Read the Passage: Psalm 146
Misplaced Trust (146:1–4)
This Psalm contains no superscription; thus, we cannot be sure who wrote it or of the exact context of the Psalm. Many modern scholars believe David penned this Psalm, while Jewish tradition ascribes it jointly to Haggai and Zechariah. If David wrote Psalm 146 then perhaps it was written in reflection upon his error of ordering a census of Israel (cf. 2 Sam. 24). If Haggai and Zechariah penned Psalm 146, then it was surely written to be used on the occasion of the dedication of the rebuilt, post-exilic, Second Temple (cf. Ezra 5–6). Yet, regardless of the author or of the original purpose of this Psalm, it is of great use to the contemporary church, for it reminds us of the foolishness of trusting in man and of the blessedness of trusting in God. Furthermore, if David, Haggai, or Zechariah composed Psalm 146 it is a great reminder to us that not even religious leaders are exempt from the duty (and the blessing!) of praising God.
While in the first half of this Psalm the author warns about trusting in mankind, this Psalm actually begins with an exhortation to praise God (cf. Ps. 146:1–2). Note that the phrase “praise the Lord” is a translation of the familiar Hebrew term “Hallelujah.” In the opening two verses of this Psalm the author not only exhorts his readers to praise God, but also he reminds and marshals his own soul to praise the Lord. Psalm 146:3–4 then records the author’s warning about the foolishness of trusting in man, or by implication, placing one’s faith in anything apart from God. Indeed, man is fickle, mortal, contingent, and has limited resources. How foolish, then, to place one’s confidence in earthly things such as human beings. Note that the Bible is full of exhortations not to trust in mankind: Ps. 33:16–20; Prov. 28:26; Isa. 31:1–3; Jer. 17:5–6; John 2:24–25.
Secure Hope (146:5–7)
The folly of trusting in man is seen in that on the day man dies, all of his ambitions, expectations, and abilities die with him. Trusting in the Lord, however, leads to everlasting life, peace, and joy. In Ps. 146:5 the psalmist declares, “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help.” In referring to the Lord as “the God of Jacob,” the author is likely appealing to the memory and the content of the Abrahamic Covenant. Note that in 9 of the 11 times that “the God of Jacob” is referred to in the Bible, outside of the book of Psalms, the context is, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (cf. Exod. 3:6, 5; 4:5; Isa. 2:3; Mic. 4:2; Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37; Acts 3:13). Recall that in the Abrahamic Covenant, which was first given at Gen. 12:1–3, God promised to provide Abraham with a land in which to dwell, innumerable descendants, and ultimately the coming of the Messiah.
Next, in Ps. 146:6–7 the author identifies five activities of God, each of which constitutes a reason for happiness and hope in Him. To elaborate: (1) God made all things that exist in the material world, which implies ownership and superintendence—Ps. 146:6a; cf. Ps. 24:1; (2) God keeps truth forever, for He is Truth—Ps. 146:6b; cf. John 14:6; (3) God brings about justice for the oppressed—Ps. 146:7a; cf. Ps. 103:6; (4) God gives food to the hungry—Ps. 146:7b; cf. Ps. 37:35–36; and (5) God gives freedom to the prisoners—Ps. 146:7c; Isa. 61:1. Note that these activities of God are not only a summary of some of His greatest attributes, but also they are a prophecy about the ministry of Jesus. Examples of those in the Bible whom God released from prison in a literal sense include: Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, and Paul. Note Jesus’ teachings on these concepts at Matt. 25:31–46.
Divine Power (146:8–10)
In Ps. 146:8–9 the psalmist continues to list attributes and activities of God. As he had done in Ps. 146:6–7, so here the author gives five characteristics: (1) the Lord opens the eyes of the blind, as Jesus later gave sight to the blind—Ps. 146:8a; cf. Matt. 9:27; 12:2; 20:30; (2) the Lord raises those who are bowed down, as Christ later did—Ps. 146:8b; cf. Luke 13:11; (3) the Lord loves righteousness, for He is just—Ps. 146:8c; cf. Ps. 33:5; (4) the Lord watches over strangers, as should believers—Ps. 146:9a; cf. Heb. 13:2; and (5) the Lord ministers to the fatherless and the widow, as Jesus demonstrated—Ps. 146:9b; cf. Luke 7:11. After noting that God frustrates the way of the wicked (cf. Ps. 146:9c), in the conclusion of this psalm the author calls his readers to praise God, noting that “The Lord shall reign forever” (Ps. 146:10). Note that this is in contrast to the foolish man who perishes.
- The phrase “praise the Lord” is often spoken in the church; yet, what does it mean to praise the Lord? What should we do when we do not feel like praising God?
- Why are we often tempted to place our security in things other than God? In what things have you errantly trusted in in the past?
- Why does mankind need to be reminded of his duty to praise God? How is the word “hallelujah” misused by some in the church and culture?
- What brings you joy, hope, happiness, and contentment? Have you experienced true joy, hope, happiness, and contentment as you’ve followed God?
- If God possess the wonderful attributes that the psalmist discusses in Ps. 146:5–9, why does the world seem so full of chaos?