Praise for God’s Works

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Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
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.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

-Psalm 111 (ESV)

[dropcap3]P[/dropcap3]salm 111 is an alphabetic acrostic psalm expressing the God-fearer’s praise-filled thanksgiving for the Lord’s works.  It presents for us an extensive summary of the characteristics that the Lord displays in and through His works.  It could be considered “The Psalmist’s Creed” in that the psalm is short text that brings together the whole of biblical faith.  The psalm does not mention the great works of the Lord in specific detail, only generally.  However, this does not take away from its significance.  The general nature of the text allows the readers to reflect upon the great works of the Lord in various parts of Scripture, while directing the readers to consider how the Lord has done great works in their own lives.

The first verse of the psalm expresses the psalmist’s desire to give his testimony of praise and thanks with his whole being in the presence of the upright.  The great works of the Lord are public, whether they are His works in creation or redemption.  As public works, it is fitting that genuine heart-felt expressions of thankful praise are expressed publicly before the upright who are ready and willing to affirm the same.  The upright are described as ones who delight in the Lord and His works, obedient God-fearers who have wisdom and insight.  The God-fearing assembly understands the nature of the Lord’s works and responds appropriately, listening to His word and expressing thanks and praise.  They also seek after wisdom and understanding of the Lord’s great works.  The upright study His works and delve more deeply into their meaning and significance because they delight in them and desire more and more.

Praise for God's Works

The language of the psalm hints at some of the most well-known and oft repeated events in the Old Testament.  Splendor and majesty (v.3b) are used to describe the Lord’s work in creation.  Gracious and compassionate (4b) are words found as a description of the Lord after the Golden Calf event (Ex. 34:6), when the Lord revealed Himself to Moses.  The Lord provided food (5a) as He journeyed with His covenant people in the wilderness.  The power of His works (6a) was made known in the ten plagues upon Egypt and when He defeated Joshua’s enemies in the conquest of the land (6b).  The Lord performed redemption (9a) in the exodus from Egypt and the deliverance through the Red Sea. He commanded His covenant (9b) when He spoke the Ten Commandments from Sinai Mountain.  His holy and awesome name (9c) took up residence in the tabernacle and later the temple.  Although this list does not exhaust the possible references to the great works of the Lord, it does provide a start for study and meditation.  These events and a myriad more like them reveal to us the nature of God.  Also, it is not as if the significance of these works is bound by the time of their occurrence.  Consider how many times this psalm mentions the word “forever” (3b, 5a, 8a, 9b, 10c).  The meaning of God’s works endures forever.  They are eternal memorials (4b) to His ways and His person.  The works of the Lord are relevant and revelatory for us just as they were for the original audience.

The insight into God’s ways that this psalm provides is deep and wide.  The Lord’s works reveal to us that He is faithful and true, gracious and compassionate, holy and awesome.  The Lord has worked in such a way to be remembered by His people so that they might gain wisdom to walk in His paths.  In the end, this psalm of praise and thanksgiving turns into a wisdom psalm.  It is the wise who fear God, remember, study, and understand His great works, and walk uprightly doing His will.  His praise endures forever!

[framed_box]Brian G. Toews, Ph.D., is the Senior Vice President and Provost of Philadelphia Biblical University.  Interact with Dr. Toews at PBU’s blogsite.