November 19, 2017
Thanksgiving Day could not have come at a better time. Just now our society is in deep distress. There is one bad news story after another. Between the mass murders with assault weapons and the daily accusations of prominent actors and government leaders regarding sexual assault against women, and the racial distress that is ongoing, our country is coming unglued.
But this week is Thanksgiving. It is a day to pause and think about the goodness of God. It is a day to reorient our focus on things above. This morning we are looking at Ps.146. It is a psalm of praise. The season of Thanksgiving is a time to give praise to the Lord.
I. WE PRAISE THE LORD. Ps.146:1-4
The very first sentence is directed to everyone. The psalmist is telling everyone to praise the Lord. It is what the people of God do. To praise the Lord has the idea of boasting in the Lord, lifting up, exalting the name of the Lord above all other names. The Lord is God.
But in calling everyone to praise the Lord, the psalmist includes himself. “Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord as long as I live.” Praise is both corporate and individual. As individual believers give praise to the Lord, they enhance the corporate praise of the Lord. And this endeavor to praise the Lord is ongoing. It frames our lives. “As long as I live; while I have my being.” In Jms.3:10-11 we learn that just as a spring does not pour forth both fresh and salt water, so the Christian does not bring blessing and cursing from the same mouth. When our mouths are filled with praising the Lord that will affect the general flow of our daily conversation and conduct.
There’s something else. Those for whom praising the Lord is the focus of their lives, will not put their trust in “princes.” We are talking about entrusting our lives and future to the big people, the people in this world who carry influence and power. They seem confident and self-assured. They always know what needs to be done. They always have a plan.
Of course, there is no way to live in this world without putting some trust in other people. You go to the doctor and you trust their expertise regarding your health. The same is true with the car mechanic. If you have any suspicions about them you get a second opinion or a new mechanic. Unfortunately there are many people who are not trustworthy and sometimes we are deceived and cheated in costly ways.
But the psalmist is not just talking about that daily level of trust. He is also talking about an ultimate kind of trust. Those who live a life of praising God do not depend upon other men and women to secure their lives. Nor do they depend upon themselves to secure their lives. And the reason we do not depend upon others or even ourselves is because death is the reality for everyone in this world. If you hitch your wagon to some earthly star you will be disappointed because one day that star will die and his plans, her confidence, dies with them. You can be sure that the arm of human flesh will fail you. No. We who praise the Lord, put our trust in the Lord.
II. WE PRAISE THE LORD BECAUSE HE IS FAITHFUL. Ps.146:5-9
A life of praise to the Lord is a life of trust in the Lord. Our hope is in the Lord. What is it about the Lord that compels us to trust in him? Well, the Lord is the Creator of all things in heaven and earth.
Heaven and earth has been around for a long time. If you are a young earth creationist you have been taught that the earth is about 6,000 years old. If you are an old earth creationist, you were taught that the earth may be as much as 4.5 billion years old. When I was a student at Moody, 45 years ago, I was taught the old earth creationist view. Regardless of your view of creation, as Christians we believe that heaven and earth, and all that is in it, was created by God. Whether you believe that God established and used an evolutionary process or merely spoke and brought all things into existence out of nothing, it all comes from God. The universe is here by divine intention and power. What is more we see that the universe has been sustained by the power and purpose of God. I believe this is thrust of v.6. “God keeps faith forever.” God is faithful to uphold and sustain all that he has made. He is a faithful God, who cares for all that he has made.
And this truth leads the psalmist to point out the various ways in which God exercises his faithful, sustaining care for his people, those who call upon him in faith. What kind of God do we praise and worship? Well, look at v.7-9. Our God executes justice for the oppressed. He gives food to the hungry. He sets the prisoners free. He opens the eyes of the blind. He lifts up those who are bowed down. He loves the righteous. He watches over the sojourners. He upholds the widow and the fatherless. He even brings the way of the wicked to ruin. This is the God we worship and praise.
Now anyone can quickly look at this list and point out that over the many years of history and even today, there are many believers who are suffering from some or all of these circumstances. Obviously God has not intervened for them. Psalm 77:8-9 asks, “Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious?” Men and women, the promises of God must always be balanced with the ongoing work of God in the circumstances in the world and our lives. The life of faith in the faithfulness of God always takes the long view of things. Our tendency is to view our circumstances in the short run. When we view things from the short run we begin to question God, because the short-run is an incomplete perspective. But we look at things from the long run because we know that God is always working in our circumstances in order to bring us closer to him, in order to strengthen our faith and endurance. No one who trusts in the Lord will ultimately be disappointed.
Now as you read these verses you might have been reminded of the New Testament. In Jn.1:3 writing about the Lord Jesus, John says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” In this verse we are told that the Son of God was active in creating the heavens and the earth. Then in Mt.11, we read of how John the Baptist was having doubts about who Jesus is. Jesus said to John’s disciples: “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. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me." The interesting thing is that Jesus was quoting from Is.61:1-2 which says, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;” Here’s the point. Jesus embodies the sustaining power of God because he is God in the flesh. In Jesus Christ God shows his eternal, “yes,” to all who call upon him in faith.
Perhaps this morning you are finding yourself in a place of questioning the work of God in your life. Maybe you are bowed down in one way or another. Maybe you feel like a sojourner. You feel like you are on your own. I would not be so trite as to suggest that you praise your way to a better place. However, I will point out that having a heart of gratitude and praise for the goodness of God can encourage one’s trust and reliance upon the Lord. He is faithful.
III. WE PRAISE THE LORD BECAUSE HE IS KING. Ps.146:10
Last week from Eph.6 we spoke about, “the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We mentioned that these powers dwell unseen in the spiritual realm.
But of course, God is unseen and he also dwells in the spiritual realm. God dwells everywhere at the same moment. We believe that God is omni-present while the devil is not omni-present.
What is more God is fully in charge. He has all the power he needs to accomplish his purposes. There is no being more powerful than God. God is reigning in and over the universe. His kingdom will never end. He reigns forever.
And you notice that God doesn’t just reign over the universe. He reigns to all generations. God makes himself present to every generation of men and women. In a couple of weeks we will begin the season of Advent. Advent is all about how God the King visibly entered into the world in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, God has made himself and his kingdom known in the clearest way possible.
After his life, death and resurrection, Jesus ascended to the Father, and now God is making himself known through the church. The church is not God incarnate in the same way that Jesus is God incarnate. But the church does embody God because God dwells fully in each and every believer through the Holy Spirit. The church is the body of Christ.
The church is called to express the kingdom of God on earth today. Ideally, as people in the world look at the church they see what it is like to dwell in the kingdom of God. And what is it like to dwell in the kingdom of God? Paul tells us in Rm.14:17 that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In 1Cor.4:20 we read that, “the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” Brothers and sisters, living life in the kingdom of God is a matter of depending upon God for his divine enabling to live in righteousness, peace, and joy. The more I think about these things, the more I am coming to believe that our greatest impact in the world will not come through all of our moral and political pronouncements (talk) and our mega-church extravaganzas (eating and drinking). Personally, as a follower of Christ I am more interested in what the church can do to show righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
If we are going to live in this way, we will certainly want to bow in worship and praise of God our King every day and especially when we are together in corporate worship.
Now this Thursday is Thanksgiving. Many will be eating, drinking and talking. These are good things. But will we also be praising the Lord for all of his goodness? Let us exalt and praise his name for he is good. He reigns forever. Amen