When the prophet Samuel was old, he made his sons to be judges over Israel. They did not walk as Samuel walked, but turned aside after dishonest gain, as in bribery, thereby perverting justice. Now, what do you think the response of the elders of Israel was? Did they turn to their Lord to ask for righteousness and justice? No. Instead they went to Samuel and asked for a king, saying, “Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5). When we vote for a governor or president or board member of a county, we are either asking for: one, someone who represents our moral and righteous concerns under God; or, two, we are asking for someone who will give us something that we think will benefit us. In other words, we are asking for a king who is like other kings, or for one who will serve the Lord, who is the sovereign over all nations.
Samuel was displeased when they cried, “Give us a king to judge us!” (8:6). Samuel brought the matter to the Lord; and the Lord spoke to His prophet, knowing their hearts, saying, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (8:7). When the people cry for a king of their own choosing, they seek to govern their own destiny, finding the promises of their elected officer is but the desire of a few to control their lives, from the food on the table to the roof over their heads. They have exchanged the happiness that only the Lord can give, for that which man can only promise and not produce. The Psalmist reminds us that it is the Lord who “executeth judgment for the oppressed, which giveth food to the hungry;” in whom we know that “Happy is the man that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psa. 146: 5, 7).
Our Lord spoke of the Father’s love for His people: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26). Yet His people, captured by the bright lights of the world, turn from a sovereign love to idols that cannot talk or walk for their feeding. We are in the world but not of the world. Our joy is not in the rulers and their laws, but in our Sovereign King who has revealed Himself as our Good Shepherd. To this Sovereign we owe full allegiance and praise. To Him and to Him alone, we will sing our hallelujahs!
From the depths of the psalmist’s heart comes a manifesto, an edict, so to speak, that declares that his life will acclaim the praise of his Lord. “Praise the Lord!” is his cry. In these two verses, the psalmist uses the term praise four times. His voice, his soul, and his whole being, will praise the Lord. He will continue to sing, to tell the wonders and powers of his Savior that will resound through the generations. Forever will he proclaim the goodness of the Lord. If we know that we have eternal and abundant life in Christ, now and for eternity, then we know how long we are to praise our Lord.
What does it mean to “praise the Lord!”? The word praise (halal) means “to shine,” to celebrate, to glorify. We are to give glory to God, not allowing anything, whether word or deed, to hinder the radiant love and grace of God to shine forth. This praise or glory is nothing less than that which the Spirit teaches us through His Word. There is another Hebrew term of praise used in verse two. The psalmist exclaims that he will “sing praises!” To “sing praises” means to celebrate or sing songs, as in poetry, or to make music. Something has happened to the heart of the child of God. From his soul issue the joy and praise of this new grace and love which he has received from the hand of his Creator and Redeemer. The Lord has laid hold on us, and we have in turn embraced him in love. Our mind, soul, and heart, proclaim that covenant of grace, which is ours in Christ.
We are to praise Him in Zion! We are to praise Him in the midst of His congregations. We are to “sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people” (Psa. 9:11). We are to praise our Lord as long as we live, while we have our being. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).
Praise and happiness come from the object of our trust. Trust (batach) is a word we have come across before, as in Psalm 125:1:“Those who trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever.” This word, trust, expresses our attachment to another, the one in whom we secure ourselves, that we might find the best support. Of the 181 uses in the Old Testament, fifty are found in the Psalms. This word gives credence to this statement of our Lord Jesus: “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:29–31).
Thus you see, in the words of Jesus, the two objects of faith or trust; and each of us must choose one or the other. As the psalmist wrote, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.” But “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” The worldly man attaches himself to a man, a man whose wisdom is no better than the idol made of wood. Neither a president whose ideology is that government is the mother upon whom we all must nurse, nor the tyrant whose ideology is to suppress the people through a socialistic republic or by force alone, nor the atheist who claims that man is the only hope of mankind; none but the Lord can give what is good, what is true justice and mercy.
To put our trust in princes is like attaching ourselves to a wooden idol. An idol cannot walk, nor can it give help of any kind. The prince upon whom man depends is just a child of another man, in whom there is no help. For his spirit will depart from his body, as will our spirits. His body will return to the dust of earth, and “In that very day his plans will perish.” No man can leave a legacy, a name for himself; for another man will rise up, and the previous prince will be but a name in a history book, or on the shelf of a museum named after him.
There is only one attachment which provides all the good we need on this earth, and for eternity. This attachment reveals the happiness of the person who has put his trust in the triune God of Israel, Jacob, and Zion; “Whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Calvin reminds us of our position before God as His adopted children, those who bear the true mark of the child of the God of Jacob! – “In designating the true God by his proper mark, he intimates that it is only by an assured faith of adoption that any of us can rest upon him; for he must show himself favorable to us before we can look for help from him.” Scripture attests to the promise of help from the Lord, for He surely knows our needs, answers those needs, even before we ask: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy” (Psa. 33:18); “I am the Good Shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by my own” (Jesus, John 10:14); “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7).
Happiness springs from our attachment to that which we love the most, upon whom or what we have placed our trust and faith. It follows that, if we place our trust on the things or persons of this world, then our happiness is as shallow as the grave. However, in the words of Proverbs 16:20, “He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.” In the words of Christ, which express our utter trust or dependence upon our Lord, “Blessed (how inwardly happy) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).
Who is the object of our trust, whom do we embrace, to whom do we attach ourselves without reservation? Faith, in and of itself, is useless, unless the object of that faith is able to do what it promises. The object of our faith or trust is a person, Christ our Savior. The object of our faith or trust is the Lord, the Triune God Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our happiness and hope is rightfully placed in the object of our faith, Christ Jesus, our King and Savior, who we know by the Spirit through His Word. Nine works of grace are listed to confirm our faith in Christ alone. These nine activities of the triune God reveal His covenant love toward us as His people.
Zion’s eternal King is the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. There is no other Sovereign. When we praise the Lord, we are exalting His name, declaring His attributes and works to His glory and honor among His people and to the world around us. When we invite others to fellowship with us, our witness is that our fellowship is with Christ, the Spirit, and our Father in heaven. We declare with the prophet: “We have a strong city; God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in. Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusts in Thee. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength” (Isa. 26:1–4).
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