************ Sermon on Psalm 146 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 16, 2001
"Trusting in God"
For the rest of my life I will remember what I was doing at 6 a.m. on September 11. I had just started my morning exercises when the TV news I was watching was interrupted with a special newscast from New York. The cameras showed smoke coming out of the top floors of the World Trade Center building one while an announcer told us that a plane has just crashed into the building. While the situation was being described another plane came into view and crashed into building two. The broadcaster was so busy talking about building one that it took him a couple of seconds to realize what had just happened.
Then came news reports that the planes had been hijacked, that the Pentagon was hit, that other hijacked planes were up in the skies, that all air-traffic was being grounded, that the Secret Service was protecting the President by keeping his location unknown.
The damage is horrific. The two towers of the World Trade Center have collapsed. The Salomon Brothers building has collapsed. The Marriott Hotel is burning. The Northeast Plaza Building has major damage. A section of the Pentagon has gone up in flames.
This is just the physical damage. Even worse is the loss of human life – estimated at almost 5000. Many companies have lost key employees and years of experience and wisdom.
America no longer feels safe and secure. We know we no longer can be so trusting. We know there will be long lines and security checks at airports. We know there will be armed guards on airplanes. We know we can no longer greet or say good-bye to our loved ones at the arrival/departure gate. We know that there will be long waits at all border crossings.
Newscasters have also warned us about the psychological and emotional damage – especially for children. Many children and adults are scared to fly. Many children and adults are afraid to enter tall buildings. Sudden loud noises or alarms create panic.
How do we respond to all this? What do we tell our children and youth? Where do we find comfort and strength in a world that has suddenly been thrown upside down?
Topic: TrustThe officer was not disturbed because he had put his trust in the Lord.
Subtopic: In God
Years ago a military officer and his wife were aboard a ship that was caught in a raging ocean storm. Seeing the frantic look in her eyes, the man tried unsuccessfully to remove her fears. Suddenly she grasped his sleeve and cried, "How can you be so calm?" He stepped back a few feet and drew his sword. Pointing it at her heart, he said, "Are you afraid of this?" Without hesitation she answered, "Of course not!" "Why not?" he inquired. "Because it's in your hand, and you love me too much to hurt me." To this he replied, "I know the One who holds the winds and the waters in the hollow of His hand, and He will surely care for us!"
These are words we need to hear after the distressing week we have had here in America.
Have we learned to put our trust in the Lord? When trouble strikes or tragedy or illness or financial insecurity, who do we look to for help? To whom do we turn?
As is usually the case, we have a choice. We can look to kings or princes – our fellow man – for help, or we can look to the Lord.
My brothers and sisters, where do you look for help?
I Do Not on Man Depend
A The psalmist says to us, "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men."
Let's make sure we all understand the psalmist's language here. By "trust" the psalmist means: "To feel secure, to be unconcerned, to rely on something or someone." The psalmist is talking here about security. When it comes to security, where do we put our trust? What or who is the ultimate source of our security? What or who do we, in the final analysis, depend on?
To update the language of the psalmist so that it fits today's world we would say, "Do not put your trust in the strong, mighty and influential of this world: presidents, prime ministers, bankers, billionaires." "Do not put your trust in factory owners, employers, or the union." "Do not even put your trust in parents, friends or yourself." "Do not put your trust in your own strength, your own appearance, your own intelligence, or your own righteousness" (TDOT, Vol 2, p.90-91). "Do not put your trust in the works and inventions of man: science, technology, computers, machines, and medicine."
When you fly, you trust your plane and pilot to safely get you to your destination; we trust our skies to be safe and friendly. How many people on the four planes that were hijacked, do you think, even considered the possibility that their plane would not reach their destination? Do not put your trust in planes and pilots and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).
When you enter a sky-scraper you expect to go up to the top and then down in safety. How many people entered the World Trade Center on Tuesday and even considered the possibility that they would not and could not come down? Do not put your trust in sky-scrapers and sprinkler systems and emergency procedures.
When firefighters and police officers and other rescue personnel entered the World Trade Center I am sure none of them thought that those massive twin towers could be so weakened by the heat of the fires that they would shortly come crashing down. Do not put your trust in engineers and construction companies and safety standards.
As I was preparing for this message I came across an article in Friday's newspaper that did not surprise me. The headline says, "People try to buy sense of security after attacks." The article tells us that sales of guns and ammunition have skyrocketed since Tuesday's terrorist attacks, as have sales of plastic knives similar to those believed to be used by the hijackers. "People are worried about being on a hijacked plane and want some defense."
Another article was also predictable. The headline says, "Attacks spur call for more spies." The article tells us to forget the satellites, phone bugs, and computers. We need more James Bonds.
Sooner or later, however, Americans will learn that we can't trust in guns, knives, and spies. They don't give us security either.
B Why can't we put our trust in any of these? Why can't we look to any of these for help? What can't we trust in our fellow man?
Two reasons are given by the psalmist. First, our fellow man, like all of mankind, is "mortal." This tells us something about man's physical condition and this tells us something about man's spiritual condition.
Physically, to say man is mortal is to say man is not eternal. Nor are his works eternal. Nothing he does or makes is a permanent fixture of this earth. We are all mortals: ordinary, frail mortals who are made of dust and who will someday return to dust (unless Christ first returns). Taken the right way, there is some truth to the expression "we are born to die."
Can we trust, can we put our hope in such a creature as this: someone who will someday die and return to the dust she was made of? Of course we can't. We can't find ultimate security in someone who is mortal. Suppose the person you trust in were to die or become seriously ill. What will you do then? That person might have the best intentions, he may be in perfect health, yet if he were to die or become seriously ill "his plans come to nothing" says the psalmist. Just like that, your source of security, your object of trust, has been taken from you.
Spiritually, to say man is mortal is to say man is a sinner. Sinful man makes mistakes. Sinful man commits sin. Sinful man takes over a plane of people and deliberately crashes it into a sky-scraper. Sinful man commits the most horrendous of acts – and does it in the name of god and religion.
The point of all this: We can't trust in men or the things of men because man is mortal and the works of his hands are temporary and full of sin.
There is also a second reason we can't rely on man. The psalmist says, "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal man, who cannot save." Man, mere man, cannot save. Man cannot save from the anguish and torments of hell. Man cannot save from the ravages and slavery of sin. Man cannot save from the cycle of hate and revenge. Man cannot save from the great enemy Satan.
In the two books of Kings we can read the sad story of the spiritual decline of God's people. In its desperate attempt to find security in the face of the Assyrians and Babylonians, Israel made treaties with neighboring nations and even with Egypt. But those other nations did not save Israel from captivity.
Can man, mere man, become the object of trust and ultimate security when he is not able to save and protect? Absolutely not! He is not worthy of that trust.
II Depend on God in Christ
A What or who can we rely on? To what or to whom can we ultimately look for security?
"Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God ..." says the psalmist in verse 5.
Do you realize what the psalmist is saying? He is saying that man is blessed who trusts and relies on the Lord. He is saying that man is blessed who has the Lord as His ultimate security in life.
When it comes to trust, when it comes to security, when it comes to relying on someone or something, the only direction to turn is to God. That's what the psalmist is saying. God can be trusted. In God we are secure. In God we have no real reason for concern.
B Why? Why is God the only true source of security? Why is He the only worthy object of our trust?
The psalmist tells us why. First, because the Lord is "the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them ..." Men often are not able to give security because it is beyond their power to give. Not so with God. He is the Almighty. He is the Creator Who fashioned everything out of nothing. He molded man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life so that man became a living being. This God does not lack the power that man lacks. It is entirely within His power to give security. He is more than worthy as an object of trust.
Second, we also ought to trust in God because He is the "Lord, who remains faithful forever." Men so easily change their mind and fail to keep their word. It is man and NOT God who says, "Promises are meant to be broken." God, you see, keeps faith forever. He is the "God of Jacob" and of Isaac and of Abraham. He is the faithful, covenanting God Who unchangeably clings to what He has promised. This God we can trust. This God we can rely on with the utmost confidence. This God is an unfailing source of security.
Third, God can be trusted because He executes justice. Listen to what the psalmist says about the Lord:
(Ps 146:7-9) He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, (8) the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. (9) The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.This is the psalmist's way of saying that the Lord establishes Jubilee. Jubilee is that time when the Lord sets all wrong right, when He grants perfect freedom and liberty to all His children, when He gives rest or security to His people. The Lord grants Jubilee. No wonder the psalmist says, "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob."
Fourth, we can put our trust in God because, "The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations." The Lord is not hampered or restricted by the boundaries of time the way man is. God cannot be voted out of power. There are no term limits for God. He is always able to help. He is forever. He is eternal. His reign never ends.
C In the light of the New Testament we know we are to trust in the God Who reveals Himself in Christ Jesus.
We are to trust in God because He is the almighty Creator. Yet, the message of the New Testament is that God created all things through Christ (John 1).
We are to trust in God because He keeps faith forever. Yet, the message of the New Testament is that God is faithful to us in Christ. In Christ He fulfilled His promises and kept His Word.
We are to trust in God because He executes justice. Here too the psalmist foreshadows Christ. Verses 7-9 of Psalm 146 remind me of Isaiah 61:1-2 – a passage used by Jesus in Luke 4:18-19 to announce His mission. Jesus said,
(Lk 4:18-19) "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."In other words, it is in Jesus that God grants Jubilee.
We are to trust in God because He reigns forever. Yet, we know that from now to eternity God rules all things in and through Christ.
How worthy Christ is to receive our trust. He is not like all other men. Yes, He died but He did not return to the dust. He arose to live forever, never to die again. Yes, He became sin for our sake but He Himself did not sin. And, unlike mere mortal man, He is able to save – that is why He went to the cross. There He died for our sins. There He redeemed us. There He rescued us from our foe the Devil.
D My brothers and sisters, let us trust in the Lord. Let us turn to the Lord as our ultimate source of security. Let us trust in the Lord God Who in Christ is more than worthy of our trust. Let us remember that we are safe and secure only in God and His Christ.
Right now our nation is in shock and mourning. Our faith and trust in our fellow man has been shaken. But to all of us comes the glad news: no matter what happens we can trust in the God Who is Almighty, Who is faithful, Who brings Jubilee, Who reigns forever. This God we can trust. This God we can find security in. This God we can have confidence in.
Did you notice how the psalmist starts and ends this psalm? He says, "Praise the Lord." In the Hebrew the word is "Hallelujah."
You know why he says his hallelujahs and praises, don't you? Because God's people can trust in God. So the psalmist says,
(Ps 146:1-2) Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul. (2) I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.Notice, the psalmist doesn't say, "I will praise the Lord as long as I enjoy health and long life." He doesn't say, "I will praise the Lord if I and my family arrive safely at our destination." He doesn't say, "I will praise the Lord just so long as our land is safe and our borders secure." Whatever the circumstances, whatever the situation, the psalmist plans to praise the Lord in Whom he is ultimately secure. Anything can happen and even may happen but the psalmist knows Who will see him through, he knows where his help lies, he knows in Whom he can trust. So he says, "Praise the Lord."
Even in the midst of our tragedy, says the psalmist, we are to praise the Lord. We are to praise the Lord Who in Christ is Almighty, Who in Christ is faithful, Who in Christ brings Jubilee, Who in Christ reigns forever. Praise the Lord Whom you can trust no matter what happens.
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