Psalm 111 Great Are the LORD's Works (1) Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. (2) Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. (3) Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. (4) He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful. (5) He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. (6) He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations. (7) The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; (8) they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. (9) He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! (10) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! ESV
The first line of Psalm 111 is Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.
From there on, Psalm 111 is an acrostic poem. The beginning of each line follows the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. As children learn the important things in life, parents and teachers use things like rhymes and poems and songs for memorization. This ancient song and a number of other psalms (and in particular the one that follows this one) are just that: songs to be memorized, remembered, and passed down.
Psalm 111 is titled, Praise to God for His Faithfulness and Justice (NKJV), The LORD Praised for His Goodness (NASB), Praise for the LORD’s Works (HCSB), and above in the ESV, Great Are the LORD’s Works.
The sweet singer dwells upon the one idea that God should be known by his people, and that this knowledge when turned into practical piety is man’s true wisdom, and the certain cause of lasting adoration.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Praise the LORD. I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. Psalm 111:1 NIV
The psalmist begins by calling all to praise the Lord- Hallelujah!– the Hebrew word for Praise the Lord. He vows to praise the Lord with his whole heart. Nothing but his entire being was enough to praise God. He would not honor God with only a portion, but with all his heart he will sing Hallelujah.
The author vows to praise the Lord with all of himself in the midst of the council and the assembly (above in the NIV translation). Bible scholars explain a difference here in the groups mentioned. Sod, the first Hebrew word indicates a smaller group, translated as company or council. The second group is the Edah which may indicate a larger group, as an assembly or a congregation. But the point must be the call to praise God in small groups and large and with our whole self.
The New Living Translation of the Bible is a “meaning to meaning” translation, which seeks to convey an overall thought. However, translations like The New King James version attempts for “word for word” translation. In contrast, the Message is a paraphrase of the Bible, or someone else’s words. Let’s look at the differences and similarities as we seek to understand these first couple of verses of Psalm 111.
Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. Psalm 111:1 NKJV Praise the LORD! I will thank the LORD with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. Psalm 111:1 NLT
Verses two and three are beautiful statements of God’s character. His works are “great!” The works He has done throughout time and even now are “honorable and glorious.” His goodness will “last forever!” Here are handful of translations to compare:
The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. Psalm 111:2-3 NKJV Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails. He causes us to remember his wonderful works. How gracious and merciful is our Lord! Psalm 111:2-3 NLT God's works are so great, worth a lifetime of study- endless enjoyment! Splendor and beauty mark his craft; His generosity never gives out. His miracles are his memorial-this God of Grace, this God of Love. Psalm 111:2-3 the Message
The hidden wisdom of God is the most marvellous part of his works, and hence those who do not look below the surface miss the best part of what he would teach us.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
God’s beauty is all around us. Anyone who looks up into the night sky or journeys into a deep cave or even stops to ponder the wonder of a glass of cool water knows that such things were divinely made. Even an unbeliever sees the beauty there and wonders how it is possible. It is only possible with divine inspiration, a Creator. God the Father created all and makes everything possible. While there is so much that we do not fully understand, we can seek to. He has given us a desire to understand and an avenue to do so: a relationship with Him through worship, prayer, and studying the Bible. We can grow in understanding by spending time with Him in His Word.
He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and full of compassion. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. He has declared to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are verity and justice; all His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: holy and awesome is His name. Psalm 111:4-9 NKJV
Praise the Lord. Praise Him that we have His Word, that we can hold it in our hands. That during trials and times of worry, we can open it and see His faithfulness throughout time. The Bible, God’s Word, is an amazing gift from a loving Father who desires that we know Him, that we know who He was and who He is. He tells us of His love in all of creation. He reminds us of His love with the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. He reminds us of His love as He sits beside even when we do not acknowledge Him; He is there, always. And He reminds us of His love and faithfulness on every page of the Bible.
He is gracious and compassionate. Other Bible translations say, kind and merciful. And the works of His hands are verity and justice (NKJV), faithful and just (ESV), good and fair (ICB), just and good (NLT). And all His commandments are trustworthy.
This also should lead us to praise him, since it is of the utmost advantage to us to live under a sovereign whose laws, decrees, acts, and deeds are the essence of truth and justice. All his commandments are sure.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Bible scholars believe that the psalmist speaks of God’s wonderous works of redemption when He saved the Israelites from Egypt. As we have studied in previous psalms, the people tended to forget God as their Savior, and so, the psalms often called upon them to “remember.” Remember when God saved you. Remember when He provided food when you were hungry. Remember the covenant love of God; remember His promises.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever. Psalm 111:10 NKJV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This is written in other books of the Bible.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 And he said to the human race, "The fear of the Lord- that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding." Job 28:28 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
To an unbeliever, to “fear the Lord” means to fear death, judgment, and eternal separation from all that is good even if they do not acknowledge it. To a believer, to “fear the Lord” means a sense of awe and wonder, mixed with fear of His wrath.
Here is a good, simple article about fearing the Lord for more information: https://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/bible-answers/spirituallife/what-does-it-mean-to-fear-god.html
Lastly, Bible scholars see a link between Psalm 111 and Psalm 112. Psalm 111 speaks of God in an acrostic poem, and Psalm 112 speaks of the righteousness of man also through the memorization tool of an acrostic. It is good to study them together.
Father in heaven, we thank you for today, for another day to praise you. We thank you for the gift of your word. We thank you for your faithfulness and that the works of your hands are remembered and passed down from generation to generation. You are good and faithful and kind and merciful. We praise you and we stand before you in fear and love. Give us strength to face today. Amen.