Psalm 146 - A Leader We Can Trust - November 13, 2016

Praise the Lord. Were those the words on your lips and in your heart early Wednesday morning and the days since? If not, why not? Was it because your candidate won or lost or because a referendum passed or failed? What took the place of those words? “Finally, we’re going to get our country back” or “those Trump voters are going to regret their decision” or “what is this world coming to”? This pulpit is not the place for political commentary and that’s not what we will be doing this morning. This pulpit is the place for people of all political views to receive peace, consolation and confidence in view of and (sometimes) in spite of the day to day and year to year happenings in our world. That’s what we are going to do this morning. We’re going to step back, take a deep breath of God’s Word and receive the comfort God wants us to have more than anything. This morning our thoughts will center on Psalm 146, where the psalmist encourages us to praise the Lord as A Leader We Can Trust, for his faithful character and for his gracious agenda.


The writers of the first translation of the OT (the Septuagint – a Greek translation) concluded that this psalm was written during the time of Zechariah and Haggai. If correct, it provides an interesting background for this psalm. Around 538 BC Cyrus, the king of Persia, decreed that the exiled Jews could leave Babylon and return to Israel to rebuild their homes and temple. Led by Zerubbabel, the rebuilding of the temple was begun and the foundation finished with great excitement. But the nations surrounding Israel grew suspicious and fearful of a restored Jewish state and by actively opposing the rebuilding were able to delay its completion for about 15 years. It was only when Persia crowned a new king, Darius, who actively supported Israel’s rebuilding process, that they were able to finish the temple. The temptation for many Israelites was to place their trust in this new king – who actually got things done – instead of the Lord, who, by outward appearances had failed.


As God’s spokesman, where does the psalmist begin in addressing this trust issue? Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. He begins with me. He begins with you. My heart, my attitude. Your heart, your attitude. Whether your temptation is to gloat over victory or despair over defeat, it all begins with you and your heart. It doesn’t really matter what the media commentators, the antagonists on Facebook, or even your own family has to say about it. You and you alone control your attitude. And he gives a very good reason to be positive and hopeful. The psalmist uses God’s personal name: LORD (Hebrew: Jahweh). This name reminds us that God is gracious. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He gave you life. He puts food on your table. He gives you a job. He made you a citizen of a nation where we are free to worship him without fear. Most importantly, he gave his Son to suffer hell in your place, die for your sins, and rise again for your justification. Election results do not change the fact that God is good to us – far better than we deserve. The decision to reject the mood swings, the gloating and despair we’ve seen in our nation this week begins by praise the Lord all [our] lives and sing praise to [our] God as long as [we] live.


It’s not that simple though, is it? This is where we live and work and raise our children and pay our taxes. God commands us to obey the laws of the land and to respect both the current president and president-elect. True. But there’s good reason that even the ever-changing political landscape shouldn’t change your attitude: Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Do you trust President-elect Trump? Were you hoping to trust Hillary Clinton or any of the other candidates? If so, you’re sinning, breaking the very first commandment, and need to repent. The people we elect to office, president or otherwise, don’t deserve our complete trust. Why not? Because they’re human. Not only do they put their pants and pantsuits on one leg at a time – just like us, but they are sinners and because they are sinners, one day they will die. One day their home won’t be an Oval Office but an oblong hole in the ground. God says that even if they had great plans to improve our nation on that very day their plans come to nothing. Presidents, governors and congressmen cannot save us. So, as Isaiah says stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he? (Isaiah 2:22)


What alternative do we have? Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them – the Lord, who remains faithful forever. Human rulers may appear to have great power, but that power is greatly limited. Their plans are frustrated, their policies often fail. Others come along who limit, repeal, and ignore their laws. But the LORD is eternal and almighty. His will cannot be filibustered and his laws will never be repealed. His legacy doesn’t consist of a historian’s assessment but the universe around you and his fingerprint on your body, heart and soul. When you sleep, your heart continues to beat and your lungs continue to breath. Why? God. Those cursed leaves you have to rake grow and change color and fall to the ground without you lifting a hand. Why? God. Ducks and geese fly south in nearly perfect “V” formations without anyone telling them to do so. Why? God. Fall, winter, spring, and summer have come and gone for thousands of years without the least concern over man’s bickering over climate change. Why? God.


But even the orderliness of nature is intended for one purpose: to point us to the promises God has made in his Word. Unlike human leaders, God has never broken one of his promises. Since the Flood, the planet has never again been buried under water – because God promised Noah that it would never again happen. God told Abraham that he would be the Father of many nations, and not even old age and infertility could stop him. God told Joseph in a dream that his mean older brothers would bow down to him and 20 years later, in spite of slavery and false accusations and imprisonment, that came to pass. God told Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that they would never regret fearing him more than earthly rulers – and they passed through flaming furnaces and dungeons of lions unharmed.


Most importantly, he kept the first promise he ever made, to Adam and Eve. He sent his perfect, beloved Son to earth to take our place under his unforgiving law to live the perfect life we never could and die the death our sins deserved. He made a promise to save the world – and he, unlike his elected creatures – kept it. And because he kept that promise, we can trust every other promise he has made as well. He promises to work saving faith through a handful of water and a mouthful of His Word and to work through bread and wine to keep you in that faith – and you are living proof that he’s kept that promise. He has said though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed (Isaiah 54:10) and no matter how hard you and I have tried to make him regret that promise, God has stood by it. Jesus said heaven and earth may pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35) and even though they killed him and his apostles, even though emperors and empires and ideologies and all the powers of hell have tried to cast this book out of existence: here it is, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. (Romans 1:17) God has kept order in this world through, and sometimes in spite of, the rulers charged with doing it. He’s disciplined and guided you – as only a perfect Father could. He’s comforted you in troubling times. And he’s going to keep the promises he’s made about the future, too. The world will continue until Jesus returns. None of those God elected to be saved will be lost. Heaven is ready and waiting for you and all believers. Those who rebelled against God and persecuted his people will burn forever in hell. God’s judgment is final. God is faithful. That’s his character. It’s not up for debate and it’s not on any ballot. Believe it and trust it – and praise him for it.


In an election where two of the most unpopular candidates in history were at the top of the ballot, some have concluded “it’s not about the character of the person we elect, but what they will do when elected” – in other words, their agenda. According to the Pew Research Center, the top issues for voters in this election were: 1) the economy, 2) terrorism, 3) foreign policy, 4) health care, and 5) guns. [1] Those are the issues that we, or at least most of our neighbors, care about. To overly simplify it: Americans are concerned about having enough food, money, clothes and shelter to survive. They want to be safe from domestic and foreign enemies. And they want to know that when they get sick or contract a disease or get in an accident, that there will be doctors and nurses available and affordable to help.


Do you know what all those issues have in common? Sin. If it weren’t for the scourge of sin that entered the world and our hearts through the rebellion of Adam and Eve, we would never have to worry about finances, safety or health. As it is, every issue that plagues our bodies, homes, families and nation can be traced back to the common source of sin and Satan. The result, that God wants everyone to realize, is that our fight as a human race isn’t against those of a different political party, a different economic status or different skin color. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)


Satan wants our souls, and just like today’s political candidates, he will do whatever it takes to win. He will use oppression, racism, starvation, imprisonment, disability and tragedy, depression, corruption and political polarization to accomplish his goals. His single goal is to keep unbelievers from ever trusting God and to lead believers away from trust in God. And when we place our trust in princes or presidents – mortal men – then Satan has succeeded. We need to repent and then remember that we don’t need to trust in princes or presidents because the same God who worked salvation for our souls has laid out his agenda to get us there. God is faithful and this is his agenda: he upholds the cause of the oppressed – the Lord is where those who feel their rights are being trampled should look for help. [He] gives food to the hungry – a promise he can keep because the earth and everything in it belong to him. The Lord sets prisoners free – the Lord has the power to set people free from physical, financial, emotional and spiritual bondage. The Lord gives sight to the blind – that’s healthcare reform no doctor or politician can provide. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down – the Lord is the best mental health counselor for the brokenhearted – including the veterans who have sacrificed for our freedom. The Lord loves the righteous – and he doesn’t just say it, he sent his Son to die for us to prove it. The Lord watches over the alien – God treats every immigrant fairly and with dignity. [He] sustains the fatherless and the widow – the Lord’s social security program is fair and sustainable. But he frustrates the ways of the wicked – no terrorist or criminal will escape God’s justice. That’s the agenda God promises to carry out – and while he normally carries it out through earthly leaders, he is fully capable of carrying it out in spite of them. The faithfulness of God and his gracious agenda is the only thing that can make sinners like us better together and it’s the only thing that opens the door to heaven where we and all believers will be great (holy and perfect), not again, but for the very first time.


Sinners tend to trust other sinners way too much. We’re told that the president elect will either bring a new golden age or absolute misery. He’s human, so either is a real possibility. There’s nothing to be gained by worrying about it. But you have everything to gain when you trust this: nothing will happen that the Lord doesn’t control and bless – both good and evil. You have the unbreakable promise of a leader who has been faithful to every promise he’s made in an eternity in office. He has laid out his agenda that doesn’t favor the big guy or the little guy, Republican or Democrat, but offers grace to the sinful – you and me included. He wants, expects, and deserves your trust and praise. The Triune God is the only leader we can really trust. And unlike a candidate who will reign for 4 or 8 years, the LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. So that whether your candidate won or lost – or you are just glad it’s over, today and every day praise our King, praise Christ as King, praise the Lord. Amen.