Psalm 111 (NIV)
1 Praise the LORD. I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
2 Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them.
3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures for ever.
4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
5 He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant for ever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant for ever – holy and awesome is his name.
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.
This is a truly magnificent psalm in so many respects. Find a good commentary on the Psalms and read about this one (and Psalm 112) to begin to appreciate its literary merit. The remarks that follow can point to only a few of its other features.
Psalm 111 begins and ends with “praise”. What a splendid example for us all: so too should every thought we think, every work we undertake, every day we live and every word we utter.
The focus of this Psalm from beginning to end is on God; mention of his creation and of us, his creatures, is made only to reflect back onto him. This is how the focus of our lives also should be – away from self; instead, first and always towards God.
Its final verse addresses a theme woven through the Old Testament: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”. We find this statement or words very like it in Job (28: 28) and in the Book of Proverbs (1: 7 and 9: 10). Implicit in this is that Godly wisdom should be keenly sought by each of us.
It is helpful to pursue the psalmist’s meaning of “fear” in the context of verse 10. Perhaps we could interpret the word “fear” to mean “reverential love” and to describe one’s willing submission to the Lordship of God and to his commands (“precepts”). Picture the situation where Jesus, in the boat with his disciples, rebuked the wind and the waves, stilling the storm. According to the Gospel of Mark the disciples “were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this?’” (Mark 4: 41, emphasis added).In Matthew’s account (8: 27) the disciples were “amazed” while Luke’s Gospel describes the disciples as being in a state of “fear and amazement” (Luke 8: 25). That depicts for us a valid sense of holy fear.
How far-sighted is the verse that precedes it: “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant for ever …”. Until the time of Jesus, the redemption provided by God was bought through regular temple worship and sacrifice. Redemption was granted by God in response to God-mandated actions repeated by a human priesthood. We are blessed to live under a new covenant which guarantees an even better redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, effected once for all (Hebrews 7: 27; 9: 12; 9: 26 and 10: 10).
Praise the LORD. To him belongs eternal praise.