Psalm 146:1-10; Luke 1:46-55
December 10, 2017 • Download this sermon (PDF)
Beloved Congregation of Christ: Daily, we are faced with many choices, and one of the most important choices is whom to trust: other people (including ourselves), or God. Most of the time, even Christians choose the first, whether consciously or unconsciously. It’s our hearts over our minds. We know that the Bible commands us to trust the LORD rather than other people.
In the past, we used to trust politicians who run our nation. For the most part, they were honest, hardworking, and they put the interests of the people above their own. Now, it seems that most politicians are corrupt and look only to preserve their power and wealth. We also used to trust the news media to inform us what’s going on in our community, nation and the world. Now, what we usually hear and see are editorials and opinions, not just the what, who, where, when, why and how. It used to be that we can trust pastors and theologians to tell us the truths of the Bible. But not anymore, because of so much false teachings disguised in Biblical language. Who then can we trust?
One more thing about trusting in something else: from ancient days, people have trusted money and goods more than God. Abraham was “very wealthy” (Gen 13:12), and so was Job (Job 1:3). But they both trusted God more than their wealth. But way back during the time of Moses, God already warned his people, “You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deu 8:18). Abraham and Job did not forget who gave them riches, but King Solomon did.
Verse 3 of our text tells us, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” In putting our trust in other people and in other things, the ultimate question is, “Can they save me? Can money and these other things save me?” Instead, verses 5-9 tell us to trust and hope in the LORD because he is the Creator, Provider, Savior and Righteous Judge.
This psalm is echoed in the song that Mary sang in Luke 1:46-55 after the angel announced to her that she would conceive a Son by the Holy Spirit.
“Put Not Your Trust in Princes”
The text opens with two imperatives: first, “Praise the LORD!” addressed to the congregation; second, “Praise the LORD, o my soul!” addressed to himself, the psalmist.
Many pastors and teachers today teach that public, corporate in the church is not necessary for a Christian, because he can worship God even by himself at home. Back in 2010, during the height of Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao’s power, every time he fought, the whole country ground to a halt. His fights were on Sundays around noon, Saturday nights here. There was no traffic congestion, and even the malls were deserted, a sort of Filipino Super Bowl.
But sadly, church attendance also decreased dramatically. In view of this, someone posted in a forum for missionaries, saying, “Satan will win as many Christians will not be in church this morning worshipping our Saviour.” But another missionary replied: “Does Church save a man? . . . If we can and should worship at other times, do we “Have” to worship on our “traditional” Sunday Morning? . . . we really need to find ways of encouraging people into fellowship . . . not driving them away by being judgmental.”
These comments are a sad commentary to the state of evangelicalism, not only in the Philippines, but all over the world. This is outright disobedience to God’s Word masquerading as deep spirituality. We are commanded in Hebrews 10:24–25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” It is through the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments that we receive the benefits of God’s grace toward us. Paul says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). And when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, it is not merely a memorial, but a communion in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for nourishing our souls (1 Cor 10:16).
But this is not to say that we can worship God only an hour or two on Sundays, and not for the rest of the week. For us Christians, we worship God whenever we read the Scriptures in private, or in our family settings. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4). And praying privately is also a communion with our Creator and Redeemer.
Let me read a quote from Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish Presbyterian pastor in the mid-19t h century, about why God wants us to worship together on the Lord’s Day:
[The Lord’s Day] is also the type of heaven. When a believer lays aside his pen or loom, brushes aside his worldly cares, leaving them behind him with his week-day clothes, and comes up to the house of God, it is like the morning of the resurrection, the day when we shall come out of great tribulation into the presence of God and the Lamb. When he sits under the preached word, and hears the voice of the shepherd leading and feeding his soul, it reminds him of the day when the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed him and lead him to living fountains of waters . . . This is the reason why we “call the Sabbath a delight.” A well-spent Sabbath we feel to be a day of heaven upon earth . . . Heaven is one long, never-ending, holy Sabbath-day.
This is why the psalmist vows to praise the LORD as long as he lives (verse 2).
“Hope in the LORD”
This is also the reason why the psalmist writes in verse 3, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” Why not trust in other people? Because they cannot save anyone (Acts 4:12). Only God saves, he is the almighty, eternal, all-good Creator. Since he is the Almighty Creator, he is able to do all things for his people’s salvation. Since he is eternal, his promises in his Word never fails, and they all stand forever (Isa 40:8). And since he is the fountain of all good, he does all things for the good of his people (Psa 119:68; Rom 8:28).
The second reason why we cannot put our hope in man is that he is not God who is almighty, eternal, and all-good. When a man dies, what happens to all his plans, wealth and power? What good are his investments to him? What good is his power when he’s in the grave? History tells us that man’s plans, wealth and power are often thrown away after he dies.
The church is a good example. In the early church, a pastor from Alexandria, Egypt named Arius taught a heresy that Christ was a created being and was not the Son of God from eternity past. This teaching created a great controversy, so Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. This council condemned Arius’ heresy, affirming that Christ was from eternity past the Son of God. Ten years later, Constantine changed his view, saying that Arianism fell within the correct doctrine of Scriptures. So he exiled Athanasius, one of the most fervent anti-Arian theologian of his time. But Constantius, a son of Constantine who became the next emperor, favored Arianism, so most churches were led by Arian pastors until his death in 361 A.D. Later, Julian the Apostate, a pagan, ruled against all Christianity. Then in 381 A.D., Emperor Theodosius convened the Council of Constantinople, which again condemned Arianism. And at various times in the 5th to 6th centuries, the Germanic tribes conquered parts of the Roman Empire, and turned the churches into Arianism.
Today, we still see this in politics. Almost every successor to an office will set aside the programs, personnel and focus of the former official. We see this very clearly in presidential politics, especially when the administration changes from one party to the other. We cannot hope and trust in other people or other things, because they change and they disappear. Only God does not change; only God is eternal; only God’s Word is eternally true and always fulfilled.
“The LORD Keeps Faith Forever”
Therefore, the psalmist says in verse 5, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” Most people today will say they’re blessed when they have money, a family, house, cars, and other things. Their hope is in temporal, earthly things. But the psalmist disagrees. When you hope in God for help in your time of need, despair, and sorrow, you are blessed. When you trust God when you or a loved one is gravely ill, or had a serious accident, or in a broken relationship, or in financial hardship, you are blessed.
Why must we hope in God and not in other people or in things? First, as was pointed out earlier, he is the almighty, all-knowing Creator. He knows all our needs even before they come to us. Second, he is faithful to his promises which he already made before he created the world. His Word never fails, and accomplishes all that it says, as God promises in Isaiah 55:11, “[my word] shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”
Third, God is the one who sustains and provides for his people. We read the many things that God does for his poor and needy people in verses 7-9. First, he “executes justice for the oppressed.” Those who inflict injustice through murder, theft, adultery and fake news will be punished by God. Those who persecute, ridicule, torture, rape, pillage and martyr our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East, Africa and throughout the world would suffer the wrath of God for eternity.
Second, God “gives food to the hungry.” In his grace, he gives food not only to his people, but even to those who hate him. He sends the sun and rain to all alike.
Third, he “sets the prisoners free.” We think of Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul, the apostles Peter and John, whom God set free for a time. We remember the Scottish Reformer John Knox who fled to Geneva and John Newton who was freed from slavery. Yes, there were Stephen, and all the apostles except for John, who were later imprisoned and martyred. But when they entered heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ said to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matt 25:23). They are free indeed from sin, death and hell.
Fourth, “the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.” God not only opens the physical eyes, but he also opens the spiritual eyes. When Christ first came, this is one of the signs he performed to prove that he is God himself, because only God can give sight to the blind.
Fifth, “the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.” There are so many examples in the Bible of people who were insignificant whom God used to accomplish his purposes: Joseph, Gideon, Ruth, David, Esther, Mary, the apostles who were mostly fishermen. Martin Luther was a mere monk. They were humble men and women, but God exalted them and their work.
Sixth, “the LORD loves the righteous.” Who are the righteous? Those who are righteous in themselves, trusting in their own good works for getting to heaven, or Nirvana or Shangri-La? No, the righteous are God’s people, the church made up of those who have been declared by God to be righteous because they believe and trust and hope in Christ alone, not in mere men.
Seventh, “The LORD watches over the sojourners.” The Scriptures command believers to be hospitable, especially to his people. God commanded the Israelites to leave the edges and corners of the field to be gleaned by sojourners and aliens, because they too were strangers in Egypt. We are also pilgrims and aliens in this world traveling to our heavenly homeland. God keeps us safe and secure in our faith while we are traveling and sojourning in this world.
Eighth and finally, God “upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” The Bible uses widows and orphans often as examples of needy people whom he helps. But those who are wicked, rebellious and unrepentant will suffer ruin and eternal wrath.
Dear Friends: After the angel announced to Mary that Jesus will be born to her as the Savior of his people from their sins, she praised and blessed God. Four hundred years of waiting for the Messiah has ended! The King and Savior is coming as a humble baby in a manger!
So she sang a song, praising God for choosing her to bear the Son of God; for doing great things for her; for his mercy to his people; for humbling the proud, the mighty and the rich, and exalting the humble; for giving food to the hungry; and for fulfilling his promises to Abraham.
When Jesus first preached in his hometown of Nazareth, he read Isaiah 61:1-2, which is a prophecy about the coming Messiah. In Luke 4:18–19, he says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he proclaimed in verse 21, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He again said the same thing in Matthew 11:5, that he came so “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”
Jesus did not only fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy, but he also fulfilled the words of Psalm 146, our text. What he does for his people is not only to fill their physical needs, but to satisfy their spiritual needs. You who are imprisoned, enslaved and oppressed by Satan’s temptations have been granted justice, for Jesus has defeated Satan, sin and death. You who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, Jesus has given his body and blood for your righteousness because he loves the righteous. You who are pilgrims and strangers in this world, he has prepared a place for you in your heavenly homeland. This is our comfort and joy every Christmas and for eternity.
But to you who do not put your hope and trust in Christ alone for your salvation and righteousness, you will be ruined for eternity. So, hope and trust in Jesus, for he was born to save you from sin and death and the wrath of God.