A Strange Moment in the Reception History of Psalm 146

According to Mark Water, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Christian Martyrs (Alresford: John Hunt, 2001), 908–9, when James Hannington (1847–1885), bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa on behalf of the Church Missionary Society, wanted to travel to Uganda, “he found himself reading words from Psalm 146[:9], ‘The Lord preserveth the strangers’” and “took this to be a message from God.” However, during the last part of his journey, he and his companions were captured. In the hut in which he was kept he sang “Safe in the arms of Jesus”—faithful, one may say, to Psalm 146:2: “I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (ESV). After a week, when he expected to be set free (cf. Psalm 146:7: “The LORD sets prisoners free”), he and most of his men were actually killed.

Is this a clear example of how the trust of Psalm 146 runs dead on the realities of life?

Or was Isaac Watts right when in one of his hymns he expanded (enriched?) the perspective of Psalm 146 from life before death (“as long as I live,” “while I have my being”) to eternal life: “And when my voice is lost in death, Praise shall employ my nobler powers; My days of praise shall ne’er be past”?” Is Hannington not eternally regretting that he put his hope in the LORD, the God of Jacob (Psalm 146:5) but rather singing the glory of his God forever and ever?

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