Psalms for Troubled Times – Psalm 111

As I mentioned in my introduction to book 5 of the psalms, Psalm 111 and 112 are sister psalms, the response of the faithful heart to the work of God.  The difference between them is that in Psalm 111, the focus is on praising God for who He is. In Psalm 112, the praise is for God’s work seen in the life of the Blessed Man. Taken together we have the beautiful union of God and Man.

Other than this difference, both psalms are remarkably similar in language, content and structure: both being of alphabetic construction – that is each phrase begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The first 8 verses contain two phrases each, and the last two three phrases each, totalling the 22 letters of the alphabet from Aleph to Tau.

Praise First and Last

The first word of the psalm (Adah) literally means to throw, cast out, but is often used metaphorically to mean ‘to give thanks’, ‘confess’, ‘praise’. This is particularly in reference to ritual worship, the audible singing of the temple congregation, or an assembled (Besowd) company of upright people.

When we gather to worship the Lord, let’s take do what the psalmist suggests and put our ‘whole heart’ into it. How easy it is to allow distractions to come in, or to be present in body, but not in spirit.

Having begun with this call to praise, the psalm ends on the same note, but this time the more usual word for praise is used (Tehillah).The idea is that the praise, which began as a song on the lips, which will focus our thoughts on the LORD’s glories, becomes the attitude of our hearts.

In this we see the importance of ‘speaking to (ourselves) in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord’. For this will lead our hearts to be ‘Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Eph 5:19,20).

The Works of the LORD …

1) … are great (Gedolim)

From verses 2-7, the psalmist praises the LORD for His Works. They are worthy of praise for they are great, and all who delight in them, come back again and again to study (Derusim) them, finding more reasons to praise the LORD.

Truly there is ample material in creation (think of the ‘great lights’), and in redemption (‘great is the mystery of godliness‘), to keep us engaged in worthwhile study to the glory of God, for time and eternity.

2) … are honourable (Howd)

We think of the pinnacle of God’s creation, man. Being created in the ‘image of God’ gives to every human being, born and unborn, honour and value. However, the dominion and majesty that Adam was given, was lost due to his sin, and mankind has spiralled down into a state of dishonour, filth and all that is unrighteous.

But the LORD’s ‘righteousness (Wesidqatow) endures forever’, and through Christ, He is able to ‘be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus’ (Roms 3:26). How is this possible?

Because Jesus Christ is that Perfect Man, honourable and righteous, of whom Peter could write, ‘we were eyewitnesses of His majesty’ (2 Pet 1:6), and as the new federal head of all creation, He ‘gave Himself a ransom for all’ (1 Tim 2:6).

3) … are to be remembered (Zeker)

Unlike the monuments and memorials of men which perish, the LORD’s works will be remembered eternally, showing forth the glory of His grace (Channun) and compassion.

Let us therefore determine to be a part of what God is building, rather than to spend and be spent in building flimsy earthly memorials for our own glory.

The Grace of God

The psalm now turns to consider this grace in a little more depthand perhaps in his mind he turns his thoughts to Sinairemembering how God graciously provided meat (Terep), manna, for His people.

This takes our minds to John 6, and ‘the exceeding riches of His grace’ (Eph 2:7) revealed in the One who could say: ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven’ (John 6:51).

And why?

Because He is mindful (Yizkor) of His covenant, and would show forth His ability (Koah) to save. This word is used in Exodus 15, of God’s power displayed in redeeming His people (Leammow) from Egypt to their inheritance, the promised land.

The Word of the LORD

For us, we consider 1 Peter 1:3-5, and rejoice that the Lord’s works (Masse) are firm, true and just. This is so because His Word is sure (Neemanim) and steadfast, eternally reliable (Semukim).

Thus, the faithful Word of God is the basis of all of God’s work, so that all is done (Awsuyim) in truth and uprightness.

The emphasis of this phrase (v8) upon the word ‘done’ is interesting, and reminds us of the victorious word ‘finished’ uttered by our Lord from the cross as He exited the darkness at the ninth hour.

Redemption in Christ Jesus

For it was in that darkness, that Christ ‘was made a sin offering for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him’ (2 Cor 5:21).

This is the greatest of all God’s works, sending a Redeemer to pay the ransom (Pedut), and bring us to Himself, on the basis of a New Covenant which He has ordered (Tsiwwah), and in conformity with His Holy (Qadowos) name.

Response of the Wise

The psalms closes with a three-fold response from the heart of the faithful and wise.

Having just concluded with the holiness of God, we must begin (Resit) with a godly fear. Truly, this is the beginning of wisdom.

Then we take up God’s Word, and to obey it is prudent and gains us further understanding (Shekel).

Finally, all this leads us back to where we began, with a heart full of praise (Tehillatow).

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