New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 111:1

Praise Yah!-
Here we have another example of Psalms being paired, this time with Ps. 112. Both are alphabetic Psalms; both begin with "Hallelujah" and have twenty lines, divided into ten verses. It is part of the "Hallel Psalms" (Ps. 111-118), chants sung at the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, which consist of Psalms 113-118.

I will give thanks to Yahweh with my whole heart, in the council of the upright, and in the congregation-
David was very much involved in Israel his people. He saw himself as their representative. When he sung Psalms, he invited them to come and sing along with him (Ps. 105:2; 107:22; 111:1).

Psa 111:2

Yahweh’s works are great, pondered by all those who delight in them-
As noted on :1, this is a Psalm used at the time of Passover, which was all about reflection upon Yahweh's saving works to His people in the past. But the "works" to be reflected upon are not so much the miraculous, physical nature of His work; but His righteousness (:3), grace (:4), faithfulness to His covenant (:5), justice (:7) and salvation of His wayward people (:9). These are all the characteristics of the Yahweh Name declared to Moses in Ex. 34:5-7. His Name is His "works" in history, which are to be repeated in the experience of all His people and supremely at the last day. See on :9; Ps. 112:4.

Psa 111:3

His work is honour and majesty, His righteousness endures forever-
As noted on :2, the "work" in view is God's saving characteristics. His redemption (:9) of His wayward people was achieved by grace and mercy (:4) which were achieved all the same in justice and righteousness; and not by turning a blind eye to the sins of His people. Paul exults in this throughout Rom. 1-8; God's salvation of sinners by grace is achieved by the imputation of His eternal righteousness, and His righteousness and justice is not thereby minimized or bypassed, but rather exalted. "His righteousness endures forever" is alluded to in 2 Cor. 9:9- in the context of arguing that God's "righteousness" is shown in His generosity to others, which we should follow. This is His majestic work; see on :5.

Psa 111:4

He has caused His wonderful works to be remembered; Yahweh is gracious and merciful-
As noted on :2, such grace and mercy are an integral part of the Yahweh Name. His works are memorialized, just as His Name is likewise for a memorial or remembrance. See on Ps. 112:6, where the righteous are eternally remembered- because they are identified with the Name of Yahweh, showing His characteristics.

Psa 111:5

He has given food to those who fear Him-
As noted on :3, this passage is alluded to in 2 Cor. 9:9,10. God's gift of food is a reflection of His covenant relationship with His people to whom He gives food. This forms part of His eternal righteousness (:3); and Paul is telling the Corinthians that they ought to likewise be generous to those in the covenant who were lacking food. The immediate reference is to God's provision of food to the people in the wilderness, who were to then receive the promised land (:6); appropriate for a Passover Psalm (see on :1). And this is likewise used by Paul in the same section in appealing for generosity to those who lack the ability to go out and gather the manna (2 Cor. 8:15). 

He is ever mindful of His covenant-
The covenant in view is that to Abraham, which promised eternal inheritance of the land. God is constantly thinking of that covenant and its implications; and so should we be.

Psa 111:6

He has shown His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations-
This Passover Psalm (:1) was going to reflect appropriately on the way that after the Passover deliverance, God gave the people the lands of the nations, in Canaan. But this gift of God's Kingdom was by "His works" and not their own. Ps. 44:3 makes the same point, that the land was given to them not by their sword but by God's grace .

Psa 111:7

The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure-
The Divine "works" in view are the gift of the Kingdom to His wayward people (:6). But this was done in absolute truth and justice. As noted on :3, Paul exults in this throughout Rom. 1-8; God's salvation of sinners by grace is achieved by the imputation of His eternal righteousness, and His righteousness and justice is not thereby minimized or bypassed, but rather exalted.

Psa 111:8

they are established forever and ever. They are done in truth and uprightness-
The "precepts" in view which are eternal are those of the covenant with Abraham (see on :5), not the Mosaic law. As explained on :3,7, the gift of the Kingdom to the wayward Israelites  was achieved with absolute justice, and without God acting immorally or lacking in integrity. 

Psa 111:9

He has sent redemption to His people, He has ordained His covenant forever. His name is holy and awesome!-
As explained on :8, the eternal covenant in view is that with Abraham (Gen. 17:13), which promised eternal inheritance of the land. That redemption from Egypt (Ex. 6:6) and gift of the Kingdom to Israel was all an articulation of God's characteristics as memorialized in his Name; see on :2. The redemption promised and implied in the covenant with Abraham is ongoing to God's people of all generations (s.w. Ps. 130:7).

Psa 111:10

The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom-
Solomon repeats his father David's conclusion that wisdom begins with the fear of Yahweh (Ps. 111:10 = Prov. 1:7; 9:10). This statement is in sharp contrast with the accepted view of the times, that wisdom was held by the sages, and was accessible only by sitting at their feet. But this idea (and it is common enough today too) is subverted by this idea that wisdom begins in each individual heart being in fear of Yahweh- so that wisdom from Him can be personally experienced, taught directly through relationship with Him rather than sitting at the feet of a human sage. "Wisdom" is parallel with getting "a good understanding" by 'doing His work' or obeying His commandments (Ps. 111:10b). The work we are to do for God in obeying His ways is not simply a test of our obedience; it is designed to give us wisdom. Wisdom therefore comes from experience of obedience and relationship with God, rather than from picking up nuggets of 'truth' from human sages. The fear of God is therefore not so much referring to a fear of the consequence of our sins; but the fear or revereance expressed through keeping His commandments (see on Ps. 112:1).

All those who do His work have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!-
This Psalm has stressed that salvation and the gift of the Kingdom to God's people is the result of God's work and not our own (see on :2,3,4,6,7). But the Psalm concludes with an invitation for us to participate in that work, to not to our own works towards salvation, but rather to "do His work".