Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD while I live;
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 help 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
, to all generations. Zion
Praise the LORD!
An Ancient Hebrew Song, otherwise known as Psalm 146
Psalm 146 has a clear place in the theology of the book of Psalms. The final section of psalms is devoted to “pure praise” songs, the purpose of which is to encourage God’s people to give God good press. The songs all around this one are constantly saying, “Everyone, talk about God!” It’s kinda like being at an evangelism convention. Or listening to a Maranatha worship album over and over again.
So we see #146 as being the same kind of song—God is a great god, tell everybody. #145 and 146 do differ from those that follow them in that they provide quite a bit of content as to what everybody should actually be excited about (unlike Maranatha worship tapes, see left). It’s as if someone had read some of the later psalms and said, “You guys are fanatics! What’s so great about
anyway?” These two psalms (plus some
additional ones, like #103) attempt to answer that question. Israel
In answering this question, #146 begins with a postmodern philosophical presupposition—“What you see is not what is Real.” It is as if we were suddenly transported into the Matrix movies: “Everything that seems important around you—governments, military, economics—all the things that would make you seem secure—none of it is actually real. It is only the semblance of reality. The most powerful people you know of are frankly only the shadow of the true Reality. Looking carefully at them, you can see their power and authority and wealth shake and finally disappear. If you want true Power, you have to gain it from another source.”
Yes, #146 is saying, there may be people who look important and powerful—celebrities, rulers, Senators, religious leaders, CEOs and more. But they can’t actually make you secure or powerful—they can’t even do it themselves. After all, powerful people get assassinated, Senators and presidents don’t get re-elected or get impeached, CEOs get fired, and everyone dies—sometimes sooner than later. Even the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll died young—relatively speaking. Human power, at best, is transitory, fleeting.
But, says #146, there is a real Power to access. He’s called God. He made heaven and earth. Creator, that’s a pretty powerful position, isn't it? And not only did he make heaven and earth—no mean feat, in and of itself—but he also made the Sea. The Sea, (Yom, remember?) in Canaanite and Israelite cosmology, is powerful; a god in and of itself. It is chaotic and destructive and threatening to mankind in general. But God made even that powerful god. Since there is no powerful human figure that could order the unorderable Sea, then God must be the real Reality, the source of all real power. God is the Matrix of this world.
Not only is God’s power more powerful than the power of this world’s power, but even the character of God’s power is different. This world’s power is characterized by the maintenance of position. Powerful ones must spend all their time maintaining their power. The wealthy must work at maintaining their wealth. The authoritative must work at maintaining their authority. Celebrities must work at maintaining their fame. This is one of the greatest indications to show that human power is fleeting—because one has to work so hard to maintain it.
This maintenance requires the powerful to work with the powerful. Only power can grant power, wealth is the only tool to become wealthy and fame is what one must manipulate to maintain fame. Thus, the powerful do not have time to work with or for the unimportant, the unwealthy, the unfamous. If they did, then they would lose their human power, and they would have nothing.
God’s power, however, is not fleeting, and so it is unnecessary for him to work at maintaining his power.20 God’s power is the source of all power, so why should he hobnob with the so-called powerful? He needs nothing to maintain his position or wealth. This also frees him to do what is completely just and faithful. He may keep his promises and contracts because it will not lessen his power to do so. He can do what is right to all people because it does not frustrate his abilities if he does.
Most of all, #146 says, it means that he is a completely free agent to help the poor and needy. Those who are oppressed—he is freely able to save. The hungry, he feeds them all the time. The debtors, he can set them free from prison. The blind, he makes them see. The immigrants, the transitory, the marginalized, the unseen-by-the-law, the needy, the ones without any hope—God can put his power at their disposal.
And he does. Since human power focuses on those who wield power, God uses his power to assist those not helped by human. God is kinda like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: He assists the needy, not provide entertainment for those on top of the world. God does not need to feed the full, so he focuses on feeding the hungry. He doesn't need to raise up the important, so he focuses on the humble. He doesn't need to help the seeing to see, so he helps the blind. He doesn't need to help those represented by government, so he assists those unrepresented.
And that’s why God is so great. He is the source of all power, and he does what human power could never do. Him helping the needy just proves how powerful he really is.