Psalm 146

Psalm 146?  Is it weird to talk to yourself?  I hope not – because I talk to myself a lot.  Anyone else?  What do you talk about?  Sometimes when I think people can’t hear me I will just talk out loud- I actually looked it up this week on the google machine and asked it if it’s weird, and I guess there was a study done that said so long as your talking to yourself is positive – it will result in positive things.  So – apart from the occasional – Phil You Idiot!  I don’t think that’s too bad – and so long as you aren’t having hallucinations as you talk to yourself – then it’s okay.

And I have news for all of you who talk to yourself – not only is it okay – it’s biblical!  The Psalm we read today for example – did you note how it started?  Did you note how it began?

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

What is this person doing?  He or she is talking to themselves.  This is a song where a person is speaking to their soul.  And there seems to be something of an exhortation here – it’s a little bossy even!  Praise the Lord, soul!  Do it!  Do it!  Praise the Lord!

This is one of my favorite Psalms.  I just love this one.  I’ve never preached on it.  It’s so perfect that maybe I’m afraid I’ll jack it up!  (No Phil You got this – preach it brother!  Okay thanks)

This psalm is a person instructing his or her soul to praise God.  What does it mean to praise someone?  It means to lift them up.  To put them up there where they belong.  It’s actually more than just admiration for someone – praise is the expression of that admiration.

It’s not praise if your thoughts about God never leave your soul.  If you have come to the place where you think highly enough of Jesus to surrender your life to him – that’s appropriate and wonderful – but it’s not praise.  Our admiration for God becomes praise when we express it.

With our voices.  In our singing.  In our writing.  IN the Psalms it talks about praising God with harp and the Lyre – but more than anything it talks about praising God with my lips…   

When my admiration spills out of my thoughts and somehow affects my body in such a way that my tongue speaks, my hands praise.

Is it weird that people raise their hands when they praise God?  Why do people raise their hands when they worship?  Well, I used to tell students – why do you raise your hand now?  When you know the answer?  When you have a question?  When you swear an oath that you are telling the truth.  When you were little – you raised your hand to hold your mom or dad’s hand.

All of them apply – praise the Lord oh my soul – express my admiration for God.  My admiration spills out of the soul and into my tongue my hands – my words and becomes praise.

Why does this person need to remind their soul to praise the Lord?  Because – let’s be honest – it’s easy to forget that God exists.  Let’s be real – how many days in a row can go by without thinking consciously about God and his goodness to us?

It depends, right?  The better things are – the longer I can go without thinking about God and his role in my life.  That’s a biblical truth.  When things are going smoothly, our soul can fall asleep – or worse, our soul starts taking credit for it.    

Maybe that’s where the writer of this psalm is coming from?  Maybe it’s been some time since he or she has spent time in worship – in intentional praise.

And so – she’s talking to herself here.  Praise the Lord soul!  Do it!  Remember who woke you up this morning!

Don’t put your trust in princes.  In mortals who cannot save.  When they die their plans come to nothing.  But rather – blessed – there’s that word again – it means a flourishing life.  A flourishing kind of life awaits the soul that makes God their ultimate thing – Praise the Lord oh my Soul!

And so this morning – let’s praise Him by reminding our souls of the same thing the writer reminds his or her soul about – and the first is this.

What are we reminding our soul to remember?  We’re going to praise the Lord by remembering that he all-powerful.  He has all the power.  He has all the creativity.  And he put it to work all around us.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—

Listen – it’s vacation season right?  I hope you get away and find something beautiful in creation to look at and when you do – I want you to do your best to take a moment and remember who created what you’re looking at.

One of the most amazing memories in my life was when we took a trip to Hawaii – and we went snorkeling  and when I put my face in the water – fish – hundreds of fish of every color – it was thrilling.  God sees oceans of them and loves it.  He made all of it – and yet – all of it – a little lower than you.  They got the good stamp in creation – you got the very good.   

Look at that fish!  If God takes care of the fish you bet he’ll take care of you, his beloved son – his cherished daughter.

When I go to South Dakota and sit outside at night and see the milky way – I think – praise the Lord oh my soul – praise the Lord – the maker of all that beauty.  The same God who knows how to make a star knows how many hairs on your head!  Look at those stars – created a little lower than you.

As we approach the summer – as we plan trips and vacations – as we sit outside and enjoy the sunsets and the rain storms – can we make a deal that the next time we see something in nature that takes our breath away – we will use that as a reminder to praise God for what we’re experiencing.  That we would express our admiration – out loud – or with hands raised – some tangible expression of praise to the God who created all of it and called it good – and to the God who created you and me and called us very good.

Don’t put your trust in anyone other than in the Lord your God.  Blessed- a flourishing life awaits the one who puts their trust in God the maker of heaven and earth, the seas and everything in them.

Sometimes you have to have a little pep talk with yourself – remind yourself who is on your side.  Take time to remind your soul that God is all powerful.  He created you and knows you and loves you too.

Sometimes you gotta remind yourself – God’s got all the power.  All the creativity.  He lacks nothing and so – I fear nothing.

Secondly – Not only can God do anything – but this Psalm teaches us that will stand beside us forever.

6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever.

Our God is a God who stands beside us.  That’s literally what this means.  He stands alongside us.

There’s a passage in the NT – in the second letter that the apostle Paul wrote to his apprentice, Timothy.  And he mentions a time that would be rather glum, frankly.  It’s not a high point in Paul’s ministry. 2 Tim 4

He says,

16 The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength…

Every once in a while I’ll have a conversation with someone who is wrestling through faith issues – and every once in a while I’ll hear someone suggest that God has created us and now sits far removed from us and just watches how things play out.

And I must say that both the Old and the New Testament make the case time and again, that God is close.  That God is near.  And not only is he near us he stands with those who have placed our faith in Him.  He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Jesus’ last words to his followers were – I am with you always.  And here we read Paul – what comforted him in his trial?  Although everyone abandoned him – Jesus stood with him.

Now – even more interesting – is that Psalm 146 goes on to address the kinds of people that God especially stands with.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,

This list of people that we just read shows up dozens of times in the Old Testament.

I’m not on twitter – I know some of you are – here’s our youth pastor Kyle – and you notice there is a sentence to describe yourself….

Here’s my wife Jody – on twitter – and she describes herself as….

God doesn’t have a twitter account but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t describe himself.  If God did have a twitter account – I think it’s highly likely that God would write…

Defender of the widow, the orphan, the poor and the immigrant.

I heard one writer say it is on God’s business card – it is how he prefers to be known – he is the defender of the oppressed – he calls himself the father to the fatherless.

Deut 10:17 “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. 18 He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. 19 So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.

Caring for the poor, caring for the orphan.  Caring for the alien and treating immigrants and refugees fairly and lovingly – it’s not just good morals – it’s good theology.

When we started Journey Church we asked God to show us where we were called to help people – We knew we couldn’t go wrong caring for what some have called the Quartet of the Vulnerable – the widow, the orphan, the immigrant and the poor.  God stands with them.  And he stands with those who stand with them as well.

From time to time we will have to remind our Soul to praise God.  We will remind our soul to praise him when we see the stars and the beauty of creation – we’re going to praise him because of his power.

And then we’re going to remind our soul that He is worthy of our praise because he’s the kind of God who stands beside us through thick and thin.  And that he’s the kind of God who especially stands with the widow and the orphan and the poor and the immigrant.

Lastly – this morning – I want to point out one more way that we can remind our soul to praise the Lord.  And it actually is a word that you might read over quickly at first, – that Psalm 146 also mentions that God frustrates the ways of the wicked.  Let’s talk about God’s judgment on the wicked…

Remember last week we read Psalm 1 and we didn’t really talk about it but the wicked show up in Psalm 1 as well – where it says, the Wicked will not stand in the judgment…

See, there are two sides of justice.  Psalm 146 highlights the positive side of justice – God stands beside the oppressed – the widow the poor the orphan and the immigrant.  He stands with us –

But there is also another side of justice – and that is the negative side of judgment – judging the guilty.  Judging the oppressor.  The evil.  Doing something about the wicked.

And this is where things get tricky – see – we all – want to imagine ourselves as the innocents who want God to stand up with us – not against us.  But the problem is that the bible is pretty clear – especially in the book of Romans chapter 3 – that none of us are innocent.  All of us have sinned – all of us have failed to follow both the internal law of morality in our own heart.  We do what we know to be wrong.

So how do we know which side of justice do we stand on?  Is the God of justice standing with us or against us?

And for the answer – I’m going to look at Luke chapter 4.   The very first sermon we preached at Journey Church was from the book of Luke, chapter 4.  It was meant to set the course for our church – what kind of church are we going to be.  And in Luke chapter 4 we find Jesus in a synogue and he stands up to read a portion of scripture from the OT book of Isaiah…

Let e read it – because it will sound familiar…

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”  NLT

But what’s interesting is – Jesus announces that he has come to bring the positive side of justice – bringing justice to the quartet of the vulnerable…  and the point that I’m making here comes NOT from what Jesus said, but what Jesus left out.  See, Jesus stops in the middle of a verse. He reads Isaiah 61 1 and half of verse 2.  He leaves something out.  And I want us to hear it.

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God…

Why does Jesus leave this part out?  The answer gives us the last reason to Praise the Lord today.

We praise him as our all powerful creator.

We praise him for standing with us.

And lastly – we praise the Lord, oh my soul, because Jesus came not to BRING God’s judgment, but to BEAR it.

Jesus took the vengeance of God upon his own body on that cross.  He came to take the guilty sentence that our sins deserved.  Jesus did not bring God’s judgment upon the wicked – he bore it.

Story of young boy who made a toy boat – brought it to the lake – gust of wind broke the string and pushed the boat far out into the lake – the boy thought it was gone forever

One day he walked past a toy store and in the window – he saw his boat.  He went to the store owner and explained the boat was his!  But the owner said – I’m sorry son, but I bough that boat from a person who brought it in to sell, If you want that boat you will have to pay me for it.

You are now twice mine.  I created you and I bought you.

Praise the Lord oh my soul.  Praise the Lord.  The maker of heaven and hearth the seas and everything in them.  The Lord remains faithful forever.  He created us and on the cross he bought us back.  And for that I will praise the Lord all my days.  May all generations praise the Lord.