We are all needy people. We weren’t created as independent beings, as much as we would like to think that’s the case and, one way or another, we’ll come to understand that.
What are wrong places to seek ultimate help?
Where should we be looking?
Psalm 146 and helpful help
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord while I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being (vv. 1–2).
The psalmist has felt God’s helping hand in the past and vows to praise God until the day he dies. But, as we see in the rest of the psalm, he knows he’s needy and can’t do life alone but, at the same time, admits he’s looked in the wrong places before.
Where not to look
Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish (vv. 3–4).
Where should we not seek our ultimate help? People!
Here the psalmist is identifying one of the main ways people like and you I often try and get our deepest needs met without God: We look to the people around us. Instead of looking vertically for satisfaction, we look horizontally … a direction that will inevitably disappoint.
My coffee cup will always disappoint me in its ability to drive nails into lumber. My favourite book will consistently disappoint in its ability flip my morning pancakes. Why? Because these things weren’t made for those purposes.
In the same way, my wife will inevitably disappoint in her ability to satisfy my deepest desire for perfect love. My kids will inevitably disappoint in their ability to bring me a true, lasting sense of purpose and significance. My job will inevitably disappoint in its ability to meet my desire to feel like I’m growing as a person. Why? Because none of those things were created or given to me for those purposes. It’s actually unfair for me to place unrealistic expectations on them.
So, if not people, where should we be looking for help?
Where to look
How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God (v. 5) …
God is the only source of satisfying, ever-lasting help. Unlike seeking fulfillment in people, those who look to the God of Jacob for help are blessed.
The rest of the psalm is made up of ten quick statements about God celebrating reasons why his people can look to him for ultimate aid.
He’s powerful. “[God] made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them (v. 6a).” Look to God for help because if he’s powerful enough to create everything he’s powerful enough to satisfy your needs.
He’s faithful. “Who keeps faith forever (v. 6b).” God never waivers. What he promises will come to pass (see 2 Tim. 2:13). What great news! That my God’s faithfulness to me isn’t dependant on my faithfulness to him.
He’s just. “Who executes justice for the oppressed (v. 7a).” God is far more concerned about true justice than the most nobel man on this earth. In fact, he’s the standard.
He’s compassionate. “Who gives food to the hungry (v. 7b).” Not only does God see the hungry, he feeds them. He cares to meet our needs.
He’s a redeemer. “The Lord sets the prisoners free (v. 7c).” God freed the Hebrews from Egypt, Daniel from the lion’s den, Peter from prison, and, most notably, sinners from the shackles of the death. Go to him for help!
He’s an illuminator. “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind (v. 8a).” God opens the eyes of the spiritual blind so that we can understand. We need this because, without his help, sin hinders our senses.
He’s restorative. “The Lord raises up those who are bowed down (v. 8b).” Those who have been oppressed and humbled, those who have been beaten down by the grind of life … God raises back up.
He’s good. “The Lord loves the righteous (v. 8c).” Because God is good he loves goodness and he works to bring about goodness and to preserve goodness in his people.
He’s protective. “The Lord protects the strangers; he supports the fatherless and the widow, but he thwarts the way of the wicked (v. 9).” The three types of people mentioned here represent the most vulnerable people in society. While the the world takes advantage of them and ignores them, God watches over them.
He’s eternal. “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord (v. 10)!” God’s not going anywhere. God, as our Helper, is eternal.
I’m needy. You’re needy. We’re needy. There’s no getting around that. But we do get a choice in where we look to have those needs met and there’s only one Source of help that won’t disappoint.