Psalm 146 begins a series of five final songs in the Book of Psalms, and the five are known as the Hallelujah Psalms. “In the earlier psalms, we have studied the writers’ griefs, shames, sins, doubts, and fears. We have witnessed the people of God in their defeats and victories, their ups and downs in life. We have encountered rebellious words and struggling faith. All this is behind us now. In these final psalms every word is praise.” (James Montgomery Boice)
A. The happiness of trusting in the LORD.
1. (1-2) A declaration of praise to Yahweh.
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
While I live I will praise the LORD;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
a. Praise the LORD: The psalmist meant this (Hallelujah!) as both a declaration of his own praise to God and as an exhortation to praise. He called upon his own soul to give Yahweh praise, and others to give praise as well.
i. “Hallelujah is a compound word made up of two Hebrew words: hallel (an imperative verb meaning ‘praise’) and jah (a contraction of the name for God, Jehovah). So hallelujah means ‘Praise the Lord (or Jehovah).’” (Boice)
b. While I live I will praise the LORD: This is much the same as Psalm 104:33, declaring a determination to praise God with one’s entire life and being.
i. “No sooner is one hallelujah ended, but another begins.” (Horne)
ii. While I have my being: “…in my continuance, in my progression, my eternal existence. This is very expressive.” (Clarke)
iii. “We cannot be too firm in the holy resolve to praise God, for it is the chief end of our living and being that we should glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “George Carpenter, the Bavarian martyr, being desired by some godly brethren, that when he was burning in the fire he would give them some sign of his constancy, answered, ‘Let this be a sure sign unto you of my faith and perseverance in the truth, that so long as I am able to hold open my mouth, or to whisper, I will never cease to praise God, and to profess his truth’; the which also he did, saith mine author; and so did many other martyrs besides.” (Trapp)
2. (3-4) A caution against confidence in man.
Do not put your trust in princes,
Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
His spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
In that very day his plans perish.
a. Do not put your trust in princes: Yahweh is to be praised, but man is to be questioned. Even the highest among men – princes – are not worthy of our confidence. We are sure to be disappointed when we put our trust in whom there is no help.
i. Do not put your trust in princes: “…in men of greatest wealth and power, in whose favour men are very prone to trust.” (Poole)
ii. “The word princes may seem to remove this advice from the plane of ordinary folk and their needs; but a modern equivalent would be ‘the influential’, whose backing may well seem more solid and practical than God’s.” (Kidner)
iii. In whom there is no help: “However high his state, he is but a ‘son of Adam’ (the earth born), and inherits the feebleness and fleetingness which deprive him of ability to help. ‘He has no salvation’ is the literal rendering of the last words of Psalm 146:3b.” (Maclaren)
b. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth: The greatest among men are only men, and subject to death. Ashes turn to ashes and dust to dust, and even the brilliant plans of man perish. These are reasons to set our confidence in God and not in man.
i. Spirit could also be understood as breath. “High as he stood, the want of a little air brings him down to the ground, and lays him under it.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Verses 3 and 4 make these points by two plays on Hebrew words. In Hebrew adam, meaning ‘man,’ is the same word for ‘earth’ or ‘ground.’ So dirt goes to dirt.” (Boice)
iii. “Earthly princes, if they have the will, often want the power, even to protect their friends. And should they want neither will nor power to advance them, yet still all depends upon the breath in their nostrils.” (Horne)
iv. His plans perish: “As soon as ever he is dead, his thoughts perish; all his designs and endeavours, either for himself or for others.” (Poole)
v. “This is the narrow estate of man, his breath, his earth, and his thoughts; and this is his threefold climax therein – his breath goeth forth, to his earth he returns, and his thoughts perish. Is this a being to be relied upon? Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. To trust it would be a still greater vanity.” (Spurgeon)
3. (5-7) Happy confidence in a great God.
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.
a. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help: Princes among men often fail, but God never disappoints the one who hopes in Him.
i. The psalmist has abruptly transitioned from negative to positive. “His negative teaching, if it stood alone, would be a gospel of despair, the reduction of life to a torturing cheat; but taken as the prelude to the revelation of One whom it is safe to trust, there is nothing sad in it.” (Maclaren)
ii. “We have here a statement which we have personally tried and proved: resting in the Lord, we know a happiness which is beyond description, beyond comparison, beyond conception.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Whose hope is in the LORD his God: “We never praise God better than by exercising faith in him! Quiet trust is among the sweetest music that reaches the heart of God; and when we put our trust in man, we rob God of his glory; we are giving to others the confidence which belongs alone to him.” (Spurgeon)
b. Who made heaven and earth: The singer gives us more reasons for confidence in God. When we trust in the LORD as the Creator of all things, we realize He has power to help us and deliver us that even great men do not have.
i. “The psalmist does not introduce anything new in this description of the Lord’s mighty acts…but the manner in which he brings the various ways of divine sustenance together is most creative, including the conclusion.” (VanGemeren)
c. Who keeps truth forever: God can also be trusted because He is a moral, upright God. Yahweh is unchangingly true. He champions justice for the oppressed. The God of such creating power would be a tyrant without His abundant passion for truth and justice.
i. Who keeps truth forever: “And this ‘for ever’ is opposed to that mortality and mutability of earthly princes, Psalm 146:4.” (Trapp)
ii. “He is true to his own nature, true to the relationships which he has assumed, true to his covenant, true to his Word, true to his Son. He keeps true, and is the keeper of all that is true.” (Spurgeon)
d. Who gives food to the hungry: God also cares for those who are in need. For the hungry He provides food and for prisoners He provides freedom. In all this we see a God of power, holiness, and love. This is a God who can be trusted with confidence.
i. Food to the hungry: “The hungry hearts of men, who are all full of needs and longing, may turn to this mighty, faithful, righteous Jehovah, and be sure that He never sends mouths but He sends meat to fill them. All our various kinds of hunger are doors for God to come into our spirits.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Thus he completes the triple blessing: justice, bread, and liberty.” (Spurgeon)
B. The helpfulness of the holy God.
1. (8-9) Declaring the power and loving care of God.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
The LORD raises those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the strangers;
He relieves the fatherless and widow;
But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.
a. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind: The psalmist here continues a marvelous description of Yahweh as a God of power, care, justice, and compassion. The psalmist seems delighted to describe Yahweh in His great works of love and power.
i. “All these classes of afflicted persons are meant to be regarded literally, but all may have a wider meaning and be intended to hint at spiritual bondage, blindness, and abjectness.” (Maclaren)
ii. We instantly connect this list with the work of Jesus the Messiah.
· Jesus opened the eyes of the blind (Matthew 9:27-29).
· Jesus raised those who are bowed down (Luke 13:11-13).
· Jesus loved the righteous (Matthew 13:43, 25:46).
· Jesus watched over the strangers (Matthew 8:5-10).
· Jesus blessed the fatherless and widow (Luke 7:12-15).
· Jesus turned the way of the wicked…upside down (Matthew 21:12).
· The logical conclusion is that Jesus is Yahweh, the LORD.
iii. “Like Father, like Son. For us, these lines may bring to mind the oracle of Isaiah 61 by which Jesus announced his mission, and the further clues to his identity which he sent back to John the Baptist (Luke 4:18f.; 7:21f.).” (Kidner)
b. But the way of the wicked He turns upside down: God shows great love and compassion to the poor, afflicted, and needy. Yet the Lord also brings justice against the wicked, and turns their way upside down.
i. He turns upside down: “He maketh them to lose their way; he not only frustrateth their plots and enterprises but turneth them against themselves.” (Poole)
ii. “That aspect of God’s government is lightly handled in one clause, as befits the purpose of the psalm. But it could not be left out. A true likeness must have shadows. God were not a God for men to rely on, unless the trend of His reign was to crush evil and thwart the designs of sinners.” (Maclaren)
2. (10) Praising the God who reigns forever.
The LORD shall reign forever—
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!
a. The LORD shall reign forever: The psalmist was happy to declare this, because God’s power and might were expressed with such love and compassion. Through both might and right, the LORD shall reign forever, even to all generations.
i. The LORD shall reign forever: “Therefore he can never fail; and he is thy God, O Zion. Hitherto he has helped you and your fathers; and has extended that help from generation to generation. Therefore trust in him and bless the Lord.” (Clarke)
ii. “However humbling the thought may be, and to whatever searching of heart it may drive us, it is certain that if, and when ‘Hosannas languish on our tongues, and our devotion dies,’ the reason is that we have lost our clear vision of God, our keen consciousness of what He is. To know Him is to praise Him, and that without ceasing.” (Morgan)
b. Praise the LORD: Psalm 146 ends as it began – with a declaration of praise to Yahweh, the proclamation Hallelujah!
i. “Here endeth this gladsome Psalm. Here endeth not the praise of the Lord, which shall ascend for ever and ever.” (Spurgeon)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org