The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: What is your only comfort in life and in death? The answer is:
That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/heidelberg-catechism
Psalm 146 is a psalm of praise that reminds us that the Lord is our only comfort in life and in death. Because the Lord reigns supreme, He is our sure hope in times of adversity and prosperity.
Praising the One In Whom You Place Your Trust (1-2)
Verses 1-2 calls God’s children to burst forth in praise. The faithful cry out: “Hallelujah! HaIlelujah, O My soul!” Hallelujah is a word that is meant to be shouted. Hallelujah means “Praise the Lord!” The psalmist continues, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” We are called at the beginning of this psalm to exclaim praise to Yahweh (the Lord – see Exodus 3:14) and we should do it for as long as we have breath. Every moment of every day is the perfect opportunity to praise the Lord. The Lord is worthy to be praised because of His good character and nature. He is worthy of praise because He has proven Himself to be faithful and will always be faithful to His good name and to His people.
Put Your Trust in People? No Way! (3-4)
Verse 3 is a reminder that our trust must be in God alone. Other people can help us—and it is nice to have powerful friends—but man’s help is temporary and unreliable. Even the most dependable person you know can disappoint you. The psalmist writes, “Put not your trust in princes.” Princes or those who are in authority can offer help but they cannot save; “there is no salvation…in a son of man.” Man’s help may or may not come when you need or expect it.
The main problem with mankind is that “when his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” Why do we place so much trust in people and possessions? It is because we desperately want to put our trust in something we can see and manipulate. We are like Jacob sending his goods before him in order to appease Esau (Gen 32:20). Do not put your trust in anyone or anything other than God.
Put Your Trust in Yahweh! (5-9)
Man’s help is temporary and unreliable, but God’s help is enduring and complete. The psalmist declares: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Then the psalmist lists 12 reasons to place your trust in the Lord:
- He is our Faithful Creator.
- He made heaven and earth and the sea. If you have a problem while living on Earth, doesn’t it make sense to trust the one who made Earth?
- He keeps faith forever. His character is without reproach! He is always faithful.
- He is our Compassionate Helper.
- He executes justice. True justice that is based on His perfect righteousness.
- He gives food to the hungry. The Lord takes care of His children and will supply all our needs.
- He sets the prisoners free. He frees us from the bondage of sin.
- He opens the eyes of the blind. He opens our eyes to be able to see Him and to know Him.
- He lifts up those who are bowed down. The Lord opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourself before God and He will lift you up.
- He loves the righteous. He delights in His children. He provides for us when we are living and welcomes us in our death. Even our death is precious (Ps 116:15)
- He watches over the sojourners. The Lord never loses any of His children. No matter where we are or what we are doing, God is watching over us.
- He upholds the widow and the fatherless. The Lord cares for the weak and those who are in need. The widows and the orphans are especially cared for by God.
- He is our Almighty King.
- He brings the way of the wicked to ruin. The Lord will not spare the guilty and will not be mocked. Whatever a man sows, that shall he reap (Gal 6:7).
- He reigns forever to all generations. There is no end to the Lord’s reign. His kingdom is expanding daily. Men and women are coming into the kingdom every moment. The whole world shall rejoice in God (Is 49:13)
Praising the One In Whom You Place Your Trust (10)
What is your only comfort in life and in death? Is it that you have a good job? Good health? Nice family that isn’t fighting with one another? Good friends? Plenty of money in the bank account? All these things are nice (and I hope you have them), but none of these can really help you in your times of need. As the old song says, “Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand…He will keep to the end, He’s your dearest friend, Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.” And another song echoes: “What is our hope in life and death? Christ alone, Christ alone. What is our only confidence? That our souls to Him belong.”