Psalms 111

PSALM CXI

The psalmist praises the Lord, and extols his works as great,

honourable, glorious, and magnificent, 1-4;

his providence and kindness to his followers, 5-8;

the redemption he has granted to his people, 9.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, 10.

NOTES ON PSALM CXI

This is one of the alphabetical or acrostic Psalms: but it is

rather different from those we have already seen, as the first

eight verses contain each two members; and each member commences

with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. But the two last

verses are composed of three members each, characterized the same

way, making twenty-two members or hemistichs in the whole, to each

of which a consecutive letter of the alphabet is prefixed. But

this division is not proper: it should follow the arrangement in

the Hebrew poetry, where every hemistich stands by itself, and

each contains a complete sense. The Psalm has no title in the

Hebrew, unless the word Hallelujah be considered as such; and the

thanksgivings which it contains were probably composed for the

benefit of the Jews after their return from captivity.

Verse 1. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart] If we

profess to "sing to the praise and glory of God," the heart, and

the whole heart, without division and distraction, must be

employed in the work.

In the assembly] besod, in the secret assembly-the

private religious meetings for the communion of saints. And in

the congregation, edah, the general assembly-the public

congregation. There were such meetings as the former ever since

God had a Church on the earth; and to convey general information,

there must be public assemblies.

Verse 2. The works of the Lord are great] gedolim,

vast in magnitude; as rabbim signifies their multitude

and variety.

Sought out] Investigated, carefully examined.

Of all them that have pleasure therein.] By all that delight in

them: by every genuine philosopher; every lover of nature; he who

traces out the great First Cause by means of his works. And the

man that does so will be astonished at the perfections of the

Creator, and admire all the operations of his hands.

Verse 3. His work is honourable, &c.] He has done nothing in

nature or grace that does not redound to his own honour and

glory; and because all is done in righteousness, it endureth for

ever.

Verse 4. He hath made his wonderful works] He who seeks them out

will never forget them; and every thing of God's framing is done

in such a way, as to strike the imagination, interest the senses,

and charm and edify the intellect. But the psalmist may here

intend principally the works of God in behalf of the Jewish

people; and particularly in their deliverance from the Babylonish

captivity, which this Psalm is supposed to celebrate.

Verse 5. He hath given meat] tereph, PREY. This may allude

to the quails in the wilderness. The word signifies what is taken

in hunting-wild beasts, venison, or fowls of any kind;

particularly such as were proper for food. It also signifies spoil

taken from enemies. And he may also refer to the wondrous manner

in which they were fed and supported during their captivity; and

by his support he proved that he was mindful of his covenant. He

had promised such blessings; he was faithful to his promises.

Verse 6. The power of his works] They have seen that these

things did not arrive in the common course of nature, it was not

by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts they

were done. And it required a display of the power of God to give

them the heritage of the heathen.

Verse 7. Verity and judgment] His works are verity or truth,

because they were wrought for the fulfilment of the promises he

made to their fathers. And they were just; for their punishment

was in consequence of their infidelities: and the punishment of

the Babylonians was only in consequence of their gross iniquities;

and in both respects he had proved his work to be according to

justice and judgment.

Verse 8. They stand fast for ever] semuchim, they are

propped up, buttressed, for ever. They can never fail; for God's

power supports his works, and his providence preserves the record

of what he has done.

Verse 9. He sent redemption] He sent Moses to redeem them out of

Egypt; various judges to deliver them out of the hands of their

oppressors; Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel, to deliver them from

Babylon; and the Lord Jesus to redeem a whole lost world from sin,

misery, and death.

Holy and reverend is his name.] The word reverend comes to us

from the Latins, reverendus, and is compounded of re, intensive,

and vereor, to be feared; and most or right reverend,

reverendissimus, signifies to be greatly feared. These terms are

now only titles of ecclesiastical respect, especially in the

Protestant ministry; but there was a time in which these were no

empty titles. Such was the power of the clergy, that, when they

walked not in the fear of the Lord, they caused the people to

fear, and they themselves were to be feared; but, when the

secular power was added to the spiritual, they were then truly

reverendi and reverendissimi, to be feared and greatly to be

feared. But reverend is not applied to God in this way; nor does

the word nora bear this signification; it rather means

terrible: Holy and terrible, or holy and tremendous, is his

name. This title belongs not to man; nor does any minister, in

assuming the title reverend, assume this. Indeed, the word

reverend, as now used, gives us a very imperfect conception of

the original term. Holy and tremendous is God's name. He is

glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders, both in

the way of judgment and in the way of mercy.

Verse 10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom] The

original stands thus: reshith chokmah, yirath

Yehovah, The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Jehovah. Wisdom

itself begins with this fear; true wisdom has this for its

commencement. It is the first ingredient in it, and is an

essential part of it. In vain does any man pretend to be wise who

does not fear the Lord; and he who fears the Lord departs from

evil: he who lives in sin neither fears God, nor is wise.

A good understanding have all they that do his commandments]

These last words we add as necessary to make up the sense; but

there is no need of this expedient, as the words of the original

literally read thus: "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of

Jehovah; good discernment to the doers." That is, They who act

according to the dictates of wisdom, the commencement of which is

the fear of Jehovah, have a sound understanding, discern their

duty and their interest, and live to secure their own peace, their

neighbour's good, and God's glory.

ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND ELEVENTH PSALM

It is supposed that this hymn was set by the author to be sung

at the passover; and that it might be the more readily learned and

remembered, the colons are in number as many as, and arranged in

the order of, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is an

exhortation to praise God for his wonderful benefits bestowed on

the world at large, and especially on Israel and the Church.

There are three parts in this Psalm:-

I. A resolution of the psalmist to praise God; the manner in

which he would do so; and the company with whom he would do it,

Ps 111:1.

II. An expression of the reasons which moved him to praise God,

viz., his admirable benefits, special and general, Ps 111:2-9.

III. An inference from the premises by way of sentiment in which

he commends the fear of God, Ps 111:10.

I. The title of this Psalm is, "Hallelujah, praise ye the Lord;"

and he adds,-

1. "I will praise the Lord." And shows how it should be done.

2. Not hypocritically; not with the lips only, but "with the

heart."

3. "With the whole heart."

4. Not only secretly, but also "in the assembly of the upright,"

&c. 1. Both in the assembly, where these good and upright men are.

2. And also in a mixed multitude, and secretly among good men.

II. And, having made a pious confession of his readiness to

practise the duty, he next sets down the ground and matter of his

praise.

First. His works of power, in the creation and conservation of

the world, or the favours shown to the Church: "And these works of

the Lord are great." 1. Great, not only for variety and beauty,

but also in base creatures his wisdom is admirable, and to be

admired. 2. Great; for it was great to take to himself a people

out of another people, to make a covenant with them, and to reveal

his promises, and give them a law, to settle among them a policy

for Church and state. 3. Fools and impious men, indeed, but little

consider these works; they think not of their Author: but in the

eyes of all wise men "they are sought out," &c.

Secondly. His works of wisdom, in governing the creatures he has

created, and in guiding and collecting his Church. 1. It is

honourable; and much more so its Author. 2. And glorious; far

above the works of princes. 3. And righteous: "He is a righteous

God, and his righteousness endureth for ever." For he never

departs from the exact rule of justice.

Which record must be kept:-

"He hath made his wonderful works," &c. As in the Jewish hosts.

Thirdly. His works of mercy. They proceed from mere mercy: "For

the Lord is gracious," &c. 1. "Gracious," in doing these works. 2.

"Full of compassion," as a father towards his children.

Of these the prophet gives several instances:-

1. "He hath given meat," &c. He nourished his people for forty

years in the wilderness, giving them meat from heaven.

2. "He will ever be mindful," &c. Notwithstanding their

provocations.

3. "He hath showed his people," &c. As in the turning of Jordan

backwards, overthrowing Jericho, staying the sun and moon, &c.

4. "That he might give them," &c. By the expulsion of the

Canaanites: "The works of the Lord are great," &c.

He now uses an acclamation: "The works of his hands are,"-

1. Verity. Making good his promise to Abraham.

2. Judgment. Executed on idolaters and profane persons.

And shows unto all the world that,-

1. "All his commandments are sure." That his laws, especially

his moral laws, are of everlasting obligation on all.

2. That these commands "stand fast for ever;" for they are

established in truth, equity, justice, and reason.

The prophet next speaks of a mercy far exceeding all the rest,

the work of human redemption by Christ. This may be thus

expounded, and better than in reference to the redemption of

Israel out of Egypt.

1. "He sent redemption," &c. A Redeemer so long promised.

2. "He hath commanded his covenant," &c. Which is still extant.

III. The prophet, having enumerated many of God's works of

power, wisdom, and mercy, concludes the Psalm with three

acclamations.

"Holy and reverend," &c. Either in his service, or whenever he

is signified.

1. Holy-unpolluted by hypocrisy. The command is, "Be ye holy,

for I am holy."

2. Reverend-not rashly or negligently performed. Or, as some

read it, terrible; and it is a fearful thing to fall into the

hands of the living God.

The second acclamation follows upon the preceding:-

1. This fear "is the beginning of wisdom." For these men begin

to be wise; "to eschew evil, and do good."

2. This fear, if it be right, will be practical: "For a good

understanding," &c.

The third acclamation is, "His praise endureth for ever." Which

some refer to God, others to man; but both are true. For the

praise must continue for ever: "His power, mercy," &c.

If referred to man then the sense will be,-

1. "His praise." For "they that dwell in thy house," &c.,

Ps 84:4.

2. Or "His praise." The commendation of a good man "will be had

in everlasting remembrance," Ps 112:6. "The name of the wicked

shall rot," &c.; Pr 10:7. "Well done, thou good and faithful

servant," &c.; Mt 25:21. His praise is in this world lasting, but

in the world to come everlasting.

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