Summary: Psalm 111 gives us many reasons why our Lord is deserving of our praise.
Millions of people have used this product since its introduction in 1971. You may even have a couple of boxes of it in your pantry right now: Hamburger Helper. It may not be what you serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it’s obviously tasty and convenient enough for people to keep buying and using. It’s the same reason Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is so popular. Sometimes you just need a quick meal that everyone in the family is happy to eat.
Just as we need some help with meal prep from time to time, we Christians often need help with our worship prep. Maybe today was one of those Sundays. It’s not Easter or Christmas and so you didn’t come to church with the expectation of an inspiring service. Instead you shuffled through your morning routine feeling more obligated than excited to go to church. Wouldn’t it be something if there was a product that could put us in the right frame of mind for worship every Sunday? Hamburger Helper won’t do that but Psalm 111 can. It’s a Hallelujah Helper. A close look at this Psalm will motivate us to lift our hallelujahs to God with genuine cheerfulness no matter what Sunday or day of the week it is.
Psalm 111 in fact begins in Hebrew with the word “Hallelujah!” Ever wonder what that word means exactly? It means: “Praise the Lord!” Why should we want to do that? Listen again to a few verses from Psalm 111. “Praise the Lord…Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered…” (Psalm 111:1a, 3, 4a).
Our God is worth praising because his deeds are majestic. You might think of how God created the earth in six days with his powerful Word. I’ve gained a new appreciation for this miracle when I compare it to the construction being done on our church. I’ve been keeping a record of the work that’s done each day and who has done it. So far it has taken close to 150 different people (plumbers, electricians, carpenters, church volunteers etc.) over 150 days to get us to this point where we’re still at least three months away from completion. And even when everything is finished it’s not going to be perfect. That’s no slight to those who have worked on this project; it’s just a fact of life. No matter how carefully a person builds a house or a church, there’s always going to be something that could have been done better. And yet when God was done with his work of creation on that first Friday afternoon, he looked with satisfaction on a universe with stars, comets, oceans, animals, and two people named Adam and Eve. Everything God created was absolutely perfect.
But then sin came into the world and ruined everything just as a single grain of sand can easily ruin an expensive camera. So perhaps you don’t feel so inclined to raise a “Hallelujah!” for God’s work of creation – not when it’s minus 25C outside for the fifth day in a row. Consider more closely then these sentences from the verses we just read: “He provides food for those who fear him… 6 He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations.” The author seems to be alluding to the way in which God provided for the Israelites after he rescued them from Egypt. He not only brought them out of slavery, he also provided food for them as they made their way to the Promised Land.
We’re not struggling through a wilderness like the Israelites did, but we are reliant on the food and homes that God provides for us every day. What’s amazing is that God continues to provide for us even when our attitude is like Bart Simpson’s who once prayed: “Lord, since we paid for this food, thanks for nothing.” Sure, you may have paid for the food that’s on your table but who gave you the ability to earn the money to buy the food? Who ensures peace so that the food could be delivered to the grocery store from which you purchased it? God. And so he is deserving of our praise.
But what ought to motivate us even more to give God our hallelujahs is what the psalmist said in this verse: “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—” (Psalm 111:9a). This verse has special meaning for all who are baptized, for through baptism God has made a covenant with us. A covenant is like a contract. I’ve seen a lot of those lately too with our building project. Each of those covenants or contracts states what the plumber, the electrician, or the painter will do in exchange for what we will do for them: pay them. Compare those contracts with the covenant God made with you in baptism. Through baptism God adopted you as his child. He washed your sins away. He gave you the Holy Spirit and has granted you eternal life through faith in Jesus. He’s done this all for free and forever. Have you ever seen a contract like that? Have you ever heard of a will in which the signatory left everything to his worst enemy, even pledging that his heirs will be the enemy’s servants forever? That’s what God has done for you and for me, for all those who have been baptized. For even though we, as sinners, were God’s enemies, through baptism God pledged himself to us and gives us blessings through Jesus we don’t deserve. That’s quite a covenant! It’s no wonder the psalmist concluded that verse by saying, “…holy and awesome is his name” (Psalm 111:9b).