by Pastor Mark Hudson
We are in the section of the Psalms that explodes with praise. From Ps 146-150 each Psalm begins with the phrase “Praise the Lord” and ends with the same. We all know that often people mock Christians by saying, “Praise the Lord” but I am thankful God has changed my heart so I want to say that. When I utter that phrase, by God’s grace, I mean it.
Derek Kidner suggests an easy to remember outline.
146:1-6 The God who redeems
146:7-11 The God who cares
146:12-20 The God who commands
In section 1-6, who are told it is pleasant and fitting to praise God. If you have truly worshipped God, been lost in the joy of who God is, you can understand how very pleasant praise is and how appropriate it is to praise this great God (v. 4). This section reminds us of two seemingly contrary facts. One, God is great, abundant in power and His understanding is beyond measure. So, other religions would portray this kind of god as so powerful but aloof from humans. In stressing His power and understanding this god would be angry with the sins of people. He not only knows all the stars, He determines the number of stars and names them. Consider that . . . for the rest of your life. Just consider what a feat that is.
Without diminishing the power of God, the Psalmist surprisingly paints a picture juxtaposing a powerful God as One who gathers the outcasts of Israel (like a shepherd, a mother, a tender father). Then He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (like a nurse, a caring shepherd, a parent). He lifts up the humble protecting them by casting the wicked to the ground. How can Someone be that strong while at that same time so concerned about the outcasts, the wounded, and the humble?
Then in verses 7-11, the God of creation upholds His creation and maintains all He has made. He did not create once and then it runs on autopilot but He is constantly prepares rain, makes grass grow and provides food to beasts and birds. How can any Being do this for the entire world? This intentional creative activity will be praised in heaven for eternity.
Yet, for all He has made: mighty horses, the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls in Africa, the Rockies in Canada and the US, the Nile in Egypt, strong athletes, what He takes the most pleasure in is His people. If I made the Rockies, I might point to that power. If I created Zion National Park, I might be proud of that and take pleasure when others see it. And I am sure God glories in the natural world. But He is overjoyed, he even sings (. . . He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by His love Zeph. 3:17) over His people. This is a difficult concept to grasp. When we take delight in God, He delights in us. Stunning.
For all this and more we are commanded to praise God. This awesome God commands. He is a talking God. He tells us how to live, what to value, Who to worship, and what not to think, say, or do. That is His right as Creator and Sustainer of the universe. His Word is to be heeded. God’s Word cannot be separated from His character and worth. What will happen to those who have rejected His word all their lives?
I am writing this on Oct 17, a cold day where there were a few snowflakes in the air in Michigan. God did that. He gives snow like today and snow when it piles up on our driveways in January. Those of us in the colder climates understand v. 17, “Who can stand before His cold?” But this is the same God who melts the snow in the Rockies to provide water for the millions that drink their water from the Colorado River.
I love this intermingling with nature and His word. We need to remind ourselves that while God, through the Bible, restricts our sinful desires and He asks us to do things contrary to our nature like love, forgive, show mercy, be patient, etc. His Word given to us is a distinct privilege. Verse 20, “He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know His rules.” Where would we be without God’s Word?
We ought to love His rules not just be ‘okay’ with them. He wants us to have the most joy possible in this life. He wants to give to us and He has so very much to give. If I had a bird at home and a cat (which we do have), I would not leave the door of the birdcage open giving freedom to both cat and bird. I would close the door. Just like we did not let our young children play where ever and with whomever they want. Nor do I drive anywhere I may choose on the road. I stay in my lane to preserve my life.
God gives us more than we can ever understand or apply always pointing us to the real joy Giver: the Lord Jesus. You don’t have to be a missionary or pastor to please God. He “takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His steadfast love.” I will never fully understand that verse until I get to heaven. But I plan to think about that truth between now and then.
Dear precious heavenly Father. You fill the universe with Your glory. You are the Creator and the Eternal One who upholds the universe by Your power. Yet, You bow down, as it were, to the humble, the brokenhearted to heal and bind up wounds. For Someone as majestic as You, we would not expect You to even notice the many brokenhearted people and then to actually heal them. Everyone who has lost a spouse, a baby, a parent? You care about the teen who hurt by rejection? You go out of Your way to gather the outcasts? Even me, Lord? You are far greater than we can ever imagine. In Jesus’ name. Amen.