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Justice and Mercy—Psalm 146:1-10

Saturday, July 28, 2012, 6:00
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Justice and Mercy

August 5, 2012

Lesson: Psalm 146:1-10

Key Verse: Psalm 146:5, 7

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Introduction

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!

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Praise the Lord! Sing Hallelujah!—Psalm 146:1–2

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).

Discussion: What does it mean for us to praise the Lord?

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Happy is the Child of God! Our Help and Hope—Psalm 146:3–5

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).

Discussion: What does it mean for us to find happiness in Christ?

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The Lord, Our Truth and Life! Creator, Savior—Psalm 146:6–9

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.

  1. The Lord, our Sovereign Creator, has created, out of nothing, the heaven and earth, including the seas and all they contain. Thus, from the very beginning He has provided for all things, as He is their Creator. Our Savior-King was in the beginning with God, and is God. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1–3).
  2. The Lord (Yahshua, the Lord is our salvation) “keeps truth forever!” Jesus Christ, said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” the one who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  We can trust Him and His Word. When Christ was tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, His answer to Satan was what was written in the Book of Deuteronomy, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Therefore, we are not to be “carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them” (Heb. 13:8–9). We are to be like Job who, in his afflictions, confirmed his faith in the Lord, saying, “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
  3.  The Sovereign King executes justice for the oppressed. Righteousness and justice seem so very far away from us in a world where men desire to do what is right in their own eyes. Our Sovereign calls upon us to be patient in times of affliction that He may bring true justice into our lives. Justice means deliverance from oppression. This word justice, or judgment, means to declare a verdict. Justice is an attribute of God: “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isa. 30:18). All authority is of God; therefore, all that is unjust will be judged in His light, and dealt with by Him. We are not to make laws or do acts of unrighteousness that dishonor His name. But we are to be like our King Jesus: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
  4. The Lord our Shepherd gives food to the hungry. Whether it be the hunger of the body, or more important, the hunger and thirst of the soul, it is God alone who provides that daily bread that we need. In other words, He will not leave us without the needs of body and soul. Therefore, let our “conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’; and we boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5–6).
  5. The Lord our Savior gives freedom to the prisoners. Our Lord loosens the chains that hold us in the prison of sin, or would hold us in the prisons of men. John Bunyan was imprisoned when he wrote his Pilgrim’s Progress. His freedom was in Christ. Paul and Silas saw the chains fall from their bodies, and the gates open by an angel of the Lord. Daniel’s lions were made moot, and the fiery furnace of his friends could not burn them. Our freedom lies in Christ and in Him alone.
  6. The risen Lord opens the eyes of the blind. Let Calvin illustrate this work of our King: “To enlighten the blind is the same with giving light in the midst of darkness. What at any time we know not what to do—are in perplexity, and lie confounded and dismayed, as if the darkness of death had fallen upon us—let us learn to ascribe this title to God that he may dissipate the gloom and open our eyes.” Our Lord anoints our eyes that we may see. He is the Light that disperses the darkness.
  7. The Lord raises those who are bowed down. King Jesus reaches down to bear our burdens, that our spiritual backs might be made straight. Hear and obey these words of our Savior: “Come to me, all of you, who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you refreshment. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29).
  8.  The Holy God, the Lord, loves the righteous. Three times the Spirit uses the term ‘Lord’ or Jehovah; the Triune God who told Moses that He was the ‘I Am’ God, in whom all things have their life. “In this way, he stimulates and excites men to seek him who will often rather chafe and pine away in their miseries, than betake themselves to this sure asylum” [John Calvin]. Our Lord loves His people, those whom He calls ‘the righteous.’ Who are the righteous? They are those who have experienced, or know in their hearts, the King of righteousness. These are those who have been justified and regenerated through the precious blood of Christ, the very Son of God.
  9.  The Sovereign Lord watches over the strangers, relieves the fatherless and widows; but He turns the way of the wicked upside down. We put these together for it reveals the love of God in Christ Jesus for those who are His, over against the wicked who war against His people, and, therefore, against Him. The way of the wicked will be destroyed. But those who are strangers in this world, those who are fatherless and widows, and so many times neglected … our Lord will provide for them. He will do this through His people. How easy it is for man to treat harshly those who are strangers, orphans, and widows. They seem so alone, without hope. How sad it is to see this happening within the congregation, the Body of Christ. Our Lord will preserve those who are weak, while He will destroy those who seem strong, so strong that the deal unjustly with those who are weaker.

Discussion: What do the activities of our Lord teach us about Him and ourselves?

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Praise the Lord! Zion’s Eternal King!—Psalm 146:10

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).

Discussion: What strength do we possess in the knowledge that Christ is the King of kings?

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Lessons are based on the International Sunday School Lessons for Christian Teaching, copyright © 2012 by the Committee on the Uniform Series.

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