Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

Psalm 146:3-5

The beginning of a new year is an occasion to look forward.

From a purely human point of view, the future is very uncertain. We are at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The American economy is weak, leaving many people financially strapped. Our society is morally rotten, evidenced by the breakdown of marriage and the family. And these are only some of the troubles we face.

It is very easy to become apprehensive about the future.

Those who have the God of Jacob for their help, and whose hope is in the Lord, have no reason for anxiety. Their future is secure.

Put not your trust in princes or in the son of man. In them there is no help.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

The God of Jacob!

Princes, who are merely the sons of men.

What a contrast.

Princes are the rulers of this world. Israel dealt with many foreign princes in her history. Some wielded tremendous power, such as the rulers of Egypt, Syria, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. Most of them opposed Israel; some were willing for a price to help her against her enemies.

We can speak of princes also today. They are in high places of government, and by virtue of their position they wield great power. Often in history these princes have been antagonistic to the church, even persecuting the church. Others have been benefactors to the church, allowing her room to live in peace.

But then there is the Lord, who is the God of Jacob.

This terminology views God as the God of the covenant. He is the God of Jacob. It was with Jacob that God established His covenant, as He had with Jacob’s father, Isaac, and grandfather, Abraham, before him. The God of Jacob, therefore, is the God of the covenant. Besides this, God is identified here as Lord. Wherever there is “Lord” in the KJV, the name “Jehovah” is found in the original. And Jehovah is God’s covenant name.

In the Old Testament the nation of Israel belonged to this covenant of God. They were the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jehovah was their covenant God.

Also today Jehovah is the covenant God. His covenant is with all those who belong to Jesus Christ by faith. God’s covenant is with Abraham and his seed. This seed is not a natural seed but a spiritual one. All those who possess the same faith that Abraham had and by that faith belong to Jesus Christ are counted as the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:7, 29). Jehovah is their God, just as surely as He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Put not your trust in princes.

Hope rather in Jehovah.

To trust someone is to confide in him. When you have a burden or a concern, you take it to someone and tell him about it, trusting that he will help. The idea of hope builds on that kind of trust. It emphasizes expecting help from someone so that you wait for his help. You hope in those in whom you trust.

Israel was not to put her trust in princes. She often did. In spite of repeated warnings, she turned again and again to Egypt for help when enemies from the north threatened. And there were others in whom she trusted. Here again Israel was reminded by the Psalmist not to do this.

This also applies to us. We face many potential evils in the future. As citizens of a nation we face the threats of war, terrorism, and economic recession. As members of the church we face the threat of apostasy and persecution. We are warned here not to put our trust in the princes of this world to deliver and protect us. Certainly we may make use of the protection of our government. Government is an institution of God, ordained for the welfare of the church. Rightfully the church uses the protection the government provides for all her citizens. But as she does so, she is not to put her trust in princes so that she depends on them to keep and preserve her. Her confidence for the future must not rest on the princes of this world.

The church must rather put her trust in her covenant God to help her. Her hope must be in Jehovah, the God of Jacob. When there are wars and rumors of war, we must trust in Jehovah to keep us. When there is persecution and threat of violence for the church, we must confide in the God of Jacob. When there is poverty and scarcity, we must hope in the Lord. And certainly as we begin the year 2004 we must look to our covenant God, confide in Him, and expect our help from Him alone.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

It would often appear that there is help in princes. Princes often hold great power. Some have tremendous ability. The history books are full of illustrious princes who have done great things. They have led massive armies. They have conquered mighty nations. They have persuaded the masses with a golden tongue. And so many look to them for help in the time of need. Their hope is in their prince.

But the fact is that there is no help in princes. Any help they provide is very limited in scope and of short duration. And any lasting help that provides for our real needs is not found in princes.

The obvious reason is that they are merely the sons of men. And being the sons of men their breath goeth forth, i.e., they expire. They die. They return to the earth, i.e., at death they go to the grave, where they return to the dust of the ground. In that very day their thoughts perish. By thoughts are meant all their dreams and schemes and all that they accomplish. In the day that they die, the thoughts of the princes of this world all perish.

What true, lasting help can they provide?

On the other hand, we have every reason to put our trust in our covenant God.

For as the psalmist makes clear in the rest of this Psalm, Jehovah is able to care for our every need. He it is that “made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is” (v. 6). As the great Creator, Jehovah also reigns over all forever. “The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations” (v. 10). There are two ideas here. First, Jehovah, in His almighty power, controls all things. There is not a thing, great or small, that God does not rule absolutely. Secondly, Jehovah God does not rule only for a few years, and then pass away. He rules forever, so that His thoughts do not perish but are realized and stand forever.

Certainly, the God of Jacob is able to help us in all our needs.

And being our covenant God He is willing to help.

The basic idea of the covenant is friendship. As our covenant God, Jehovah is our friend. As our sovereign friend, Jehovah God loves us and will care for us. It is His eternal desire and purpose to care for us in our every need. So intent is He in this purpose that He gave His only begotten Son to the agony of the cross to secure our salvation and eternal welfare. In verses 7-9 the psalmist gives an indication of the kind of care Jehovah provides for us in His covenant. He executes judgment for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, looses the prisoners, opens the eyes of the blind, raises them that are bowed down, loves the righteous, preserves the strangers, and relieves the fatherless and widow. There is nothing that our covenant God will withhold from us. It is all designed to keep us safely in this life as well as to bring us to Himself in eternal covenant bliss in a better life to come.

Certainly, our trust and our hope are well placed in Jehovah, the God of Jacob.

Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help.

Certainly those who put their trust in princes will not be happy. There is no help in princes. Those who rely on them will be without help. The hope they have as they wait for help is a false hope. Their hopes can only be dashed again and again. After repeated disappointments, those who trust in princes will ultimately perish in their misery.

But those who have the God of Jacob for their help shall be happy. For there is help in the God of Jacob. There is help in Him alone! And all those who both trust and hope in Him will receive His help.

Where is your trust? In whom do you hope?

In this New Year and for every year of your life, put your trust in Jehovah and your hope in the God of Jacob.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.