A Hymn Of Praise Unto Our Dependable & Compassionate God

a brief study of Psalm 146, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 27 April 2012


Psalm 146 is the first of what is known by the Jews as the Concluding Hallel. Psalms 113-118 is known as the Egyptian Hallel. Psalms 120-136 is known as the Great Hallel. Psalm 146 to the end is known as the Concluding Hallel.

A Hallel is a psalm of praise. There are some psalms which are written as prayers or petitions; and some are written for instruction. But hallels are specifically written for praise and thanksgiving.

Psalm 146 begins with the Hebrew word hallelujah! And it ends with hallelujah! It is likewise for all the four remaining psalms in the Psalter.  Psalm 146 contains no word of petition. It is likewise for all the four remaining psalms. From now on it is all of praise, or more precisely, call to praise.

In Psalm 145, the singer praises God directly. “I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever” (Ps 145:1). But from Psalm 146 onwards, praise is rendered indirectly.

They are psalms of praise the sense that the worshipper is called to praise the LORD. The word hallelujah is in itself a call to praise God. It is not directly addressed to God but to the worshippers.

These psalms in other words, are designed for the congregation to teach and admonish (Col 3:16) one another to praise the LORD. These psalms of praise serve the dual-purpose of praising God and calling for the praise of God. Praise is one of the most important occupations of the church.

While the children of God will probably cease to make petitions unto God one day, they will never cease to praise Him or to thank Him. These Psalms of praise therefore point forward to a day of eternal rest when all trials and tribulations would have passed, and the peace and love of God would pervade all heaven and earth.

But we must not wait until then to praise. We are created and redeemed to praise God. In heaven we shall praise Him naturally, but today we must learn to praise Him; and we must resolve to praise. We must praise God in union with the Son of God, and admonish one another to praise God. For this reason, we are given the words to sing—

1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.  2 While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

This was the resolve of David, and the resolve of our Lord while He was on earth. This is the resolve that our Lord wants us to have as we sing this Psalm of praise in His name.

What shall we praise God for? In Psalm 145 we saw that we should praise Him for His greatness and glory; His goodness and grace, as well as His righteousness and condescension.

In Psalm 146, we are reminded in practical terms to praise Him for His Dependability and Compassion. We may entitle this Psalm, “A Hymn of Praise unto our Dependable and Compassionate God.”


1. Praise Him for His Dependability

It is natural for man to look up to man. Children look to their parents for sustenance and guidance. Students look to their teachers for instruction. Patients look to their doctors for healing. Churches look to their pastors and elders for direction. Nations look to their government for leadership.

This has been so from the beginning.

But it is has also been the experience that man has often failed man, and man is often helpless to help. How often have kings and princes failed? How often have pastors, doctors, teachers and parents been helpless when we need their help most?

Thus our Lord is not requiring an exaggeration when he would have us to sing with Him:

3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

Even the most powerful princes are of no help in a vast array of circumstances. What prince can help if there is a famine and drought? What king can help if a deadly pestilence sweeps through the land? Remember the tremendous losses that this nation suffered because of the little SARS virus. What about the powerful tsunamis that ravage the region and more recently parts of Japan? Even the “mighty man… cannot save” says Jeremiah (Jer 14:9).

The fact is: all sons of man are mortal. In the present context, the designation ‘son of man’ does not refer to Christ but to man in general. All men are mortal.

4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Put your trust in the government to lead the nation in the case of a bio-terrorism attack and you may be disappointed,—for the same germ which kills the pauper will kill the prince.

Put your trust in your parents to provide for your needs and you may be disappointed for God can require their life this very night.

Put your trust in your professor to educate you and you may be disappointed, for he may suffer a stroke and forget everything he ever knew.

Put your trust in your pastor to save you from your sin and you will be sorely disappointed, for your pastor cannot save himself.

Man is mortal. We are only of help to others to a very limited extent! It is therefore foolish to put our trust in man. But…

5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:

Not just any god! Not the gods of human imagination, which have ears but hear not, eyes that see not and mouths that speak not. But the “God of Jacob” the faithful covenant keeping God. But Jehovah, the alone living and true God!

Happy is he who looks to Him and who put his trust in Him. Happy is He “whose hope is in the LORD his God.” He shall never be disappointed!

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Ps 20:7).

We will praise Him because He alone is truly and fully dependable. He is sovereign. Nothing is impossible for Him, even if they are impossible for the best of men.

Such as put their hope and trust in Him will never be disappointed. I will praise Him for He is perfectly dependable.

And not only so, I will also…


2. Praise Him for His Faithfulness & Compassion

He is a great and glorious God. He made all things—whether in the heaven, on earth or in the sea.  He upholds the universe by the word of His power. And yet He cares for such a worm as I.

6 [He] made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: [and yet] keepeth truth for ever: 7 [and He] executeth judgment for the oppressed:

He is the almighty creator of the universe, and yet He cares for ungrateful and insignificant creatures like us. He is faithful, or as we are taught to sing in verse 6—He “keepeth truth for ever.” And He is compassionate. He “executeth judgment for the oppressed.”

Jeremiah expressed this doctrine most beautifully when he says:

“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23).

But let us consider how the LORD’s compassion fails not.

7b which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners: 8 The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous: 9 The LORD preserveth the strangers; He relieveth the fatherless and widow:

Now, do you see how the LORD does all these? And do you not see how He literally did all these in the earthly ministry of Christ our Lord.

Christ is God himself. But He is also man. He came as the embodiment of God’s love and mercy for His people. What He did in His earthly ministry, God did. When we contemplate on what He did and thank Him for them, we are thanking God. Likewise when we praise God for what He has done for us, we must remember how they were fulfilled in Christ.

Did not Christ our Lord feed the poor? Did He not feed the four thousand and the five thousand men?

Did not Christ set Paul and Silas free from the Philippian jail? Did He not set Peter and John free from the jail in Jerusalem?

Did Christ not open the eyes of the blind on many occasions?

Did Christ not raise them that are bowed down? Did He not heal the lame and the paralytics? Did He not restore the joys of those who lost their loved ones such as Lazarus?

Did Christ not preserve the strangers and relief the fatherless and the widow? Did He not reach out to the Samaritan woman? Did He not restore the son of the widow of Nain?

But most of all, has He not shown us His compassion in all these things spiritually?

By nature we are spiritually starved; we are prisoners to sin and Satan; we are blind to truth; we are bowed down and without strength to please God; we are strangers and foreigners to the covenant; we are orphans without a heavenly Father; we are widows without a heavenly Husband.

But Christ our Lord has changed all these. How did He change all these? He changed all these by taking on our nature, living, suffering and dying for us on the cruel cross.

In doing so, He has freed us from the bondage of sin and Satan. He has opened our spiritual eyes to see the truth that is in Him. He has given us His Spirit to strengthen us in the inner man and enable us to please God. He has made us fellow-citizens in the commonwealth of God’s covenant of Grace. He has made us sons and daughters of God by adoption. He has made us His beloved bride.

And does He not feed those of us who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness. He says in His own word:

“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35).

“Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54).

Do you not see as you study this psalm, of how it speaks especially of God’s goodness toward His people in Christ Jesus our Mediator?

He came for us. As our Prophet, He opened our eyes. As our Great High Priest, He died for us. As our King, He has subdued us unto Himself and is graciously ruling over us.

One day He shall come again for us. That day will be as the end of the psalm. The wicked will be destroyed (v. 9) and the eternal reign of the LORD will be manifested (v. 10).

Shall we who are the immediate beneficiaries of the faithful and compassionate reign of Christ, not lift up our voice to praise Him for these things?


Conclusion

Is there nothing to praise God for? I will praise Him for His dependability. I will praise Him for His faithfulness and compassion towards His Church. Shall we not praise Him? Amen. W