By Sam E. Stone
The book of Psalms is divided into five sections. The last five psalms are sometimes called the “Hallelujah Psalms,” since all of them begin and end with the word hallelujah, literally, “Praise the Lord.”
Bible scholars like to try to guess what prompted the writing of Psalm 146. Had the writer gone through a sad experience by putting his trust in some prominent person? Had Jewish rulers recently committed some serious blunder? Or are these words simply the result of personal reflection? Although we don’t know a specific cause, it is clear the psalm is intended to urge all people to put all their trust in God and no one else.
Psalm 146:1, 2
The writer not only calls on others to Praise the Lord, but he begins by directing his soul to praise him, too! As long as life continues, we must praise God. Verse 2 is an example of a common characteristic in Hebrew poetry—parallelism. With it the writer states the same truth again in slightly different words.
Do not put your trust in princes. Political and religious leaders are fallible. Even the best will often disappoint those under their direction. William R. Taylor notes the appropriateness of these words in our day: “The psalm sets forth in its own way a truth which needs fresh emphasis in an era characterized by secular trends in culture and taste.” Many put their hope in some charismatic leader, some well-educated scholar, some smooth-talking, convincing politician. Over and over we experience frustration, disappointment, and anger resulting from our misplaced trust.
Nobles are mentioned in Psalm 149:8 along with kings, and in Numbers 21:18 along with princes. Judah had known plenty of rulers who fit the psalmist’s description—mortal men, who cannot save. Even the best earthly leaders will one day die (Hebrews 9:27). When they are gone, their plans come to nothing. Even the greatest of men with the finest of intentions are not able to help in every situation. They are still human. Only God is constant and eternal.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob. The word translated blessed is the same term found as the first word in the very first psalm. The book of Psalms begins, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (1:1). Such a person has true hope. The child of God enjoys a confidence not based on wishful thinking or unrealistic expectations. The old song put it well: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” The one all-powerful, living God is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. Especially noteworthy is the fact that the Lord remains faithful forever. “The Father of the heavenly lights . . . does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
Care for the Needy
God can be counted on to give justice to those in distress and need. Elsewhere Scripture confirms that God will save the afflicted of the land (Psalm 76:9). The psalmist illustrates just who is meant by naming specific categories of suffering people—the hungry, prisoners, the blind, the bowed down, the alien, the fatherless, the widow. The governing principle is that, regardless of the challenges and inequities of life, God upholds the cause of the oppressed.
At times God provides by direct, miraculous intervention. When his people were hungry (such as the Israelites in the desert after leaving Egyptian bondage), God provided manna for them miraculously. At other times, he works through his people to meet the needs of the hungry (see Matthew 25:35-40). His children are taught to pray, asking him for daily bread (Matthew 6:11). At the same time they are to remember that, however he chooses to provide it, their food has come from the hand of God (James 1:17).
Those who are blind—both literally and physically—need to see. Many live in spiritual darkness (Romans 1:18-20), while others deal with literal blindness. God cares about both and can heal both. Those who are bowed down were mentioned in the previous psalm as well (145:14). God’s concern for the alien (the foreigner) is mentioned frequently in Scripture. Like the poor, they must not be mistreated. God’s concern for widows and orphans is also well documented, both in the Old and New Testament (see James 1:27). Just as God helps the righteous, so he frustrates the ways of the wicked. We must thank him for being just! Praise the Lord.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.