mighty acts and His goodness, and shall speak of the glory of His kingdom.

Now, that theme of God, our King, and the glory of His kingdom, continues also here in Psalm 146.  

We note that in the last place, that we are to…

Praise Him for the blessedness of His reign

 

Verse 10:

 

            “The LORD shall reign forever – your God, O Zion, to all generations…”

 

The prophets of old proclaimed the eternal kingship and reign of Jahve as good news, as gospel. 

The prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, the Son of David, who shall reign forever over the house of Jacob, pointed to the coming of Christ and His eternal kingship.

And when Christ came He proclaimed this gospel, the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of His Kingship.   He is Jahve, the Lord, who was anointed as our eternal King.

 

Praise our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Zion!

 

Yes, the reign or kingship of Jahve is gospel to us. 

It is gospel, good news, to have Jahve as our King.

Your God, O Zion, shall reign for all generations, even forever. 

 

Christ is anointed as King over Zion; that is: King of His church.   And His kingship over us is our highest blessing; a blessing that will lasts from generation to generation until the end of this world, and… forever!

 

As this psalm builds up to a climax, the praise of the LORD reaches its climax in this confession: Your King, O Zion, reigns forever.

 

Praise Him, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

Praise Him for He remains faithful forever.

Praise Him for He executes justice for the oppressed. 

Praise Him for He is our unfailing help and our sure hope.

 

            “Praise the LORD!”

 

How then shall we praise Him?

Not by making a mindless noise.

We praise Him by recalling His mighty deeds of salvation and deliverance as it is revealed to us in holy Scripture and in all of history.

We praise the Lord by extolling His mighty deeds, His righteous deeds, His deeds of love and faithfulness by which He made a name for Himself as the God of Jacob.

 

Let us not trust in man, or the cleverness of man, for no matter how clever or great a man may seem to become, his breath remains in his nostrils, and when he returns to his clay all his plans perish.

 

Brothers and sisters, what riches and grace that we have the God of Jacob as our help and hope!

He the Creator of heaven and earth, our faithful covenant God and eternal King, He is worthy of praise.

And for His praise we exist.

Let all who know Him as their help and hope praise His Name.

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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