Welcome to The Truth Pulpit with Don Green, Founding Pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Hello, I'm Bill Wright. Today Don continues teaching God's people God's Word as he begins a new series titled, A Chorus of Praise. Let's join Don now with part one of a message called, The God Who Helps. It's from Psalm 146 here on The Truth Pulpit. Psalm 146, and I invite you to turn there with me. We'll read it to open our time together, and then by the grace of God be able to set a very broad context to understand the full significance of this psalm in the context of the rest of the Psalter. I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Do not trust in princes, in mortal man in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs. He returns to the earth.
In that very day, his thoughts perish. How blessed is he whose hope is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry, the Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are bowed down. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects the strangers. He supports the fatherless and the widow, but he thwarts the way of the wicked. The Lord will reign forever.
Your God, O Zion, to all generations, praise the Lord. With this psalm, we enter into the final five psalms of the Psalter, Psalms 146 through 150. All of the joys of the prior 145 psalms, all the sorrow, all the confession, all of the imprecations, all of the trust, all of the messianic prophecies, all of that is now behind us. All of that is now assumed. The prior 145 psalms are assumed as we step into this hallowed ground of the final five psalms of the Psalter.
Everything else is behind us. Now every word is devoted over to praise. And what the psalms have done for us, what the full Psalter does for us, is it gives us and develops for us a comprehensive worldview that addresses every possible conceivable aspect of life on earth, of spiritual life, and of the life to come.
It's all there. And even more surpassingly, the psalms have cultivated in us an expectation of becoming Messiah. As David has written his 73 psalms, he has pointed us faithfully to his greater Son. As we have read and seen the godly aspects of the psalmist, they have been a shadow pointing us to their greater fulfillment in the coming Messiah. Every psalm is pointing us and has pointed us to this direction.
You could think about it this way if you want another analogy. The prior 145 psalms have been the guide that have taken us up to the top of spiritual Mount Everest, and now we are on the peak of Mount Everest. We are at the summit, and we are breathing in the rarified air that very few people find. We are looking out on the magnificent panorama from the top of the spiritual world, and we see that it is breathtaking.
We see that there is no other view like this any place on the planet. And as we drink all of that in, as we breathe in this rarified air, we are so overwhelmed by the majesty of it all that we fall down and we say, praise the Lord. And beloved, the very fact that five psalms do this, not just one, the fact that five psalms do it repeatedly over and over again, it sweeps us up by the way of that incalculable emphasis that this is the purpose of life.
This is why we exist. This is the point of every trial and every blessing that God gives to you. Every stroke of adversity, every joyful praise in life is designed to lead you to this single conclusion so that you filter all of life, all of your life experiences through the single lens that this is designed in one way or another to teach me to praise the Lord.
You almost want to just stop and say amen and go off in a quiet place and contemplate and meditate on the fullness of all that we've already seen. From a literary standpoint, from a biblical standpoint, I hope that you, as you see these things, you never view the psalms in the same way again. The psalms are so much more than just giving you an isolated devotional to help you through a day and to give you a devotional thought to bump you up until you search out another one. The psalms, as Martin Lloyd-Jones has said in a completely different context, the psalms are given to us not so that we can isolate one or two individual psalms as our favorites and we neglect the others.
They're all part of a broader whole and we need to understand that and understand that there is this undercurrent, you could say. There is this, as there are currents in the great Mississippi River below the surface, there are forces in the psalms that are an undercurrent that are carrying you out to the bay where everything empties into an ocean of praise. It's magnificent.
It is glorious. And even within the psalms, there are groups of psalms to be viewed together. Psalms 22, 23, and 24. Psalms 90, 91, and 92.
The songs of ascent. Psalms 120 to 134. There is just a depth to be plumbed by those who just take the time to read the psalms seriously. Well, with all of that, that sets the context for us as we enter into the hallowed ground of Psalm 146. What the psalmist is doing here in Psalm 146, and just to say it in just a single sentence, in Psalm 146, we see Scripture honoring God because he is trustworthy.
He is a good and faithful God. And part of the way that the psalmist shows this magnificent theme is he contrasts the immutable, unchanging faithfulness of God with the transience of human leaders. Men, even the greatest of so-called men on this earth, are frail and transient. It's not simply that our current president is frail and transient. Every leader at the pinnacle of his strength is like that. Every human leader, every man on earth, every woman on earth merely has the breath of life in their nostrils. Here today, gone tomorrow. Alive today, forgotten in the mists of time quickly as time goes on.
Human leaders, transient, unworthy of our trust, unable to deliver on their promises. By contrast, this Lord who is to be praised rules his creation in order to help his own. And the conclusion of that, when you see the contrast, and when you see the goodness of God to his people and to those that are helpless, you're led to the conclusion, praise the Lord.
He is the only one who can truly help those who are in trouble by his power and his faithfulness. God shows that he is worthy of praise. And so let's open up with the first two verses here. And we can call this first section a resolve to a lifetime of praise. A resolve to a lifetime of praise. And whether you are young here or whether you are at the latter stages of your life, this psalm is still calling you.
It is calling you whether your window is closing or whether life still has a lot to unfold before you by human perspective anyway. What the Psalter is doing, all 150 psalms is doing, and what Psalm 146 in particular calls you to do is to, in light of everything that we've seen, to understand that this psalm is calling you to a conviction that I will give my life over to praising the Lord. That my life will be devoted to his service. I will gladly yield my entire man, body, soul, and spirit, heart, soul, strength, and mind.
All of it given over to the greatness of this God and to devote my life and my affections to the praise of this God. That's where this psalm starts. Look at verses one and two with us. This psalm calls us all to praise. It calls all of humanity to praise the Lord. And yet, this psalmist starts inwardly.
He doesn't impose it externally on others without having first filtered it through his own heart. So he says in verses one and two, praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, here it is, oh my soul. I will praise the Lord while I live. I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Notice the first person singular pronouns. Verse one, my soul. Verse two, I will praise while I live. I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Beloved, in this verse, the psalmist is setting his own soul into order.
And let me just say that this is a great call. It is a noble description of what the aspiration of our own heart can be and should be. You know, for each of us to say, is this the defining, preeminent priority of my life to praise the Lord like this?
Is all of my life subordinate to that greater cause, that greater goal? In this verse, the psalmist is setting his own soul in order before he says anything else. And this frankly is an overlooked spiritual skill, a spiritual discipline, you might say. The Psalms teach us to speak to ourselves, to address our own heart rather than letting our heart and emotions run away with us. Our intellect speaks to our emotions and says, this is what you are to be given over to. We bring ourselves, we take ourselves in hand and we speak to ourselves and we call our own souls to praise. Beloved, this is a conscious commitment, not the overflow of feelings in reaction to earthly circumstances. This is a comprehensive commitment and you can understand why that must be if you remember the fullness of the introduction that we just reviewed. That this is coming after the psalmist, the psalmist speaking collectively.
The fullness of the Psalter is what I mean by that. After he's come through adversity, after he's confessed sin, after he's dealt with his enemies, after he's faced death, at the end of processing all of that, he says, I will praise the Lord. He's resolved to a lifetime of praise. And so he's expressing his determination to praise the Lord.
Look at verse 2. He says, I will praise the Lord while I live. I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. I praise the Lord.
I sing praises to the Lord. What you want to understand here is that he is making an open-ended commitment. He is expressing a lifetime resolve to praise the Lord. This is so important to grasp, beloved. Psalm 146 is expressing more than his mood of the moment.
He's not writing in response to, you know, into musical stimulation or anything like that. With a full cognizance of the worthiness of God, he says, I will devote my life to extolling his name, to exalting the glories of the name of Yahweh. He has yielded his whole man to praise God always. And that is the natural outflow. That is the only possible right result, the only proper right response to the prior 145 Psalms.
Just the depth of those lead you to no other possible conclusion. If God is like he is in the Psalms 1 through 145, and he is, then I will give my life to praise him, come what may. You know, and look, think about marriage vows. Think about what a young man and a young woman pledged to each other, you know, to have and to hold in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor, till death do us part. I commit myself to you.
I give myself over to you in front of all of these witnesses. And, you know, and that's supposed to be a lifetime vow that's taken seriously and done in the context of, you know, for Christians, in the context of the people of God. Well, if we understand that and we see that in the seriousness of that vow on a human level, in a human relationship, multiply it by infinity of one who's worthy of the highest call of our heart, one who is infinitely faithful to us on the other side, from him to us is what I mean by that, then how could we do anything else but respond to him with a resolve to a lifetime of praise?
This is inescapable. And when you put this in the New Testament context of the coming of Christ and the crucifixion of Christ and the glory of Christ and redemption in Christ and forgiveness of sin and newness of life and the promise of heaven, which is hinted at and spoken to plainly in the Psalter as well, you know, in response to Christ, how could there be anything other than this wholehearted commitment? And so he gives a resolve to a lifetime of praise in the first two verses.
He moves on in the second part of the psalm. Point number two, we see a realistic look at man. First we saw a resolve to a lifetime of praise.
Now we see a realistic look at man. In contrast to the glory of God and singing praises to God, he reinforces his theme by making a jarring contrast to the nature of man. And what he is about to say in these coming verses down through verse four is this.
It is foolish to trust in men because they have no power to help. Look at verses three and four. He says, do not trust in princes, in mortal man in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs.
He returns to the earth. In that very day, his thoughts perish. He says, men are not in control. They don't know what their life will hold tomorrow. In New Testament language, they can tear down their barns and build bigger barns, but for all they know, God is going to require their soul that very evening. They're not in control. James says, you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.
You're just a passing vapor, here today, gone tomorrow. The point of the psalmist is that men, humanity, even the highest ranking in all the earth, they have no ability to deliver you from evil. They have no ability to deliver you from your sorrows and from your difficulties.
They have no ability to address the problem of the human condition. Beloved, look, since the fall of Adam, man has been at this for about some 6,000 years, give or take. Don't you think that if man had the ability to solve problems, that war would have been banished millennia ago? If it was within the capability of men to abolish human poverty, don't you think they would have figured it out in 6,000 years? Haven't they had their opportunity to prove themselves? Haven't we, as a collective, the collective human race, had our opportunity to show that we can fix things by our own ingenuity?
And what is the outcome? Over the past, just look over the past century. Just over the past century, beloved, going back to what they called the Great War, starting in 1917, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraqi War, now Ukraine, the sexual revolution in the 60s, President's scandal and he resigns, nuclear bombs, all of this, just within, just within the, just barely beyond the scope of our lifetimes.
And this is the pinnacle, this is man and his progress, just looking at it from those, you know, from that very narrow military perspective. It's obvious that man cannot solve his own problems. When man gets involved, the problems only get worse. And so the most influential men ultimately have no real power, they have no real answers to the human dilemma. If man could help, whether it's a conservative leader or a liberal leader, whether it's the mayor of Chicago or the governor of Ohio, if man could help, if man had answers, we would not have serial mass murders in the news from week to week and month to month. We would not have city race riots. All of this, all of this is an undeniable testimony to the fact that there is no answer in man.
Look at it there in verse 3. You should just look at, you should look at it all and realize that there is no answer in politics whatsoever for the human condition. Politics and government leaders are just a necessary evil. Yes, appointed by God is a restraint to evil, but they cannot ultimately solve the problems. And so it's foolish to hope in the next great political leader to come.
We're specifically told not to do that. Do not trust in princes, verse 3, in mortal man in whom there is no deliverance. Man is mortal. He is frail. He is weak. He is appointed to die. He is transient and passing.
Verse 4, his spirit departs, he returns to the earth, and that very day his thoughts perish. You know, one of the things that Nancy and I have done over the past few years, some of you know this, you know, we've taken an opportunity to go and visit some of the different grave sites of the U.S. presidents. Just a little subcategory interest of mine, U.S. presidents and their history. And we've been to a lot of them, the great ones like George Washington, the obscure ones like James Buchanan buried in Pennsylvania in a city cemetery, Benjamin Harrison up in Indianapolis. And you look at these men, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and John Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, William Taft not far from him in the same cemetery. You look at these men who held the pinnacle of power in the free world.
Headlines heralding their coming. Camelot is here to change the course of our country. Peace in our time.
Whip inflation now, Gerald Ford in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And you look at these things, you look at these graves and you realize that they are just giving silent testimony to the truth that is expressed here in Psalm 146. That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, with part one of a message titled The God Who Helps here on The Truth Pulpit.
Now before we go, here again is Don with a closing thought. Well, my friends, if you're familiar with my ministry at all, you probably know that I have a long history of connection with John MacArthur. And not too long ago, the Lord gave me opportunity to write a book about him titled John MacArthur, an insider's tribute.
And it's an inside look based on my personal relationship with John to give you a glimpse of what the man is like in private and in other aspects beyond his pulpit ministry. Again, the book is John MacArthur, an insider's tribute. You can find that book available at thetruthpulpit.com.
That's thetruthpulpit.com. Look for the link titled Don's Books. Thanks, Don. And friend, now for Don Green, I'm Bill Wright, inviting you back next time as Don teaches God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit.
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