“Praise for God’s Justice”
Lesson Text: Psalm 146:1-10
Background Scripture: Psalm 146; Exodus 21-23; Isaiah 58
Devotional Reading:Luke 4:16-21
Psalm 146:1-10 (KJV)
1Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.
2While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
3Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
4His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
5Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:
6Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:
7Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners:
8The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous:
9The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.
10The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord.
To put our trust God in, not in man, or our plans for the future.
To show that God is the Creator and Sustainer of life.
To know that praising the Lord throughout life requires daily communication (relationship).
Everyone Wants Justice
In September of 2009, the small community of Beason, Illinois experienced a horrific mass murder when five members of a family were bludgeoned to death. Only a 3-year-old survived. Everyone who has heard of this case wants justice done for this family.
Hundreds of other examples of criminal acts could be offered. They all have a common thread: every decent and honorable person wants justice. The problem is that not everyone gets justice in this world. For perfect justice we must turn to the only one who can give it, and that is the God of the universe.
Time: about 1000 B.C.
Today’s text is an individual hymn of praise for God’s justice. It is a continuation of the psalm before it, which ends with this statement: “My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever” (Psalm 145:21). Psalm 146 is the beginning of a series of psalms of praise (namely, 146-150). All are praise hymns, with the phrase Praise ye the Lord occurring at the beginning and end of each.
Why such praise? Because the Creator God is a God of justice, and one day He will allow His people to prevail over the injustices of the world. Psalm 146 is primarily about justice for the downtrodden. The Lord is utterly trustworthy in supplying all human needs, and His love is always available to the disadvantaged. The rest of the Psalms in this subgrouping hint at this theme (see Psalm 147:6, 11; 148:11; 149:6-9), as these Psalms progress to total praise in Psalm 150.
CALL TO PRAISE (Psalm 146:1-2)
1. Why does the writer put so much emphasis on the phrase “Praise the Lord” (Psalm 146:1-2)?
The phrase “Praise Ye the Lord” is a translation of a Hebrew word most Christians know very well: “Hallelujah.”
The psalmist began his hymn with the declaration, “Praise the LORD” (v. 1). The Hebrew for this phrase is Hallelu Yah, from which we get our English term hallelujah. The underlying thought behind the word-to give exuberant praise to God-is based on the Hebrew verb hala, which means “to be boastful” or “to praise.” Halal was only one of several terms the Hebrews used to speak about praise. Experts tell us they had seven distinct words to express subtle nuances of adoration to God. The Hebrews joined the word Yah, which is a shortened form of Yahweh (the covenant name of the Lord) to the verb halal The combined phrase basically meant “Praise the LORD!” This word functions as bookends for each of the concluding psalms in Psalm 146-150.
The fact that the word Lord occurs with small capital letters indicates that Yahweh is the word being translated. This is God’s personal name. It is Yahweh, the God who revealed His name to Moses (Exodus 3:15), whom we praise.
What the psalmist preached, he practiced. He would not dare call upon us to praise the Lord without himself having first done so. He resolves “While I live will I praise the LORD.” Life as we know it now does not go on forever. It is our moral duty to praise God while we have life, for no man shall praise Him from the grave.
2. What should a lifetime of praise to the Lord entail?
In verse 2 the psalmist expressed his intent to sing praise to God all of his life. In singing praise, one makes music to the eternal God, something we should do as long as we live. This is a commitment to praise for a lifetime. Such a commitment, like that of a marriage, cannot be sporadic or intermittent.
In Heaven, we shall praise the Lord forever and forever, but now is the time to get prepared as we praise Him from day to day. No matter how dark and difficult the day may be, there is always something for which we can praise the Lord.
To live a life of praise is to overcome criticism and complaining, to stop competing against others and comparing ourselves with them. It means to be grateful in and for everything (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:20) and really believe that God is working all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28). A life of praise is free from constant anxiety and discouragement as we focus on the Lord, who is mentioned eleven times in this psalm.
What Do You Think?
How do your experiences praising the Lord compare with the psalmist’s?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In difficult circumstances | In good circumstances |In combining continual praise with sincerity
MISPLACED TRUST (Psalm 146:3-4)
3. What would be the end result if we put our trust in man? (Psalm 146:3-4)
Most people trust in "flesh and blood," themselves and others, instead of trusting the Lord to use "flesh and blood" to accomplish His will (118:5-9; 44:4-8). What nobody else can do, God can do for us and through us. These verses suggest that the psalmist was concerned that Israel's leaders not enter into ungodly alliances, but that they turn to God for help.
The word for princes is a general word for “nobility” (see Proverbs 8:16; 25:6, 7). In Psalm 149:8 we see a word translated nobles standing parallel to the word kings. In Numbers 21:18, princes is parallel to nobles. Judah’s experiences with kings after David and Solomon were generally negative. Those kings were responsible for Judah’s being in exile and for the suffering of an entire nation.
The phrase son of man is a description of these leaders as merely frail humans (mortals). To be “son of [something]” in this context means to have the characteristics of that something—hence son of man emphasizes the mortality of a leader. To put too much trust in earthly leaders is dangerous! They are, after all, only human.
To trust in human wisdom and strength is to depend on that which cannot last, for all people die, and the brilliant ideas of one leader are replaced by the not-so-brilliant ideas of a new leader. In the Hebrew text, "man" is adam, which comes from the word adamah which means "earth." We came from the earth and return to the earth (Gen. 3:19).
What Do You Think?
How does our obligation to obey the authorities relate to the idea of trusting (or not trusting) in those authorities?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Matthew 23:1-3 | Romans 13:1-5 | Colossians 3:22 | Hebrews 13:17 | 1 Peter 2:13
DEPENDING EXCLUSIVELY ON GOD (Psalm 146:5-10)
4. What benefits us when we put our trust in God? (Psalm 146:5-6)
The Hebrew behind the word happy is also translated blessed in various places. It is the first word of Psalm 1:1, where the blessed person takes delight in the instruction of God.
In the verse before us, the blessing is that of having the God of Jacob as one’s help in life. Jacob was used in history to bring about the redemption of not only God’s people but of the entire universe.
But Jehovah is not only the God of Jacob, He is also the "God who made heaven and earth" (v. 6; 115:5; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; Ezra 5:11) and has the power to act on behalf of His people. "But will the Lord help me, as weak and failing as I am?" many believers ask. Jacob was far from being perfect, yet God honored his faith and helped him in times of need. When we pray, we come to the throne of the universe to ask our Father for what we need.
Finally, He is the God who "keeps faith forever" (v. 6). Israel knows Him as the God of the covenant, and Christian believers today know Him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who initiated a new covenant by giving His life on the cross. Jehovah is a God who can be trusted to keep His Word.
5. Why does God defend the cause of the oppressed in society? (vs. 7-8)
God is concerned about the oppressed and He takes steps to meet their needs. The poor are often the most oppressed people in the world. Poverty comes in many forms and God executes judgment over them all. The state of persons disabled, displaced, and/or discarded is of great concern to God.
The oppressed, by definition, have trouble getting justice. Often the oppressed are those who are in economic distress. God has special concern for such folks. The God who is able to create Heaven and earth is quite willing and able to see that the oppressed get justice (see Psalm 76:8, 9; 103:6).
This list of God's gracious ministries to needy people has at its heart "The Lord loves" (v. 8). He loves the church (Eph. 5:25), a lost world (John 3:16), and His people Israel (Deut. 4:37), and the greatest proof of that love is the cross (Rom. 5:8). Paul wrote, He “loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). All of the sins that help to produce these sad conditions were dealt with on the cross, but their existence in society is proof that the law of sin and death is reigning in this world (Rom. 5:12-21).
During His ministry on earth, Jesus revealed God's love by helping people who were hungry, sick, crippled, blind, bowed down, and otherwise unable to help themselves (Luke 4:16-21; Isa. 61:1-3). We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), and if we truly love God, we will love those who need God's help and will do all we can to help them (1 John 3:10-24; James 2:14-26). Living in love means more than enjoying God's love for us (John 14:21-24). It also means sharing God's love with others. We may not be able to perform miracles to heal the afflicted, but we can help them in other ways.
6. Who else does the psalmist name as being under God’s constant providential care (v. 9a)?
The phrase the strangers reveals a specific category of “the oppressed” in verse 7a, above. Other words for strangers are alien (Psalm 69:8; Ephesians 2:12) and sojourner (Genesis 23:4; Psalm 39:12). Such people have no inherited rights or land, yet God takes care of them; examples include Abraham (Genesis 23:4) and Moses (Exodus 2:22; 18:3). Israel is not allowed to oppress a stranger (Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:33) because the Israelites themselves had been strangers in Egypt. Strangers are to be treated in a way similar to the poor (Leviticus 19:10). This is at least one way the Lord preserveth the strangers: through the kindness of His own people.
Jesus is presented in John’s Gospel as a stranger who is rejected (John 1:11). The apostle Peter considers Christians to be strangers in this world, with no true inheritance on this earth (1 Peter 1:1, 4). He appeals to Christians to live righteous lives because we are “strangers and pilgrims” here (1 Peter 2:11). We are not home yet! In the meantime, God takes care of us.
God has also given strict laws and dire warnings about the abuse of orphans and widows (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 27:19). The prophets seek justice for these two groups (see Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 22:3; etc.). Jesus refers to widows to make a strong statement about injustice (see Luke 20:47). The first-century church paid close attention to the need to assist widows (Acts 6:1-5; 1 Timothy 5:3-16) and orphans (James 1:27). God always is concerned with the helpless of society, and often He works through His people to assist them.
7.How will God’s treatment differ for wicked individuals? (v. 9b)
God’s divine protection for His saints stems from the same character that leads Him to overturn the plans and schemes of the wicked. The words turneth upside down (Heb ‘awat) mean to bend or curve, to make crooked or distort. As they have made their paths perverse, God will distort and overturn their evil plans. No one seeks to destroy the distort and overturn their evil plans. No one seeks to destroy the fatherless or widow without coming under the condemnation of God’s wrath (see Psalm 1:6; Micah 2:1-3).
What Do You Think?
How have you seen God frustrate the plans of wicked people?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
- By working through Christians (example: Acts 9:28-30)
- By working through secular authorities (example: Acts 19:35-41)
- By acting by His own power (example: Acts 12:5-11)
8. What truth about the Lord’s reign does the psalmist declare? (Psalm 146:10)
This concluding verse is both a statement and a prayer. The Lord is king, and of His kingdom there shall be no end. He is never overthrown; He does not abdicate; He does not die in office. He cannot give up His crown, neither can He lose it. This thought in itself enough to make the psalmist shout, Praise ye the LORD.
He forever lives so that our descendants (unto all generations) will be able to praise this same king until Jesus returns. When everything around us seems to be failing and wickedness seems to be winning, God still reigns as eternal king. His reign is one of justice and equity. Amen.
POINTS TO PONDER
1. Now is the time to “Praise the Lord,” for Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people (Psalm 146:1-2).
2. People tend to place their confidence in individuals who wield power and influence. The truth, though, is that these people are mere mortals who have no special abilities to deliver anyone from their plight (vs. 3-4).
3.God comes to the aid of those who need help and gives them reasons to be joyful (vs. 5-9).
4. Everything in the universe owes its existence to God (v.10).
The Justice of God
Often there seems to be no justice to be found with human leaders, even in the twenty-first century. Human leaders and institutions cannot save us. In fact, in their clumsy attempts to “save” us, they actually may harm us. Our help, and thus our hope, must be in God alone. To Him belong attributes that indicate His perfection and worthiness of praise that we have seen in this lesson. Therefore, all generations of God’s people should praise God. One day all the injustices of the world will be judged, and justice will prevail in the new heavens and the new earth (see Revelation 21, 22; compare Isaiah 60).
O Lord our God, we put our trust in You and not in man. We pray for justice for the oppressed, and we pray for the strength to be Your agents who provide that justice. Overturn the plans of the wicked. In Jesus’ name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER