Summary: This is a good psalm that turns our minds and hearts to thank God for his provision and good works.
Psalm 111:1-10 The Lord Provides
1/16/11 D. Marion Clark
This is a good psalm that turns our minds and hearts to thank God for his provision and good works.
Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
This would be a good verse for the Call to Worship. The psalm is not the private meditation of the heart, but the public exaltation of God in the assembly of his people. We are to join in with him in his praise of God. For what are we to praise God? For his works.
2 Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
The words for “works” and “work” are two different words in the Hebrew. Perhaps one can distinguish between them, though when a study is done of their use in the Old Testament, they overlap in meaning. I suspect the psalmist is being a good poet and using synonyms. In this context, they speak of the general works of God in his creation – both the work of creation itself and the ongoing works of sustaining that creation and acting in it.
The psalmist says that those who delight in such works make a study of them. The NIV uses the term “ponder.” I like the King James rendition “sought out.” The psalmists were poets who delighted in creation. Their psalms are filled with imagery drawn from creation. God “makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind” (104:3); his righteousness is “like the mountains” and his judgments are “like the great deep” (36:6); the “heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (19:1). They speak of God’s care of creation and work in it. God visits the earth and waters it (65:9); he provides the springs that “give drink to every beast of the field” (104:11), the trees where “the birds build their nests” (104:17). God is in the storm (29) and earthquake (60:2). And the psalmists speak of God’s providential work. He judges princes and provides for the needy (107:40-41); he watches over sojourners and widows and orphans (146:9).
And so, as they look upon the words of the Lord, they conclude that the works are great; they are full of splendor and majesty. They reveal the righteousness of God. Their study of creation, of natural processes, and of history leads them into deeper understanding of God, and thus all the more they glory in him.
So there is the general work of creation and providential care. There is also the specific work of redemption, specifically the redemption of God’s covenant people from slavery in Egypt.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
God sent redemption to his people. He led them out of Egypt through wondrous works. He established his covenant with them, giving them precepts of the Law, which are trustworthy. In the wilderness he provided food. And he led them into the promised land of Canaan, giving them the inheritance of the nations who were there.
This recalling of redemption again runs through the psalms. Psalm 78, 105, 106, and 136 tell the story of the plagues and miracles. God is the Lord God who brought the people out of the land of Egypt (81:5). Psalm 114 tells how the sea “looked and fled,” how the Jordan river “turned back.” Psalm 71 recounts how God caused the waters to tremble as he led his flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. In the wilderness he provided manna and meat and water (78:24-27; 105:40-41).
And as the psalmists remember these wondrous works, again they make conclusions about God. He is gracious and merciful (4); he is faithful to his covenant (5); his works are faithful and just (7); his word is trustworthy (7). Their God is one whom they can depend upon to deliver them in time of need and to provide for them. Their God is holy and awesome, although “awesome” no longer carries the weight that it once did. We say “awesome” to mean something is “cool” or “astonishing.” This word means more. Maybe the best way to catch the tenor of it is to recall the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. It is dark, a strong windstorm comes up, causing waves to crash into the boat. The veteran fishermen know that they will drown. Jesus stands up and orders the storm to cease. Mark reports their response: “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?’ ” They are not giving each other high fives. They are not saying to Jesus, “Awesome, Dude!” They are scared. They know they have in the boat someone not like them. His mighty work shows them that, like God in our psalm, he is holy and, as the RSV, translates the word, “terrible.”