Psalm 146
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
March 3, 2024

I keep being surprised that some people keep being surprised that God wants us to be happy.

The Bible teaches that God wants us to be infinitely and everlastingly happy in the next world and happier and happier in this one!  The Bible even teaches that all God’s commands are designed to increase our happiness!

Today’s psalm contains at its center the last “beatitude” of the 26 beatitudes in the book of Psalms – a beatitude being a statement of the form: “Blessed are those who…” or in a better translation of the Hebrew word esher: “Happy are those who…”   Thus, verse 5 in our pew Bible reads:  “Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”

Today’s psalm is the first of a set of five joyous psalms that brings the book of Psalms to its close.  Each of the five begins and ends with the Hebrew word, hallelujah, which in English means “praise the Lord!”  At the start of this psalm, its unnamed human composer swears he will spend his entire life doing that.  He says, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.”

God wants us to praise Him continually, not for His happiness, but for ours.  God knows our praising something (or someone) we delight in is not a foreign add-on to our enjoyment of it but the fulfillment of our enjoyment of it.  Our rhapsodizing over a piece of music culminates our reveling in its beauty.  Our exclaiming over a gorgeous sunset raises our delectation of its magnificence to a higher degree.  Our singing the praises of a dear friend completes our grateful, admiring appreciation of them.

Thus, while it may bring pleasure to God as well, we are doing ourselves a favor when we continually praise the Lord!

So when this psalm urges us to do that, it is giving us a winning strategy to maximize our happiness and so fulfill the Lord’s good will for us. And, as if that weren’t enough, this Psalm gives us a second winning strategy to maximize our happiness.  It urges us to put our hope in the most promising place.  To do that we must refrain from hanging our hope on what will ultimately disappoint and hang it instead on the God who never disappoints but ever elevates happiness to the utmost.

In verse 3 the psalm warns us about one false hope in particular.  It says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals in whom there is no help.”  In speaking of “princes”, it is referring to more than just certain royal family members, but to any person who wields influence or power in this world.  That may mean anything from a celebrity entertainer to a thinker with a million Instagram followers; but, in contemporary America, I think it applies with special relevance to political leaders.  In our increasingly secular country, politics has for many become their religion; and, even if they’ve lost trust of almost all politicians, the success of their political agenda is their strongest and highest hope.  Yet even the best political ideas can do but limited good unless the people involved are good.  Governmental and political leaders are not to be trusted without caution; and even the most trustworthy eventually “return to the earth” (i.e., are buried in a grave) so that their “their plans perish” with them.  Unhappy then are those place their ultimate hope in “princes”!

By contrast, this psalm proclaims, “Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”  For, unlike the “princes” of politics and government, the Lord “keeps faith forever” and “will rule forever”.

This eternal, all-powerful, faithful God can be hoped in, and counted on, without limitation.  He never stops doing the wonderful things He does.  This psalm spells out nine of them:  He “executes justice for the oppressed”, “gives food to the hungry”, “sets the prisoners free”, “opens the eyes of the blind”, “lifts up those bowed down”, “watches over the strangers”, “upholds the orphan and the widow”, “loves the righteous” and “brings to ruin…the way of the wicked”.

Because He is God and He never changes, the Lord never gives up; and because He never gives up, one day for sure, all that He works for and that good people work for, will come to pass in perfect fulfillment.  One day, every wrong will be righted and every right thing will be established forever.

We are of course not there yet; but the God who sparks in us the happy hope of getting there and who ever labors to that end will make it happen eventually for everyone, even those who have the farthest to travel to reach it:  the oppressed, the malnourished, the locked up, the bowed down, the handicapped, the mistrusted and the excluded.  God always works to bring about life as it should be and to recruit us to join Him in the effort, so that together we might speed the realization of His best dreams for the world: what He has resolved to see sooner or later.  His everlasting resolve gives us a hope that is ever justified: a big, bold and expectant hope that bolsters and enlarges our happiness, even when life weighs us down with pain, weariness and long waiting.

I have used this analogy before, but I have never thought of a better one.  During the years I was going to school back East, I so looked forward to Christmas break and being with my family again.  I hung all kinds of hope on the arrival of those happy days.

Since money was tight, I flew back to California by the cheapest possible means.  That meant red-eyes and often long layovers in airports whose shops were closed for the night but whose loudspeakers never stopped repeating the same old Christmas songs – so that I thought that, if I had to listen to “Jingle Bell Rock” one more time, the better choice would be to throw myself in front of a de-icing truck to spare myself the misery.

Sitting by myself in a mostly vacated terminal, I’d feel tired, impatient, out-of-sorts and lonely.  But I was so full of hope, I was happy of heart at the same time!

We who mean to be faithful have battles for justice to wage and win, and some in which we’ll suffer defeat.  We have deeds of compassion to enact and so make the world better, and some that’ll only break our heart.  We have sacrifices to make and pains to endure.  But underneath it all, we can have a deep happiness to enjoy, as we keep praising God and hoping in His ultimate and complete victory.

Then, as St. Theresa said, “All the way to heaven can be a bit like heaven itself!”

Write a comment:

© 2015 Covenant Presbyterian Church
Follow us: