Psalm 111 is an acrostic or alphabetical psalm. After the opening line (Praise the Lord!), each line starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This may have made it easier for the Jewish people to memorize but when translated into English I found it difficult to see how the verses were connected. Then I marked (underlined, circled, etc.) the repeated words. They are key to unlocking the meaning of the text.
1 “Praise the Lord!
I will give thank to the Lord with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly”.
With all your heart…
The psalmist starts with stating that he gives thanks in both the company of the upright (intimate circle of friends) and in the assembly (the congregation).
Our words in private reveals the truth of our attitudes. When we truely give thanks with all our heart, our words will not change whether we are speaking to those in our intimate circle of friends and family or in the assembly of people.
2 “Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
3 Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
4 He has made His wonders to be remembered;
The Lord is gracious and compassionate.
5 He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will remember His covenant forever.
6 He has made known to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations”.
Delight in His works…
The psalmist delights in and studies the works of the Lord. He gave thanks for The Lod’s great, splendid, majestic, and powerful works toward His people. And also praised Him for…His righteousness, gracious, and compassionate care for His people.
If I say “I delight in God”, then I too must study His works. It is only when we know of His great work of righteousness, grace, and compassion in our lives that we can truly give Him the thanks He deserves and desires.
7 “The works of His hands are truth and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
8 They are upheld forever and ever;
They are performed in truth and uprightness.
9 He has sent redemption to His people;
He has ordained His covenant forever;
Holy and awesome is His name.”
His works and precepts are forever…
I don’t know about you, but when I first read this psalm I didn’t notice the “forevers”. Then I marked the repeated words and suddenly I could see five “forevers”. That definitely made me view this psalm differently. Yes, The psalmist was reminding them of the work the Lord had done for them in the past. Yet he was also pointing them to the future. The Lord’s righeousness will endure forever (3). He will remember His covenant forever (6). His precepts are upheld forever (8). He has ordained His covenant forever (9). His praise will endure forever (10).
We need to remember God’s past work in our lives. We also need to be reminded of the promise of “forever” that we have through faith in Jesus Christ. We should be like the psalmist to …remember…write…give thanks for the great things God has and has promised to do for us!
10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever.”
Wisdom and understanding…
Throughout the psalms and the proverbs, we are reminded that the starting point for wisdom is fear of the Lord. Obedience to His commands shows that we have a good understanding (insight, good sense).
Many maybe smart, but only those who revere God are truly wise. As James writes, “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Living in obedience to God’s commands show that we have true understanding.