1 Praise the LORD, my soul! O praise him! 2 I’ll extol him all my days. While I live, to God my Saviour from my heart I will sing praise.
3 Do not put your trust in princes, mortal men who cannot save. 4 All their plans will come to nothing when they perish in the grave.
5 Blessèd is the one who truly looks for help to Jacob’s God; Blessèd is the one who places all his hope upon the LORD—
6 He who made the earth and heaven and the seas, with all their store; He who keeps his every promise, who is faithful evermore.
7 He delivers from oppression and relieves the hungry’s plight. He releases those in prison; 8 to the blind the LORD gives sight.
Those who are bowed down he raises. God delights in righteousness. 9 He protects and cares for strangers, widows and the fatherless.
He frustrates the wicked’s purpose. 10 So the LORD through endless days Reigns to every generation. Praise your God, O Zion, praise!
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Stuttgart (from v5) here.
Sometimes an abundance of praising gets a bit wearing in the Psalms. Coming from a cold start, all that exuberance can get you down. But what we have here in the first of five final songs in the Psalter is an encouragement to acknowledge what God has done and realistically that can only lead to praise. By contrast, princes’ and mortals’ actions and plans are fundamentally flawed whether they be good or bad leaders, for their time will pass. In a nifty bit of wordplay I read somewhere, echoing the Hebrew, humans will return to the humus. God’s time endures forever – a thought worth clinging onto as we pass through our own turbulent 2020 events.
Jacob raises his head again in verse 5 reminding us that this giant of the faith was as damaged as we are and yet God worked in and through him to reveal God’s love and faithfulness to all generations. The God of Jacob and Israel keeps promises and frustrates the wicked’s purpose.
We praise God because God is the source of all that is good, enduring and hopeful and heaven knows we need those eternal values in our lives. But words alone – even the most beautifully crafted poetry, music and art are empty praise unless they go on to reflect the character and action of God in practical ways. Thoughts and prayers alone do not cut it.. God does not sit on a throne receiving adulation and praise but God gets down and dirty with humanity and sets about feeding the hungry, releasing the prisoner and raising the fallen. We still have much to learn about protecting and caring for strangers and widows and the fatherless as agents of God’s love and faithfulness but this is the deepest praise we can offer.
We put our trust in God who delights, protect, cares, releases, raises, and delivers us. In God we trust. Praise the Lord!
Praise to the holiest in the height And in the depth be praise In all his words most wonderful Most sure in all his ways.
John Henry Newman (1801-90)
The Rev’d Carole Elphick, Retired Minister, Muswell Hill URC