A note to readers: Today’s post is part of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Psalms, beginning to end, by focusing on a Psalm each Sunday. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.
Psalm 146 (NIV)
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
2 I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
10 The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.
This is a great Psalm for Christmas Eve, because it is considered the Magnificat of the Old Testament. Psalm 146 brings Isaiah 35 and 61 into a wonderful act of worship celebrating the “great reversal,” which shows God’s special heart for the poor and powerless, but also anticipates the day when the messiah will come and overturn the prevailing structures of power and privilege. He will come and “uphold the cause of the oppressed and give food to the hungry” (vs. 7). “The Lord sets prisoners free… (vs. 7) and gives sight to the blind” (vs. 8). “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down . . . and sustains the fatherless and the widow” (vs. 8,9). All of these themes foreshadow the coming of Jesus Christ into the world (see Luke 4:18-21).
When Mary sings her Magnificat, it resonates with this great psalm. In Jesus Christ, the Lord “has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:48). He has “scattered those who are proud” and “brought down rulers from their thrones” (Luke 1:51, 52). “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:53). In the incarnation, God turns the tables on the world and sets into motion the great reversal. The proud will be cast down and the lowly lifted up. The rich will go away empty, while the poor find bounty. Sinners will be forgiven. Burdens will be lifted. All debts will be paid. The great jubilee has arrived. The door of the Father’s house has been opened wide! This is the good news of Christmas! Christ has come—deliverance is at hand! As this psalm both opens and closes: Hallelujah! Praise the LORD!