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Psalm 111

“Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever” (vv. 2–3).

So great are the works of God that those who know them cannot help but proclaim them publicly. That is how Psalm 111 begins, and indeed, we agree with the psalmist. When we look at the design of the world around us—the grandeur of the mountains, the power of the ocean, the beauty of the fields—we cannot help but praise our Maker. In His works of creation, we see His attributes and come to a clearer understanding of who God is and, if we have been given new hearts by His Holy Spirit, we long to learn as much as we can about Him (Ps. 19; Rom. 1:20). Moreover, we study His works and ways as much as we can, confident that we can know Him truly but never exhaustively, and we do so no matter what the world around us might think. John Calvin comments, “Incomprehensible as is the immensity of the wisdom, equity, justice, power, and mercy of God in his works, the faithful nevertheless acquire as much knowledge of these as qualifies them for manifesting the glory of God; only it becomes us to begin the study of his works with reverence, that we may take delight in them, contemptible though they be in the estimation of the reprobate.”

But the greatness of God’s works is not limited to His works of creation. There is also His work of salvation, which is the focus of Psalm 111:4–9. Commentators suggest that the psalmist has in view the exodus from Egypt and conquest of Canaan. Verse 5 alludes to the Lord’s provision of manna in the wilderness when it speaks of His feeding those who fear Him (Ex. 16). Verse 6 has the conquest of Canaan in view, while vv. 7–8 refer to the revelation of the Mosaic law at Sinai (Ex. 20; Josh. 1). The redemption spoken of in Psalm 111:9 would be the actual liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (Ex. 12).

Looking to the generation of the exodus enables the psalmist to conclude his hymn with the statement that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). This is a lesson to be learned from the Israelites in both a positive and negative sense. Positively, seeing how God provided for His people after rescuing them from Egypt shows us how wise it is to fear our Creator. If we fear Him and are joined to His covenant people, He will meet our needs. Negatively, seeing what happened to that generation when they did not fear the Lord encourages us to fear Him. If we do not continue in the fear of the Lord, we will miss His inheritance just as the Israelites wandering in the wilderness were barred from the Promised Land (Num. 32:13).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Calvin also comments that nothing is more profitable for believers “than to spend their lives in the celebration of the praises of God.” Meditating on the works of the Lord reminds us of His greatness and that wise men and women fear Him, showing Him honor and love. If we forget His mighty acts in history, we may be tempted not to fear Him in the manner He is due, and thus meet destruction. Let us take time daily to think on the greatness of God’s works.

For Further Study
  • Deuteronomy 3:24
  • Psalm 92
  • Matthew 11:20–24
  • Hebrews 3:7–4:13

Praise from Others

Embracing Our Finitude

Keep Reading Persecution

From the August 2015 Issue
Aug 2015 Issue