Psalm 111

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Verse 1: Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. (NRSV)

  • This Psalm is in parallel with Psalm 112.
  • This first verse is an introductory verse of praise, while the rest of the verses in this Psalm describe the reasons why God should be praised (Mays 356).
  • ”In the company of the righteous” should probably be taken to mean a generic statement referring to God's people, as a synonym for “congregation” (Bratcher 954).

Verse 2: Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. (NRSV)

  • This is the point of this Psalm, to study the works of God, and to look at why God should be praised for them.
  • ”Studied” is about seeking something, which has the possibility of seeking something in a book or studying with life.

Verse 3: Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. (NRSV)

  • Righteousness and works are in parallel.
  • The never-ending duration of righteousness is key. Whatever God does it is righteous, it is holy and right. Never-ending is not just saying that he will be in the future, but that there is no moment when God is not righteous, even when we think we're being treated unfairly.

Verse 4: He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful (NRSV)

  • Another way of saying this verse is that ”he has made a memorial for his wonder,” he did these things so that they would not be forgotten (Pulpit 36).
  • Fame was and is a measure of someone's worth to many people.
    • That one nation's gods would be known and worshipped in far away lands was a wonderful thing, and said something about the power of that God.
    • Here, the writer is not focusing on what the people got from God's actions, but the only thing he could think of that God could have gotten from it, fame.
    • ”Renown” could also refer to the people being reminded of what God did during the recital of those events at the festivals around the year, so this could be (Bratcher 955).
  • ”Wonderful deeds” is a Hebrew way of referring to the Exodus and what God did there, while “gracious and merciful” is the term God used to refer to himself during the golden calf incident (Mays 356).

Verse 5: He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. (NRSV)

  • Again, a reference to the Exodus and providing manna for the Israelites as well as to the covenant made with Moses.
  • This verse has traditionally been associated with Easter and the Eucharist (Keil 198).

Verse 6: He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. (NRSV)

  • Again, here we have the conquest of Canaan and Israel becoming a nation-state.

Verse 7: The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. (NRSV)

  • Another way of saying this is that his commands are unchanging, and based on truth (Pulpit 36).

Verse 8: They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. (NRSV)

  • ”Established” is a translation of a verb meaning “to support” and is about it being immovable and unshakable (Bratcher 956).
  • There is some debate about whether the it is God or the people performing these laws and deeds. Different translations offer different interpretations. It seems that this is more about God's actions than our own, but that does not mean that we should not do the same as God.
  • Righteousness and faithfulness are already concepts mentioned as being part of God, if through slightly different words. This is a statement about our need to follow in God's behavior by following God's laws.

Verse 9: He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. (NRSV)

  • The word “redemption” is used only here, in Exodus 8:23, Psalm 130:7, and Isaiah 50:2. It means “payment” but probably refers to deliverance from Egypt here (Bratcher 957).
  • ”Awesome” is not “wonderful” but is the word for “to fear” again.

Verse 10: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever. (NRSV)

  • This verse stands out as strikingly different than those around it. It isn't about the works of God, but the fear of God.
  • This fear is not just reverence, but can also refer to actual fear. The Hebrews were very conscious not to treat God like a buddy, but that God was truly the all powerful one and to be careful.
  • As always, there is the temptation to find any other foundation for our wisdom than God. That temptation has not changed over the years.
  • More literally, it is “all who practice them” which is odd as it is plural. “Them” refers to the fear of the Lord but takes it plural from the “precepts” of verse seven (Mays 357).
  • This isn't about practicing fear but practicing following the laws of God.
  • This verse seems to be in parallel with verse one, which is about the praising of God. If these two verses act as bookends, then the “Fearing the LORD” is how the Psalmist is encouraging people to praise God.
  • ”His praise” is about praise given to God, not about praise that God gives others.

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