THE SONG OF THE GOD WHO SETS MEN FREE
1. Each of the last five Psalms begins and ends with, “Praise the LORD!”
a. It’s as if to say that the journey of life – even after we’ve been through every victory and every defeat, even when we have experienced all the high and low emotions, after we’ve born every responsibility and endured every hardship – is meant to be made within the context of grateful praise.
b. This one, however, doesn’t just call for others to praise him; it summons the writer’s own soul to join in. It says, “I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (v. 2).
2. The reason this song gives for the personal and persistent practice of praise is the freedom which comes from trusting God.
1. A contrast between two possible objects of trust is used to illustrate the lesson of the song.
a. On one hand, there are “princes” (v. 3, 4).
i. They are the “great ones” among men, those who are in places of authority, the political leaders who are in positions to make policies and implement programs.
ii. The fact that they are mentioned in this song reminds us that as long as there have been people, people have tended to turn to such powers for their security.
iii. Notice that our song doesn’t say anything about whether these princes are righteous or wicked men, or whether their intentions are for good or not; it just says no such ruler can ever be a suitable ground of confidence.
iv. “There is no salvation” in him because he is “a son of man” (v. 3). In other words, because he is a human being he will always have a certain lack of ability.
v. His help will be unreliable because he himself is not permanent.
(1) “When his breath departs he returns to the earth” (4a).
(2) “On that very day his plans perish” (4b).
b. On the other hand, there is “the God of Jacob” (v. 5-7a).
i. He is not merely “a god” of some kind, but the living God who at a real point in history made himself known to, and entered into a covenant with, Jacob.
ii. He has absolute power as the One “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (6a)
(1) Acts 4:24
(2) Acts 14:15
iii. This God is permanently reliable, since he “keeps faith forever” (6b).
iv. He is not a respecter of persons who plays up to the popular and the powerful, but instead “executes justice for the oppressed” (7a).
v. He is compassionate and generous by nature, for it is he “who gives food to the hungry” (7b).
2. A command is offered to instruct us in the proper application of the point the song makes.
a. Do not put your trust in one who cannot be counted upon to give you the help you need most.
i. The prophets sometimes used the picture of leaning on broken reed for a walking stick; you don’t want to do that.
ii. Neither your own talent and intelligence nor that of any other man or woman can be the solution to the ultimate human needs.
iii. Psalm 118:8, 9
b. If you would be blessed, let your help and hope be in the LORD.
i. This, by the way, is what it means to “trust in” someone.
ii. In the Psalms, this “blessed” is the final use of the term with which the book began (cf. Ps. 1:1), the word which explains how life works.
iii. Jeremiah 17:5-8
3. A claim is made to encourage us to act upon the principle the song describes.
a. It is that “the LORD sets the prisoners free” (v. 7).
i. In other words, real trust in him brings a unique kind of freedom.
ii. This is a thought the Bible expresses in beautiful ways (cf. Ps. 68:5; Isa. 61:1; Lk. 4:18).
iii. There are also several impressive of the LORD setting prisoners free: Joseph from prison, Israel from bondage, Jeremiah from the cistern, Daniel from the lion’s den, Lazarus from the tomb, Peter from Herod’s prison, and Paul and Silas from the jail at Philippi.
b. The freedom he provides takes other forms, too (v.8-9). If you will think of the other benefits the song says the LORD provides in the light of this one, you can see what I mean.
i. “The LORD opens the eyes of the blind,” thus setting people free from darkness and lostness. (Cf. Isa. 42:7)
ii. He liberates individuals who are dismayed by discouragement or weighed down with weariness, for “the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.” (Ps. 145:14)
iii. He offers freedom from the loneliness of being overlooked and the rejection of being ignored, because “the LORD loves the righteous.”
iv. “The LORD watches over the sojourners,” turning them loose from exclusion and mistreatment and fear.
v. “He upholds the widow and fatherless,” setting them at liberty from helplessness and abuse. (Cf. Ps. 68:5)
vi. “But the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” in his own good time, freeing thoughtful people from the self-deception of sowing one thing and expecting to reap another.
vii. Each of these aspects of freedom is some kind of an application of the character of the LORD as he is described in the previous verses – in other words, freedom is living in keeping with the reality of who God is.
1. The song which started with “as long as I live” concludes with “as long as He lives”:
“The LORD will reign forever,
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!” (v. 10)
2. One of our songs has a story behind it that fits....(the story of “We Gather Together”):
“Thy Name be ever praised!
O Lord, make us free!”