A Sermon on the 146th Psalm
My guess is that almost everyone reading this can recite the 23rd Psalm from memory. Yet can anyone recite Psalm 146 from memory? Probably not. Although not as well known as the 23rd Psalm, Psalm 146 is certainly worthy of our time and study. Consider the fact that Christians frequently use expressions like “praise the Lord,” and “hallelujah.” Where do these expressions come from and why are they used? These expressions come from biblical passages like Psalm 146. Like many other Americans, Christians are prone to place their trust in great men (politicians, military heros, people of wealth and power), because such people can exercise influence upon over lives and our ways of thinking. But in Psalm 146, we are reminded not to place our trust in anyone or anything other than God, who is the creator and sustainer of all things. And then it is our Lord Jesus who alludes to this Psalm when beginning his messianic mission. So there is much here for us to consider in the 146th Psalm.
As we continue our series on select Psalms, we take up Psalm 146 as a representative of an important group of five Psalms at the end of the Psalter, the so-called Hallel Psalms (146-150). As we will see, Psalm 146 is a joyful Psalm of praise. Together with Psalms 147-150, these five Psalms bring the fifth Book of the Psalms (Psalms 107-150), as well as the entire Psalter, to a close. The five Hallel Psalms are classified as “Psalms of praise,” and are used as daily prayers in most synagogues. Collectively these Hallel Psalms reflect a sense of joy and delight and although not as well-known as other Psalms (such as Psalm 23, our subject last Lord’s day) this group of Psalms does include Psalm 149 (in which we are urged to “sing a new song”) and Psalm 150 (with its famous refrain, “let everything that has breath praise the Lord”).
So far in our series on select Psalms we’ve covered Psalms written by David, Moses, and the sons of Korah. We have looked at Psalms used in the temple (for worship), royal Psalms (with messianic implications), wisdom Psalms, and a Psalm such as the well-known 23rd Psalm, often classified as a “Psalm of trust.” We take up yet another genre (or form) of Psalms–a Psalm of Praise. This Psalm has been used as the text for several German hymns, and Isaac Watts’ hymn “I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath” is also based upon this Psalm. The 146th Psalm is a Psalm which directs us to offer praise to the Lord, as well as to exercise great care in choosing in whom we place our trust.
As a so-called Psalm of Praise (and part of a section of the Psalter devoted to praise), this Psalm is often called a Song of Zion (because of the reference to Mount Zion, in v. 10). It was almost certainly composed for use in the temple. As with other Psalms (especially those used for worship in the temple), the authorship of Psalm 146 is unknown. Ancient Jewish tradition identifies Psalm 146 and 147 as coming from prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and therefore to the fact that these Psalms were written for use in the temple after Israel returned from the exile in Babylon, making these Psalms among the most recently written in the Psalter. There is nothing in these Psalms which ties them to either of these prophets, so it is probably best to consider this Psalm’s authorship as undetermined (unknown).
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