This week, America comes to the end of a grueling election campaign. The process has never felt longer, nor the stakes higher. Victory for one side of the political aisle could stoke hatred and anger on the other, and after a year filled with one conflict and disaster after another, pessimism and fear seem like the only logical responses. No matter who wins, we think, America loses—divided and damaged beyond repair. In this time of hopelessness, how can we have confidence in the future?
Psalm 146 is the first in a cycle of five “Hallelujah Psalms,” so named because they each start and end with the phrase “Praise the Lord!” (in Hebrew: hallelu-yah). This psalm’s purpose is to celebrate God’s sovereign rule. In doing so, the unnamed writer includes a warning to the people of God not to place their ultimate hope in human rulers:
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. (v. 3-4)
Now, this is not to say that our choice of leaders is unimportant. As citizens with the authority to select our leaders, we are accountable for vesting power in people who will use it wisely. We ought to thoughtfully consider our options and vote according to our consciences. But let’s keep our leaders in proper perspective. They are human beings; their power is limited to this earth, and in the long stretch of history, their influence is ephemeral. By contrast, to our tremendous benefit, it is God who is sovereign over all:
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. (v. 5-7)
Why should we put our hope in the Lord God? As the psalmist notes, His power is infinite. He created the earth and the people who populate it. Kingdoms and empires exist at His pleasure, and may be used or disposed of as He chooses. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). What a comfort it is to know that nothing can happen that He did not decree, and there is no outcome so disastrous that He cannot turn to His purpose!
Furthermore, the promises that He has made to His people are eternal. They do not wear out over time; they are not dependent on our citizenship; they cannot be taken away by force. When the world around us is in disarray, God remains steady. Therefore, we can rejoice with Paul, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 38-39).
Finally, Psalm 146:7 reminds us that our God is characterized by goodness and mercy. He opposes human rulers who align themselves with strength and wealth in the hopes of securing power. God does not need to do that, because all power already belongs to Him. Instead, He aligns himself with the poor and oppressed, pleading their cause and providing for their needs. At a time when the pandemic is wreaking havoc across our nation—throwing people out of work, decimating savings, altering plans for the future, forcing family members to say goodbye too soon—this message of compassion for the vulnerable is inexpressibly beautiful.
The verse also reminds us that God’s sovereignty is not an excuse for His people to withdraw from their responsibility to the world. We know that God delights in justice, because he has told us: “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3). As His children, we are called to represent His character on earth. This means involving ourselves in our communities. It means using the blessings that we have received—our money, our time, our privileges, even our freedoms—to benefit others. As God has commanded, let us seek the welfare of our country and the flourishing of its people—all of its people.
Brothers and sisters, we can take comfort in knowing that God is not the defender of America, but the Savior of humanity. Our country is a mere blip when placed next to the eternity that God’s people will one day share with Him. Our ultimate allegiance and security are found not in a temporal nation, but in the everlasting kingdom of God.