By Henry Mahan
I am troubled that these great and meaningful words, 'Praise the Lord,' 'Hallelujah,' and 'Blessed Jesus,' have become mere flippant and meaningless, religious by-words. Men ought to exercise great care in the use of the name of our great God, lest we be guilty of taking his name in vain (Eccles. 5:1-2; Exo. 20:7).
v. 1. 'Praise the Lord, O my soul.' True praise is not lip service, but it is from the heart and soul (Matt. 15:7-8). Let us be certain that our lips speak the true feelings of our hearts, or let us not speak at all before the Lord. The Lord, can be (and is) praised in heart without a word being uttered. Hannah demonstrated this (1 Sam. 1:9-15; Rom. 8:26).
v. 2. 'While I live, I will praise the Lord.' I have good reason to praise the Lord while I live; for if I live, I live by his will and pleasure. He gives life and he sustains life (Acts 17:28; Job 14:5). I have greater reason to praise the Lord if I live spiritually.
It is by his will in Christ Jesus that I am born again (John 1:12- 13: Eph. 2:1). I will be able in glory to praise him as he ought to be praised, for I shall awake with his likeness (Rev. 5:9-12). 'I will sing praises to my God while I have my being,' which is forever!
v. 3. 'Put not your trust in men,' no matter how high they are in politics, economics, or religion. In man there is no help, hope, nor salvation. David discourages the people from putting any trust or confidence in him, in their nobles, in any man, or in themselves. There is no good in this flesh, and it has been proven under every circumstance. For a man to put spiritual confidence in another man is like a beggar looking to another beggar for food, or a blind man reaching for the hand of another blind man (Phil. 3:3).
v. 4. Why not put trust and confidence in men? David gives several reasons.
'His breath goeth forth' and he dies. Man is so frail and impotent that he dies for want of a little air. No matter how much he knows, has, nor how high he stands, he will die when he stops breathing.
'He returns to his earth.' The dust is his, he was made from it and he will return to it. What can one so frail give to me? 'In that day (of death) his thoughts perish.' All of his thoughts, plans, programs, and expectations perish with him. He withers like the grass and wilts like the flower, and nothing he thought remains--only the word of God abideth forever! Our thoughts are ours, not God's (Isa. 55:8).
v. 5. 'Happy (blessed) is the man that hath the God of Jacob for his help and hope.' Who is this God of Jacob?
1. He is the God of covenant mercies. 'Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated' (Rom. 9:11-13). His mercies are sure because he chose us and predestinated us to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29-31; Eph. 1:3-7).
2. He is the God of revelation. As he revealed himself to Jacob at Bethel, blessed him, and changed his name, so he reveals himself to us and gives us his name.
3. He is the Lord Jehovah, our God. He is a 'Just God and a Saviour' (Isa. 45:20-25). In Christ he can be both just and justifier (Rom. 3:25-26).
4. He is our help (a very present help in time of trouble) and our hope (Psalm 130:7).
v. 6. We cannot trust men, but we can wisely trust our God; for he who made the heavens can make a heaven for us and make us in Christ fit for heaven. He who made the earth can preserve us while we are on the earth and supply all our needs. He who made the seas and all the mysteries therein can keep us in trouble and make a way for us to pass over. Concerning all of our circumstances we can say, 'Jehovah Shammah,' the Lord is present. 'He keepeth truth forever.' He is true to his promises, true to his covenant, to his word, and to his Son. 'I am the Lord; I change not.' 'His gifts and calling are without change.'
v. 7. We may trust our way to the Lord because 'he executeth judgment for the oppressed.' He is the just judge. What a joy to commit our care, our defense, and our future to such a ruler! Not only does he mete out justice, but 'He gives food to the hungry.' All food comes from God, both physical and spiritual food. To complete the triple blessing, David says, 'He sets the prisoner free.' Justice, bread, and liberty. If the Son shall make you free, you are free indeed! Free from sin's penalty, power, and someday from its very presence.
vv. 8-9. Note that five times the name Jehovah is repeated in vv. 7-9. It is as God, our Saviour, as God in Christ Jesus that 'He looseth the prisoners' of sin, death, and judgment; that 'He opens the eyes of the blind' to see his glory, in the face of Christ; that 'He raiseth them that are bowed down' in distress, despair, sickness, and old age; that 'He loveth the righteous' (none are righteous in themselves, but they are clothed in the righteousness of the Redeemer); and 'preserveth the strangers.' His people do not belong to this world but, like Abraham, are strangers and pilgrims. If we are enabled by his grace to see that all of God's favor, mercies, and grace toward us are in Christ Jesus, our Substitute and Saviour, we can lay hold of every promise in these verses and rest there; we can find happiness and joy. In Christ all things are yours (1 Cor. 3:21-23) and all things work together for your good; but 'the way of the wicked and the unbeliever he will turn upside down.'
v. 10. Trust in men and perish, trust in Jehovah and live; for Jehovah shall reign forever. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and 'unto all generations.' Praise ye the Lord!