Psalm 111

June 12, 2019

1 Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.

2 The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

3 His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever.

4 He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant.

6 He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.

7 The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.

9 He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

11 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

The Point: 

God is to be praised because of His remarkable works that always benefit His people. 

How do we feel in the recitation of this Psalm? 

We take pleasure in seeing the hand of God working through everything that happens, including the cross of Christ. Yet, we may ask, why should anybody take pleasure in something like an innocent man crucified by the cruel hands of men?  It is gratifying to know that these are the perfect plans of God coming to fruition.  It is even more wonderful and praiseworthy to think that God’s gracious work of redemption is accomplished for us through the most ungracious work of wicked men!  Indeed, malevolent men will never and can never get the best of Him.  He even gives His people the heritage of the heathen. So we rest in His absolute sovereignty and His commitment to His own covenant He has made with us.  Then, we apply our whole hearts in praise to God for His works. 

What does this Psalm say? 

Verse 1. 

This Psalm is plainly intended for corporate worship. Our Psalmist plans to get himself in the middle of the whole congregation and praise the Lord with a whole heart!  This is the right kind of worship to bring before the true and living God, when the saints gather on the first day of the week. Would it be appropriate to bring God anything less, if He really is the Maker of heaven and earth and has redeemed us from sin, death, and hell?  Let us praise God with our whole hearts!  This is effectively the theme of Psalm 111.  For the remainder of the Psalm, the Psalmist goes on to recount all of God’s mighty works.  

Verses 2-9. 

God’s works are great. But sadly, very few people notice them.  Before you worship, before you wonder at the works of God, you must first recognize His works.  You must seek out these works and take pleasure in them.  Scientists may seek out cause and effect relationships in a materialistic, chance universe.  Medical doctors may study the mechanisms of the human immune system at the cellular level.  But they still miss the works of God, because they are not looking for them.   When you look at the universe, a human DNA molecule, or a blade of grass, you must look for the work of the Artist, the Creator, and the only true God.  If you do not look for this, you will never find His works and you will never understand reality properly.  Two scientists study the incredible complexity of the human cell.  One falls on His face and worships in the biology laboratory, and the other does not.  One was seeking out God, and the other was not.  The one understands the world as it was intended to be understood by the Creator, and the other does not. In one sense, they are looking at the same thing.  But in another sense, they are not.  Many men will act the part of an ant crawling across a great work of art.  They are not looking for anything created by a Master, so they never find anything  created by a Master! 

Those who see the marvelous providential workings of God take great pleasure in them.  When they see a dog pull a child out of an icy lake, they take great pleasure in the creative power of God. Studying the ordinary functions of the human cell is a real thrill.  Answers to prayer, healings, regeneration, children walking with God, babies birthed, elephants, meteor showers, wars, and revolutionary coups are all considered acts of a Sovereign God.  True believers always take pleasure in watching God work. Nothing is passé.  Absolutely nothing.  In one sense, everything that happens is supernatural. Even so, we should distinguish between that which is an ordinary work and that which is an extraordinary work. Otherwise, we are assigning equal value to all works, even those miracles or “signs and wonders” produced by Christ, Elijah, and Moses.

Verses 3-9 describe God’s works in detail, as being  praiseworthy, memorable, and righteous.  When sinners are redeemed out of spiritual blindness, rebellion, and death, we see the compassion and grace of God shine.   He is extremely kind to those who are covenanted to Him by faith.  Yet, nowhere is the kindness of God made more clear than at the cross of Christ.  There was no more memorable work ever performed in the history of the world.  In fact, every country on earth uses the Gregorian calendar today, which centers all of history around the coming of God’s Redeemer.  Japan replaced their lunar-solar calendar with the Gregorian calendar in 1872, Korea followed in 1895, and China formally adopted it in 1912. For five billion people on this planet, there are no more memorable events than the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 4).  

Over the years, the Lord turns the resources of the heathen over to His own people (verse 6),  for the wealth of the wicked is always laid up for the just (Prov. 13:22).  It may not happen overnight.  Typically, nations with a stronger Christian heritage enjoy more prosperity.  Of the twenty nations in the world with the highest median income, twelve have a Protestant heritage, six have a Roman Catholic heritage, and two are a mix of Protestant and Catholic.   Of course, they are all western nations, most of which are in some degree of apostasy, (as of the 21st century AD). But it is important to remember that, at one time, these nations were all made up of human-sacrificing, pagan polytheists. For almost 1500 years, the wealth of the world has moved towards the western world.  This is all changing now that the Western World is in apostasy and the Gospel is spreading into China and Africa;  It won’t be long until the wealth will follow.  God takes care of those who fear Him, and He gives them the inheritance of the heathen. 

Men may corrupt themselves with sin, but these sinful acts cannot be isolated from God’s judgment (verse 7). God will bring every work into judgment, and He will make everything right according to His righteous standards.  Thus, a violation of God’s law does not (in the long run), thwart His justice.  He follows up on every injustice with His own just judgment. Although men may appear to break His revealed will with impunity, this fits in nicely with His decretive will (or purpose), as He follows up with judgment.  Nobody can accuse God of injustice, even in His allowance of evil in the world.  When we stand in eternity and look back at all of history, we will see that God’s works of mercy and judgment upheld a truthful, righteous standard.  He found a way to be both absolutely just and the justifier of sinners.  From generation to generation, from era to era, He was continually true to the covenant promises He made to Abraham and David (verse 9);  these are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  

God is true to His covenant, unlike the men who cannot bring themselves to fulfill their covenant marriage vows.  Our God has sealed this covenant in blood, and He will sovereignly administer it and save His elect, come what may. 

Verse 10. 

Curiously, this verse ends with the great wisdom statement found in the book of Proverbs: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Most likely, this is meant to follow the last phrase in the previous verse,  “Holy and reverend is His Name.”  Without this perspective of God, we will never understand His redemption.  For He redeems us from sin, which is the violation of His holy law.  Why would He ordain the cross for His beloved Son if it were not to accomplish something of great importance?  Why should the Son of God suffer for sins if these sins were of no great account?  We are redeemed by blood, only because of the vile nature of our sins and the holy character of the God we offended!  Where there is no fear of God, there is no understanding of these things.  It is only by this perspective of God, sin, and redemption, that we will ever gain the understanding to keep His commandments, and  it is only by God’s redemption that we will keep them.  This was His plan as He redeemed His people out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage:  It is only those with the fear of God who can, by faith, appreciate His redemption and will keep His commandments. 

How do we apply this Psalm to our lives? 

1. The debate on Intelligent Design in the present day illustrates the point of this psalm.   Men who argue vehemently against Intelligent Design in our day are the fellows who were told to seek out God’s works in their scientific studies, and just don’t want to do it. It doesn’t matter how many times the ant is told that he is running across a masterpiece painting if he doesn’t want to believe it, he won’t even take it into consideration. On the other hand, those hearts that have been touched by the Spirit of God (such as us), will seek out God’s handiwork in everything we study.  We should sit and stare at every material object, every providential event, and every person until we see God’s hand in each and every thing before our eyes.   This should fill our lives with wonderment! Every sunset and sunrise is an extremely complex and beautiful work of art.  The panoramic pictures stretch out for hundreds of miles.  What great Artist has produced such magnificent art?   

2. God’s people don’t need to wait for some extraordinary, miraculous act of God in order to praise Him, because they have learned to see everything as an act of God.  Some people seem to need to see highly unusual, supernatural miracles before they will respond in faith, wonder, and praise.  Others have learned to accept all of God’s works as cause for such wonder and praise.  They do not demand some great miraculous sign and then another and another before they will believe.   

3. If the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, then this is fundamental to all Christian knowledge and education.  It is the everlasting Gospel (Rev. 14:6, 7),  the basis of our worship (Heb. 12:28), and it is essential in education.  Every father, teacher, and pastor in the family, discipleship center, or church must take this to heart.  They must continually make sure that all knowledge is rooted and received in the fear of God.  It is  shameful to find the fear of God ignored in chemistry classrooms, homes, churches, and even seminaries. 

How does this Psalm teach us to worship God? 

Half-hearted praise is hardly praise at all.  Too often, when Christians gather for “worship,” they are not really worshiping, because their hearts are not in it.  What would happen if everybody in the church came together and praised God simultaneously with their whole hearts?   We would have to replace the rafters in the building!  

Questions: 

1. Why does one scientist fall on his face and worship God in a laboratory, and another does not? 

2. What is the most memorable work of God in all of history? 

3. Give an example where God turns the resources of the heathen over to His people. 

4. Why is the fear of God important and fundamental as we consider His works (especially the work of redemption)? 

5. Give several examples of Praise Psalms. 

Family Discussion Questions: 

1. How does an ant look upon the Mona Lisa or some similar great work of art? How do you look at the Milky Way Galaxy?   

2. What are the works of God that give you great pleasure and a tremendous thrill?