Sunday, August 05, 2012

Praise for God's Justice

International Sunday School Lesson
Study Notes

Lesson Text: Psalm 146:1-10
Lesson Title: Praise for God's Justice

Introduction

In most cases when a jury reaches a verdict or a judge makes a ruling someone is happy and someone else is disappointed. Everyone wants justice but finding true justice is almost impossible in this world. Men write laws and do their best to enforce them with a common goal of fairness and equality. Yet, as well meaning as man might be he seems to always come up a little short when it comes to justice. In order to be thankful for perfect justice we must turn to the only one who can give it, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 146-150, (the last 5 psalms) is called the "Hallelujah Psalms" by most Bible scholars. This is because each of these psalms begin and end with the word "praise." "Praise" is the Hebrew word halal, our English word "Hallelujah." "Halal" means "praise," or "tell someone that they are very great." "Jah" is one of God's names, Jehovah; most frequently translated "Lord." The psalmist is telling the Lord that He is "very great" when he says "Praise ye the Lord." And that is our message to Him when we say "Hallelujah."

Psalm 146 is primarily about justice for the oppressed. The psalmist had said, "My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD..." (Psalm 145:21) and that is what he does in Psalm 146. The author of Psalm 146-150 is unknown. It is possible that these psalms were written by either Ezra or Nehemiah for use in the new temple but that is only speculation at best. No matter who personally penned these wonderful words of praise they are divinely inspired and a great encouragement for God's people of all ages.

The Grand Resolution (Psalm 146:1-2)

Verse 1

"Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul."

The psalmist is calling upon his soul to engage in deliberate and directed "praise." "Praise" or, "Hallelujah" is the psalmist speaking to himself to tell the Lord how great he is. Whoever the psalmist is it is clear that he does not feel himself exempt from praising the Lord. Sometimes God's people act as if "praise" is limited or reserved for a select few of God's choice servants. The psalmist doesn't feel that way and neither should we. The Bible says, "Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord" (Psalm 150:6). If you are breathing, praise the Lord!

"LORD" is Jehovah (Yahweh) and is God's personal name. The name "LORD" appears 11 times in the ten verses of Psalm 146 and is obviously the focal point of the psalmist's praise. True worship and praise must never be focused on anyone or anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 7:17; 57:9; 86:12; 108:3; 145:2).

The phrase "O my soul" is personal. "Soul" is the "self." It's the real you. It's who you are, your living being and person. The psalmist David often used the words "O my soul" in his resolve to praise the Lord for His benefits and blessings (Psalm 103:1-2, 22).

Verse 2

"While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being."

The psalmist cherishes his life and resolves to "praise the Lord" while he "lives" and has his "being." He uses parallelism to express his resolve. A parallelism is where writer's ideas are repeatedly using slightly different words. This verse has 3 parallels, "live" and "being," "praise" and "sing," and "Lord" and "God."

The words "while" and "will" could also be interpreted as parallels but with a slightly different emphasis. "While" and "will" and words of commitment. The psalmist is committing to "praise the Lord" and "sing praises unto God" for a lifetime. The point here is that "praise" should not be occasional or sporadic. "Praise" is not response to entertainment. "Praise" is not response to emotional stimulation. "Praise" is commitment to glorify the Lord for who He is and all He has done. The God of justice is worthy of praise as long as you live.

If you are alive, praise the Lord!

The Clear Caution (Psalm 146:3-4)

Verse 3-4

"Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish."

In verse 3 and 4 the psalmist tells us not to "trust" in human leaders. "Trust" means "to have confidence." To put too much confidence and trust in human leaders is dangerous. "Princes" is a general biblical word for nobility or those with high rank. The "son of man" is a phrase describing the "princes" as mere humans, frail and prone to failure. "Man" is adam in the Hebrew, which comes from the word adamah, which means "earth." Earth and dust is where we came from and that is where we will return.

Sometimes man thinks he has intellectually and spiritually arrived. But every cemetery and burial location around the world gives silent but powerful testimony to the origin of man and his destiny. Men's purposes and plans are flawed at best. Jesus gave this same warning in Matthew 7:26 when He spoke of "...a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand."

"In whom there is no help" doesn't mean that man cannot accomplish positive and good things. Rather, it means "there is no saving power" in trusting human leaders. Why? "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." Humans are destined to die (Genesis 3:19). There have been a few exceptions with Enoch (Genesis 5:24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) and in the future those who are saved and will be "caught up in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). But generally speaking we should not but our confidence in man because he is dying just as we are. And no matter how good a "prince" or ruler may be, everything he has put in place can be overturned at his last "breath." In the "day" of his death "his thoughts perish."

When the psalmist wrote verses 3-4 he could have possibly been thinking about some of the good kings in Israel and Judah such as King Josiah and King Jehoshaphat who led the nation in good reforms only to be followed by evil kings who led the nation away from God. Many times we watch a president or political ruler work all his life to see some agenda accomplished or some legislative bill passed and then he his voted out or dies and the next president or legislative representation changes everything he put in place.

The psalmist message is clear. Man is weak, frail and dying. Don't put your confidence and trust in man (Jeremiah 17:5).

The Happiest Condition (Psalm 146:5-9)

Verse 5

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

The psalmist having cautioned us against trusting in man is now eager to encourage us to put our confidence in God. "Happy" or blessed is the individual who has the "help" of "the God of Jacob." "Jacob" was so blessed because God chose to reveal Himself to him. When you see the words "God of Jacob" in the Bible they are reminders that none of us would know God or be able to survive without the Lord's help. Time and time again God revealed Himself to Jacob when Jacob had sinned, disobeyed, or just willingly went his own way.

How "happy" and blessed we are to have a God who honors our faith and forgives our sins. To have a God who deals with us in compassion when we at times are so "Jacob" is such a marvelous blessing!

The words "...whose hope is in the LORD his God" were significant to the psalmist and are even more so to the believer today. So many are committed to living life based on the current world view. Our "hope" must be faithfully and firmly in "the LORD" who has worked in history to secure man's redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ. The "God of Jacob" is the personal God of all who trust Jesus Christ for saving grace. To place our "hope" in the ever changing world view of sinful man is foolish and eternal fatal. The Apostle Paul said, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Verse 6

"Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:"

The "help" and "hope" spoken of in verse 5 is from the Creator. God "made" everything there is in the universe. No evolution. "Made" means "fashioned, caused to happen, produced." God created "heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is..." Therefore, God is an omnipotent help which is the very opposite of "man" in verse 3 who is no help at all!

God also "...keepeth truth for ever." God keeps all His "truth" or promises. The word "truth" is related to God's faithfulness. God is the revealer of "truth" and He is faithful to His Word. Justice is based on "truth" and there is no "truth" in the current world view being promoted by unbelievers and those attempting to revamp the church and change the way Christians think about truth. Solomon said, "Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding" (Proverbs 23:23). Without "truth" there can be no justice!

We are in a war on "truth." The battle lines of distinction between truth and error, wisdom and foolishness, church and world are deliberately and systematically being blurred by the current world system. In this battle that now rages and will certainly worsen as we near the coming of the Lord, "Happy is he" (v.5) that has Jacob's God for "his help" (v.5).

Verse 7

"Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners:"

To know that the God who created "heaven, and earth" (v.6) is concerned "for the oppressed" is amazing. "Executeth" is the same Hebrew word used for "made" in verse 6. Not only did God "fashion, cause to happen, and produce" the "heaven, and earth" (v.6), He also "fashioned, caused to happen, and produced the "judgment for the oppressed." The point here is that God invested no less wisdom and power in taking care of the "oppressed" than He did in His creative work! God fashioned justice and "giveth food to the hungry" in the same manner in which He hung the stars!

In most cases God uses normal means and people to give food to the hungry. The law of productive through sowing and reaping provides "food" and the love and kindness of one to another provides and distributes "food to the hungry." However, close study of the scriptures will reveal that God also uses supernatural and miraculous means to "give food to the hungry" (Exodus 16; Matthew 14:16-21). Whether God uses normal or miraculous means to feed us we must trust Him and not man to feed us. King David's trust is revealed in his words, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psalm 37:25).

"Judgment" is justice, the act of proper decisions regarding different issues. In this case it is the proper actions of God on behalf of those "oppressed." The "oppressed" often have trouble getting justice. The "oppressed" are those "pressed upon, exploited, or crushed." While there are many professional beggars in our society who have learned to play the system and get what they want through deceptive means, there still remain those who are legitimately "oppressed."

The God who has the power and ability to create everything out of nothing is able and willing to see that the "oppressed" receive justice. The following verses will discuss some of the ways in which God carries out justice on the part of the "oppressed."

"The LORD looseth the prisoners" speaks of God's ability to emancipate or set men free from the injustices of life. God chose the nation of Israel from the loins of Abraham, allowed them to go to Egypt where they were in bondage for 400 years (Acts 7:6). He then set them free from Egyptian bondage. Years later, Israel sinned and suffered in Babylonian bondage for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12). Once again, God set them free from Babylonian captivity. All through the history the Jewish people would get into different types of bondage and rely upon God through His word or His ways to set them free (Leviticus 23:39-55). It is self-evident truth that God sets prisoners free!

The greatest prison from which to be set free is not Egyptian, Babylonian, or the prison of debt to a lender. It is the prison of sin. The psalmist described it as "an horrible pit...miry clay" (Psalm 40:2). The Apostle Peter in his witness of the gospel to Simon the Sorcerer challenged him to repent telling him he was "...in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity" (Acts 8:23).

The Lord is the Creator (v.6) and He is the Emancipator (v.7).

Verse 8

"The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous:"

Not only is the Lord the Creator (v.6) and the Emancipator (v.7), He is also the Illuminator in that He "openeth the eyes of the blind." Since there is no record of anyone physically blind being healed in the Old Testament, it seems best to interpret the phrase "openeth the eyes of the blind" to those "prisoners" in verse 7. Often those in prison were in dark holes or places of total darkness. Once liberated and set free they could see again. Regardless of the actual circumstance referred to by the psalmist the message is the same. God frees men to be able to see again. That is a glorious truth for us spiritually. The Lord has opened the eyes of many a man who could not see himself, and so proved how blind he was and could not see the Lord and His great salvation (Romans 1:18-22).

The Lord is also the Comforter in that he "raiseth them that are bowed down." Sometimes the burdens of life, inward distress, grief, bereavement and the stress of life can cause us to bend low. Since the entrance of sin in the Garden of Eden life has been and continues to be a burden. There are thorns among the roses and storms that follow beautiful days. But "happy" or blessed is the man that has the "God of Jacob for his help" (v.5) when he is "bowed down."

A beautiful example of how Jesus does this is recorded in Matthew 9:36, "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd."Christ saw just how "bowed down" they were in their sin and yet had compassion for them. The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson said, "We may force our Lord to punish us, but we will never force our Lord to love us." The God of the Bible is a God of love and compassion who "raiseth them that are bowed down."

"The LORD loveth the rightheous" means God is also the Rewarder. Those who pursue righteousness (being right with God) are rewarded by knowing God especially loves them for pursuing righteousness (Proverbs 15:9). "Righteousnes" and "judgment" (meaning justice) are synonyms in many passages in the Psalms (Psalm 9:8; 37:6; 72:2). Righteousness and judgment is who God is and what He is all about.

Verse 9

"The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down."

God is the Preserver and the Reliever in this verse. He "preserveth" or, "keeps and guards over" the "stranger." The "stranger" is one who is a sojourner and alien in Israel. It refers to one who has no land, no inheritance, and basically no right to be there. God had written guidelines and commandments in His word as to how the Israelite was to deal with and treat strangers (Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:33).

"Relieveth" means "uphold, sustain."The Lord "relieveth the fatherless and widow" by upholding them and protecting them from those that would prey upon their vulnerability. A beautiful example of how the Lord did this is recorded in Deuteronomy 14:27-29, "And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest." In the third and sixth year of the seven year sabbatical cycle, rather than taking the "tithe" to the temple, it was instead stored up within the individual cities in the land. This "tithe" was used to feed the "Levites" because they had no inheritance of land, the orphans, the widow, and the stranger (foreigner) who lived with the Israelites (Deuteronomy 26:12; Numbers 18:26-32).

Commenting on God's provision in Deuteronomy 14, C.H. Spurgeon writes, "If you turn to Deuteronomy 14:28, you will see God's great care of the fatherless and the widow. Who had the tithes? Well, the Levites; but also the poor, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow. Now, then, when you who feel like widows, you who have lost your joy and earthly comfort, you who feel like the fatherless, and cry, 'No man careth for my soul,' oh, may the sweet Spirit of the Lord entice you to come to him."

"But the way of the wicked he turneth upside down" presents the Lord as Protector. Simply stated, it means God will not allow the "wicked" to hinder His plans. The world view may be well entrenched and gaining momentum from earth's point of view. But rest assured God will destroy the plans of the "wicked" and nothing or no one will frustrate His plans.

The Glorious Expectation (Psalm 146:10)

Verse 10

"The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord."

The Lord is not only the Creator, Emancipator, Comforter, Rewarder, Preserver, Reliever and Protector, He is also the Eternal. "The LORD shall reign for ever" because His reign is one of righteousness and justice. All the other kings of Judah and Israel reigned for years and then their rule was over. But the "LORD shall reign for ever."

Some men's kingdom couldn't survive the challenges and the changes. But the Lord's kingdom will continue through all the changes of time, to the utmost of all eternity. This should encourage us to trust God in the midst of the present injustices.

Literally, "Zion" is most likely a reference to Mount Zion in the proximity of the city of Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:31). Spiritually, "Zion" refers to the people of God. The psalmist wants us to know that the Lord is worthy to be praised because He will live forever not only to us now as the people of God, but "unto all generations." If I live and die I can trust God to be faithful to my children and grandchildren.

If you are alive, "Praise ye the Lord." If you have children, "Praise ye the Lord." If you have grandchildren, great grandchildren, "Praise ye the Lord."

Conclusion

While there are many in both the political and religious system of our day that are bent on doing evil and harm, we cannot deny that for the most part our leaders attempt to make a better life for us all. The judge who overturns a righteous law in favor of tolerance and political correctness in many cases believes he is doing the right thing. Those who are in favor of changing the definition of marriage from "one man and one woman" to a definition that includes recognizing same sex unions as marriage really believe they are right. And if you ask them they will tell you that is justice.

Human leaders and well intended people cannot help us (Psalm 146:3). In fact, they often harm us in an attempt to help us. Our help, and thus our hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. One day in the not too distant future all the injustices of the world will be judged by the One worthy to judge them. Until then, praise and glorify the One who is the Creator, Emancipator, Comforter, Rewarder, Preserver, Reliever Protector, and the Eternal.

Amen.

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