Our preaching team is currently focusing on Psalms, here are some thoughts on Psalm 146 from my most recent sermon:
Have you ever stood in church, somewhat irritably, resenting that some bubbly, happy person up the front is telling you to praise God? Have you ever secretly thought, “If you, smiley person, had just endured my week you wouldn’t be nearly so happy about worshiping God”?
Have you ever wanted to praise God and just not felt like it? Sometimes the difficulties of life can make it hard to move our hearts beyond the mundane to praise God.
Is there any way to get from not feeling like praising God to rejoicing in the Lord without being a hypocrite?
Psalm 146 shows 5 steps to get there:
1) Resolve to praise
2) Relinquish idolatrous mistrust
3) Rely on God
4) Remind yourself why God can be trusted
5) Rejoice in the Lord
Leaving behind the wet-blanket
Praising God does not start with the emotions. While it may appear easier for the happy, bubbly, exuberant person to enter into praising God, they actually start from the same place as the dour, grumpy soul – an active resolve to praise, even telling my own soul to do so:
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
(Psalm 146:1-2 ESV)
The will-choice to praise God is a lifelong committment, and then some. We are commanded to praise God as long as we live, after that we get to praise Him in heaven forever!
However, we can only sincerely praise what we are impressed with. Some folks are most impressed by talented sports people or high achievers in other fields. It could be a thing; the latest Apple gadget, a new car, a new house. It could even be an experience.
These can all bring happiness (blessedness), but we are fools to seek full happiness in them. They will all let us down – trusting in earthbound sources of happiness will end in grief. All men die, all people fail, things wear out, experiences fade into memories. They are idols if we give them the trust and praises rightfully due to God – let them go:
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
(Psalm 146:3–4 ESV)
I have to relinquish my hope in whatever else I trust in for happiness (blessedness) and transfer it to hoping in God. If I rely on God for my hope I will be truly blessed (happy).
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
(Psalm 146:5 ESV)
How do I move from ambivalence toward God to praise?
I need to remind myself of the reasons why God can be trusted: God is the Creator, He has sufficient power to save me. He is trustworthy, He keeps faith forever, He will remain true to Himself and His promises. God brings justice, He gives food, freedom, sight, relief and love. He protects the foreigners, fatherless and widows, but He will bring ruin upon the wicked.
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
(Psalm 146:6-9 ESV)
There is a problem though – look around, do you really see all this happening?
Scientists say they can explain how the world created itself. All over the world justice is being corrupted, people die of hunger, millions are blind, the oppressed get no relief, innocent people are in prison, travelers are robbed, killed even. The weak are exploited while the wicked get fat and rich. Where is God?
Try looking for Jesus in Psalm 146
Rather than giving in to unbelief, consider what we know God has already done:
- Jesus created the world (John 1:3).
- Jesus controls the sea (Matthew 8:24-27) and the fish in it (Luke 5:4–8).
- Jesus did as God promised (Acts 3:18).
- Jesus brought justice to the oppressed (Acts 10:38).
- Jesus fed the hungry (Mark 6:41–44).
- Jesus set free those bound by Satan (Luke 8:28–29).
- Jesus lifted up those bowed down (Luke 13:10–13).
- Jesus opened the eyes of the blind (Mark 10:51–52).
- Jesus stood by travelers, widows and the fatherless (Matthew 8:20, Luke 21:1–4, Luke 7:12–15).
It was only for three years. It was two thousand years ago.
But He did leave His Church, filled with His Spirit, commanded to continue His work.
God is working, He is in control and He will reign forever!
Rejoice in the Lord!
The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 146:10 ESV)
Part of reminding myself of why God is worthy of praise includes thanking Him for His unending gifts.
Gifts I have noticed this week:
458) Music soothing my soul (1 Samuel 16:23).
459) Seeing danger for what it is.
460) The painful cleansing of confession (1 John 1:9).
461) Toddler sleeping all night in his own bed.
462) Someone to love me when I am not able to.
463) Reminder from a friend to stop and smell the roses.
464) Dinner at a family restaurant.
465) Exploring lifestyle changes, considering alternatives.
466) Parents coming for dinner.
467) Kids showing off for Grandma and Grandad.
468) A very tired girl after her friend’s birthday party and sleepover.
469) Fumbling through hard conversations.
470) Beginning to see that something is not right and could be better.
471) Small improvements giving hope.
472) Three hours of useful time through mis-reading my roster!
Image of world on fingertip: iStockphoto