The Treasury of David, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, [1869-85], at sacred-texts.com
There is no title to this Psalm, but it is an alphabetical hymn of praise, having for its subject the works of the Lord in creation, providence, and grace. 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. Many are ignorant of what their Creator has done, and hence they are foolish in heart, and silent as to the praises of God: this evil can only be removed by a remembrance of God's works, and a diligent study of them; to this, therefore, the Psalm is meant to arouse us. It may be called The Psalm of God's Works intended to excite us to the work of praise.
Division. - The Psalmist begins with an invitation to praise, Psa 111:1; and then proceeds to furnish us with matter for adoration in God's works and his dealings with his people, Psa 111:2-9. He closes his song with a commendation of the worship of the Lord and of the men who practise it.
Hints to Preachers
Psa 111:1. - "Praise ye the Lord"; there is an exhortation. "I will praise the Lord;" there is a vow. It shall be "with my whole heart"; there is experimental godliness. It shall be "in the assembly of the upright"; there is a relative position occupied along with the family of God. - Joseph Irons.
Psa 111:1. - "With my whole heart." This includes spirituality, simplicity, and earnestness. - Joseph Irons.
Psa 111:1. -
I. Who are the upright?
II. What are they doing? Praising God.
III. What shall I do if I am favoured to stand among them? "I will praise the Lord."
Psa 111:1. - Where I love to be, and what I love to do.
Psa 111:2. - The Christian philosopher.
I. His sphere: "The works of the Lord."
II. His work: "Sought out."
III. His qualification: "Pleasure therein."
IV. His conclusion: "Praise," as in Psa 111:1.
Psa 111:2-9. - The Psalmist furnishes us with matter for praise from the works of God.
1. The greatness of his works and the glory of them.
2. The righteousness of them.
3. The goodness of them.
4. The power of them.
5. The conformity of them to his word of promise.
6. The perpetuity of them. - Matthew Henry.
Psa 111:3 (last clause). - As an essential attribute, as revealed in providence, as vindicated in redemption, as demonstrated in punishment, as appropriated by believers.
Psa 111:4. - The compassion of the Lord as seen in aiding the memories of his people.
Psa 111:4, Psa 111:5. - God's marvels ought not to be nine-day wonders.
I. It is God's design that his wonders should be remembered, therefore,
1. He made them great.
2. He wrought them for an undeserving people.
3. He wrought them at memorable times.
4. He put them on record.
5. He instituted memorials.
6. He bade them tell their children.
7. He so dealt with them as to refresh their memories.
II. It is our wisdom to remember the Lord's wonders.
1. To assure us of his compassion: "The Lord is gracious."
2. To make us consider his bounty: "he hath given meat."
3. To certify us of his faithfulness: "he will ever be mindful of his covenant."
4. To arouse our praise: "Praise ye the Lord."
Psa 111:5. - There is,
I. Encouragement from the past: "He hath given meat," etc.
II. Confidence for the future: "He will ever be mindful," etc.
- G. R.
Psa 111:6. - The power of God an encouragement for the evangelization of the heathen.
Psa 111:9. - Redemption. Conceived, arranged, executed, and applied by God. By price and by power. From sin and death. That we may be free, the Lord's own, the Lord's glory.
Psa 111:9. - Redemption.
I. Its author: "He sent."
II. Its objects: "Unto his people."
III. The pledge it gives us: "He hath commanded his covenant," etc.
IV. The praise it creates in us.
Psa 111:9. - "Holy and reverend."
I. The holiness of God the object of our reverence.
II. Such reverence has much useful influence over us.
III. It should always accompany our faith in redemption and covenant. See preceding clauses of verse.
Psa 111:10. -
I. The beginner in Christ's school.
II. The man who has taken a degree- "a good understanding," etc.
III. The Master who receives the praise.
Psa 111:10. -
I. The beginning of wisdom: "the fear of the Lord" - God is feared.
II. Its continuance: "a good understanding have all they that do his commandments" - when the fear of the Lord in the heart is developed in the life.
III. Its end, praising God for ever' "his praise," etc.
- G. R.
Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
This is the first alphabetical Psalm which is regular throughout. The four former alphabetical Psalms, namely, Psa 9:1 and Psa 10:1, Psa 34:1 and Psa 37:1, are irregular and defective in many particulars, for the rectification of which neither Hebrew MS. editions nor ancient versions afford sanction and authority. It is singular that not only are Psa 111:1-10 and Psa 112:1-10 perfectly regular, but, furthermore, that not one various reading of note or importance occurs in either of these Psalms. - John Noble Coleman.
The following translation is given to enable the reader to realize the alphabetical character of the Psalm. It is taken from "The Psalms Chronologically Arranged. By Four Friends."
All my heart shall praise Jehovah,
Before the congregation of the righteous; 1 Deeds of goodness are the deeds of Jehovah,
Earnestly desired of all them that have pleasure therein; 2 For his righteousness endureth for ever,
Glorious and honourable is his work; 3 He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered.
In Jehovah is compassion and goodness; 4 Jehovah hath given meat to them that fear him,
Keeping his covenant for ever, 5 Learning his people the power of his works,
Making them to possess the heritage of the heathen; 6 Nought save truth and equity are the works of his hands,
Ordered and sure are his commands, 7 Planted fast for ever and ever,
Righteous and true are his testimonies; 8 Salvation hath he sent unto his people,
Their covenant hath he made fast for ever; 9 Upright and holy is his name,
Verily, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
Yea, a good understanding have all they that do thereafter;
Zealously shall he be praised for ever. 10 Whole Psalm
The general opinion of interpreters is, that this and some of the following Psalms were usually sung at the eating of the Paschal lamb, of which custom mention is also made, Matt. 26, that Christ and the disciples sang a hymn before they went out into the garden. - Solomon Gesner.
The two Psalms, Psa 111:1 and Psa 112:1, resemble one another in construction, alphabetical arrangement, and general tone and manner. They are connected in this way: Psa 111:1-10 sets forth the greatness, mercy, and righteousness of God: Psa 112:1-10 the reflection of these attributes in the greatness, Psa 112:2, mercy, Psa 112:5, and righteousness, Psa 112:4, 19 112:9, of his chosen. The correspondence of purpose in the two Psalms is important to the right appreciation of some difficulties connected with the latter Psalm. - Speaker's Commentary.
The scope of this Psalm is to stir up an to praise God, and that for so many reasons as there are verses in the Psalm. The exhortation is in the first words, "Praise ye the Lord." The reasons follow in order. The Psalm is composed so after the order of the Hebrew alphabet, as every sentence or half verse beginneth with a several letter of the A B C in order, and all the Psalm is of praise only. Whence we learn in general,
1. Sometimes it is expedient to set all other things apart, and employ ourselves expressly to proclaim the praises of the Lord only; for so is done in this Psalm.
2. The praises of the Lord are able to fill all the letters and words composed of letters, in all their possible junctures of composition; for so much doth the going through all the letters of the A B C point out unto us, he is Alpha and Omega, and all the middle letters of the A B C of praise.
3. The praises of the Lord are worthy to be kept in memory: for that this Psalm may be the better remembered, it is composed after the manner of the A B C, and so it insinuateth thus much to us. - David Dickson.
"Praise ye the Lord," etc. The exhortation is immediately succeeded by the expression of a firm resolve; the Psalmist having commenced by urging the duty of gratitude upon others - "Praise ye the Lord," forthwith announces his determination to act upon his own advice - "I will praise the Lord with my whole heart." Such a conjunction of ideas is fraught with several most important lessons.
1. It teaches us, very emphatically, that our preaching, if it is to carry weight and conviction, must be backed and exemplified by our conduct; that we need never expect to persuade others by arguments which are too weak to influence ourselves.
2. Another inference is similarly suggested - that our own decision should be given without reference to the result of our appeal. The Psalmist did not wait to ascertain whether those whom he addressed would attend to his exhortation, but, before he could receive a reply, declared unhesitatingly the course he would himself adopt. - W. T. Maudson, in a Sermon on Thanksgiving, 1855.
"With my whole heart." That is, earnestly, and with a sincere affection; meaning also, that he would do it privately, and, as it were, within himself, as by the next words he noteth that he will do it openly. - Thomas Wilcocks.
"With my whole heart." We see the stress here laid upon a whole heart, and the want of which is the great canker of all vital godliness. Men are ever attempting to unite what the word of God has declared to be incapable of union-,the love of the world and of God - to give half their heart to the world, and the other half to God. Just see the energy, the entireness of every thought and feeling and effort which a man throws into a work in which he is deeply interested; the very phrase we use to describe such an one is, that "he gives his whole mind to it." Attempt to persuade him to divert his energies and divide his time with some other pursuit, and he would wonder at the folly and the ignorance that could suggest such a method of success. "Just take a hint from Satan," says some one; "see how he plies his powers on the individual, as if there were but that one, and as if he had nothing else to do but to ruin that one soul." It was a holy resolution of the Psalmist that he would praise God; and a wise one to add, "with my whole heart." And we have the result of this determination in the following verses of the Psalm. - Barton Bouchier.
Two words are used, "assembly" and "congregation." The former implies a more private meeting of worshippers, the latter the more public. The former may apply to the family circle of those who were celebrating the passover, the latter to the public worship connected with the feast. - W. Wilson.
"The works of the Lord are great." Their greatness is known from comparison with the works and powers of men, which, verily, die and perish quickly. We should, therefore, admire, fear, confide, obey. - Martin Geier.
"The works of the Lord are great," etc. Their greatness is equally manifest when we turn from the immensity to the variety of his works.... How great are the works of him who gives to every plant its leaf and flower and fruit; to every animal its faculties and functions; to every man his understanding, affections, and will. What an accumulative idea of the magnitude of his works do we gather from the innumerable multitudes and endless diversities of being called into existence by his powers. - Samuel Summers, 1837.
"The works of the Lord are great." The workman who never makes a small article, an inferior article, but makes all his articles both great and valuable, deserves much praise; and any one that will study God's works, which we think so little of by reason of their being so constantly before us, cannot fail to behold God's infinite power and wisdom in every one of them, even though he cannot comprehend them. - Robert Bellarmine.
"Great." The word גרול (gadol) "great," has in the Hebrew so extensive a range of meaning, that in the English there is no single substitute expressive enough to take its place. It denotes greatness and augmentation of various kinds. In this passage "the works of Jehovah" are described as greatly "magnified or augmented" in their influences and effects on the minds of men who behold them. The greatness ascribed to these works, is a greatness in number, in character, in dignity, in beauty, in variety, in riches. - Benjamin Weiss.
Psa 111:2, Psa 111:4
"Great ... sought out." "Remembered." The works of Jehovah surpass the reach of human discovery, but are yet searched and explored with delight by all the members of his church; for if they are too great to be understood, they are also too great to be forgotten. - Edward Garrard Marsh.
"Sought out." To see God in his creatures, and to love him and converse with him, was the employment of man in his upright state. This is so far from ceasing to be our duty, that it is the work of Christ, by faith, to bring us back to it; and therefore the most holy men are the most excellent students of God's works; and none but the holy can rightly study or know them. Your studies of physics and other sciences are not worth a rush, if it be not God by them that you seek after. To see and admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God appearing to us in his works, and purposely to peruse them for the knowledge of God; this is the true and only philosophy, and the contrary is mere foolery, and so called again and again by God himself. - Richard Baxter, 1615-1691.
It does not follow, that because the study of nature is now of itself an insufficient guide to the knowledge of the Creator and the enjoyment of eternal felicity, such studies are either to be thrown aside, or considered as of no importance in a religious point of view. To overlook the astonishing scene of the universe, or to view it with indifference, is virtually to "disregard the works of Jehovah, and to refuse to consider the operations of his hands." It is a violation of Christian duty, and implies a reflection on the character of the Deity, for any one to imagine that he has nothing to do with God considered as manifested in the immensity of his works; for his word is pointed and explicit in directing the mind to such contemplations. "Hearken unto this, stand still, and consider the wonderful works of God." "Lift up thine eye on high, and behold who hath created these orbs." "Remember that thou magnify his works which men behold." "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty! Thy saints shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom and talk of thy power, to make known to the sons of men thy mighty operations and the glorious majesty of thy kingdom." - Thomas Dick (1772 - ) in "The Sidereal Heavens."
"Sought out of all them that have pleasure therein." This is a true characteristic of the upright and pious. The works of God are said to be "sought out of them," when they regard them, call them to mind, and carefully, taking them one by one, investigate them; and at the same time explain them to others, and recount them: all which is included in the verb דרשׁ; for that verb, properly is "trivit" [to rub, beat, or bray] hence by thrashing and grinding he has investigated perfectly, and has rubbed out the kernel of it for the use and profit of another: whence it is used for concionari, etc. - Hermann Venema.
"Sought out,".... "have pleasure therein." Philosophy seeks truth, Theology finds it, but Religion possesses it. Human things must be known to be loved, but divine things must be loved to be known. - Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662.
"Sought out."...."The Lord is gracious and full of compassion." This is the grand discovery of all the searching, and therein lies the glory that is the conclusion of all. As in searching into any experiments in nature, there is an infinite pleasure that accompanies such a study to them that are addicted thereunto; so to him that hath pleasure in the works of God, and is addicted to spy out his kindness in them, there is nothing so pleasant as the discovery of new circumstances of mercy that render his work "glorious and honourable." Get, therefore, skill in his dealings with thee, and Study thy friend's carriage to thee. It is the end why he raised thee up, and admitted thee into friendship with him, to show his art of love and friendship to thee; to show, in a word, how well he could love thee. - Thomas Goodwin.
"His work is honourable and glorious." The first thing that we notice is, that whereas the preceding verse spoke of the Lord's "works" in the plural number, this speaks of his "work" in the singular number; it would seem as if the Psalmist, from the contemplation of the works of the Lord in general, was, as it were, irresistibly drawn away to the study of one work in particular; his mind and whole attention, so to speak, absorbed in that one work' a work so preeminently glorious and divine, that it eclipses, at least in his eyes, all the other works, although he has just said of them that they are great, and sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. "The works of the Lord are great. His work is honourable and glorious." My next remark is, that the words used in the original are different, and as the former more strictly signifies makings, or things made, so the word in this verse more properly imports a doing or a thing done, and this, perhaps, is not without its significance. It leads me to the inference, that from the contemplation of the great works of creation, God's makings, wonderful, and interesting, and useful as they are, the spiritual mind of God's servant rapidly passes to some greater deed which the Lord hath done, some more marvellous act which he has accomplished, and which he designates as an honourable and a glorious deed. Now, since I consider that he spoke before of Christ, as the visible and immediate agent in creation, without whom was not anything made that was made, can we hesitate long as to this greater work, the rather as to it is immediately subjoined the suggestive sentence, "And his righteousness endureth for ever." Is not this doing, the making an end of sin, and the bringing in of an everlasting righteousness? Is it not the great mystery, in which, as in creation, though the Eternal Father is the Fountain source, the Original Contriver, He, the co-eternal Son, is the Doer the Worker? Is it not, in short, salvation, the all-absorbing subject of God's people's wonder, love, and praise? - James H. Vidal, in "Jesus, God and Man," 1863.
"He hath made his wonderful works lo be remembered." The memorials of the Divine benefits are always valued greatly by a grateful heart, as making present with us the things which transpired ages before' such under the Old Testament was the sacrament of the paschal Lamb; but now the sacred Supper under the New Testament. Therefore, whatever recalls the Divine works to the memory, e.g. the ministry of the church, also the Sacred Scriptures, are worthy of the highest reverence. - Martin Geier.
The sweet spices of divine works must be beaten to powder by meditation, and then laid up in the cabinet of our memories. Therefore, says the Psalmist here, "God hath made his wonderful works to be remembered"; he gives us the jewels of deliverance, not (because of the commonness of them) to wear them on our shoes, as the Romans did their pearls; much less to tread them under our feet; but rather to tie them as a chain about our necks. The impression of God's marvellous acts upon us must not be like that which the stone makes in the water, raising circles, beating one wave on another, and for a time making a noise, but soon after it sinks down, and the water returneth to its former smoothness; and so we, while judgment is fresh, are apt to publish it from man to man, but soon after we let it sink into the depth of oblivion, and we return to our old sins. - Abraham Wright.
"Made his wonderful works to be remembered." The most amazing perverseness in man is proven by the fact that he does not remember what God has so arranged that it would seem impossible that it should be forgotten. - William S. Plumer.
For wonderful indeed are all his works,
Pleasant to know and worthiest to be all
Had in remembrance always with delight.
- John Milton.
The first hemistich is the consequence of what is stated in the second, i.e., because God remembered his covenant, therefore he gave food to them who fear him. - George Phillips.
"He hath given meat," etc. The "meat" here mentioned is supposed to respect the paschal lamb, when they were to remember the works of God. - Thomas Manton.
"Meat." Literally, booty or spoil' the spoil (Exo 12:36) brought by Israel out of Egypt, as God had engaged by "covenant" to Abraham, Gen 15:14, "They shall come out with great substance" (Kimchi). Rather the manna and quails, which to the hungry people were like a booty thrown in their way. The word is used for "meal" in general, in Pro 31:15; Mal 3:10. - A. R. Fausset.
"He hath given meal." I rather choose to render it portion, in which sense it is taken in Pro 30:8, and Pro 31:15; as if he should say, that God has given his people all that 'was needful, and that, considered as a portion, it was large and liberal; for we know that the people of Israel were enriched, not in consequence of their own industry, but by the blessing of God, who, like the father of a family, bestows upon his household everything necessary for their subsistence. In the following clause of the verse, he assigns as the reason for his care and kindness his desire of effectually demonstrating that his covenant was not null and void. - John Calvin.
"He will ever be mindful of his covenant." This clause would seem to be introduced parenthetically - a passing thought, a happy thought, presenting itself spontaneously t the Psalmist's mind, and immediately expressed with his lips. It will be observed it is in the future tense, while all the other clauses are in the past - "He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered"; "He hath given meat unto them that fear him"; "He will ever be mindful of his covenant"; not he hath ever been. Dwelling on these past favours of God to Israel, it is his joy to think that they were but partial fulfilments of a covenant promise, which still remained, and in its highest sense should remain for ever; and that covenant itself the memorial or type of the better, the spiritual covenant, the gospel. So out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh, and he celebrates God's promised truth to Israel as the memorial and pledge of his eternal faithfulness to the New Testament Israel, his blood-ransomed church. - James H. Vidal.
"He hath shewed his people," etc. The Prophet indicates the unbelief of the Jews, who murmured against God in the desert, as if he could not enable them to enter into the promised land, and possess it, because the cities were walled, and the inhabitants strong, and giants dwelt in it. "He shewed," he says, i.e., he placed before their eyes, "the power of His works," when he gave the lands of the heathen to be inhabited by his own people. - Wolfgang Musculus.
"He hath shewed his people the power of his works." So he hath showed his works of power to his people in Gospel times, as the miracles of Christ, his resurrection from the dead, redemption by him, and the work of grace on the hearts of men in all ages. - John Gill.
"He hath shewed his people," etc. To them it is given to see, but not to others who are delivered up to a judicial blindness. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." Jer 33:3. - John Trapp.
"To give them the heritage of the heathen." The heathen themselves are bequeathed to God's people, and they must take possession of this inheritance to draw them to themselves. - Richter, in Lange's Commentary.
The works of God expound his word, in his works his word is often made visible. That is an excellent expression, "The works of his hands are verity and judgment." The acts of God are verity, that is. God acts his own truths. As the works of our hands ought to be the verity and judgments of God, (every action of a Christian ought to be one of Christ's truths), so it is with God himself; the works of his hands are his own verity and judgments. When we cannot find the meaning of God in his word, we may find it in his works: his works are a comment an infallible comment upon his word. - Joseph Caryl.
Psa 111:7, Psa 111:8
God is known to be faithful and just both in his works and in his word, insomuch that the. most beautiful harmony is apparent between the things he has spoken and those he has done. This wonderfully confirms the hope and faith of the godly. - Mollerus.
"They stand fast for ever and ever." סמוּכים, 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. - Adam Clarke.
"They stand fast," are established, "for ever and ever," etc. This verse seems to have reference to the works of God mentioned in the former. His doings were not the demand of an occasion, they were in unison with a great and extensive purpose, with respect to the people of Israel and the Messiah. Not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law of his mouth, till all be fulfilled. - W. Wilson.
"They are done in truth." It is impossible that any better way should be directed, than that which the Lord useth in the disposal of all things here below, for all the works of the Lord are done in truth. As the word of God is a word of truth, so all his works are works of truth; for his works are nothing else but the making good of his word, and they are answerable to a threefold word of his. First, to his word of prophecy. Whatsoever changes God makes in the world, they hit some word of prophecy. Secondly, the works of God are answerable to his word for threatening. God threatens before he smites, and he never smote any man with a rod or sword, but according to his threatening. Thirdly, the works of God are answerable to his word of promise. All mercies are promised, and every work of mercy is the fulfilling of some promise. Now seeing all the works of God are reducible, either to prophecies, threatenings, or promises; they "are done in truth"; and what can be better done than that which is done in truth? The Jewish doctors observe, that the word emeth here used for truth, consists of aleph, the first letter of the alphabet, mem, the middle letter thereof, and tau, the last; to shew, that as God is alpha and omega, so the truth of God is the all in all of our comfort. Grace and truth by Christ is the sum of all the good news in the world. - Abraham Wright.
"Are done." Psa 111:7 and Psa 111:8 contain a precious meaning for the soul whose rest is the finished work of Christ. Jehovah has commanded, giving it in trust to Jesus to make sure, in perfect obedience, the word of truth and holiness. The commandment therefore has been "done." It has been done "in truth and uprightness" by him whose meat it was to do it; who willingly received it with a knowledge of its end, and in whose accomplishment of it the believing sinner finds his assurance and eternal peace. Joh 12:50. Jesus held the law within his heart, to keep it there for ever. As the fulfiller in truth of the commandment, he has become its end for righteousness to every believer in his name. - Arthtur Pridham.
"He sent redemption to his people." Once out of Egypt, ever out of Satan's thraldom. - John Trapp.
"Sent redemption" .... "commanded his covenant." The deliverance was the more thankworthy, as being upon a covenant account; for thus every mercy is a token of the Lord's favour to his favourite: it is this which makes common mercies to become special mercies. Carnal men, so that they enjoy mercies, they mind not which way they come in, so as they can but have them; but a child of God knows that everything that comes through the Redeemer's hands and by his covenant is the better for it, and tastes the sweeter by far. - William Cooper, in the Morning Exercises.
"Redemption." Praise our Triune Jehovah for his redemption. Write it down where you may read it. Affix it where you may see it. Engrave it on your heart that you may understand it. It is a word big with importance. In it is enfolded your destinies and those of the Church, to all future ages. There are heights in it you never can have scaled, and depths you never can have fathomed. You have never taken the wings of the morning, and gained the utmost parts of earth, to measure the length and breadth of it. Wear it as a seal on your arm, as a signet on your right hand, for Jesus is the author of it. O! prize it as a precious stone, more precious than rubies.... Let it express your best hopes while living, and dwell on your trembling lips in the moment of dissolution; for it shall form the chorus of the song of the redeemed throughout eternity. - Isaac Saunders, 1818.
"He hath commanded his covenant for ever." As he covenanted, so he looketh that his covenants should be respected, which are as binding to us. as his covenant is to him; and, through grace, his covenant is as binding to him, as those are to us. - John Trapp.
"Holy and reverend, or, terrible, is his name." "Holy is his name," and therefore "terrible" to those who, under all the means of grace, continue unholy. - George Horne.
"Holy and reverend is his name." Which therefore we should not presume on a sudden to blurt out. The Jews would not pronounce it. The Grecians (as Suidas observeth), when they would swear by their Jupiter, forbare to mention him. This should act as a check to the profaneness common amongst us. Let those that would have their name reverend, labour to be holy as God is holy. - John Trapp.
Psa 111:10 (first clause)
In this passage "fear" is not to be understood as referring to the first or elementary principles of piety, as in Jo1 4:18, but is comprehensive of all true godliness, or the worship of God. - John Calvin.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," etc. The text shows us the first step to true wisdom, and the test of common sense. It is so frequently repeated, that it may pass for a Scripture maxim, and we may be sure it is of singular importance. Job starts the question, "Where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?" He searches nature through in quest of it, but cannot find it: he cannot purchase it with the gold of Ophir, and its price is above rubies. At length he recollects the primitive instruction of God to man, and there he finds it: "To man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." - Job 28:28. Solomon, the wisest of men, begins his Proverbs with this maxim, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," Pro 1:7. And he repeats it again: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy," (the knowledge of those that may be called saints with a sneer), "is understanding," Pro 9:10. "The fear of the Lord" in Scripture signifies not only that pious passion or filial reverence of our adorable Father who is in heaven, but it is frequently put for the whole of practical religion; hence it is explained in the last part of the verse by "doing his commandments." The fear of the Lord, in this latitude, implies all the graces and all the virtues of Christianity; in short, all that holiness of heart and life which is necessary to the enjoyment of everlasting happiness. So that the sense of the text is this: To practise religion and virtue, to take that way which leads to everlasting happiness, is wisdom, true wisdom, the beginning of wisdom, the first step towards it: unless you begin here you can never attain it; all your wisdom without this does not deserve the name; it is madness and nonsense. "To do his commandments" is the best test of a "good understanding" : a "good" sound "understanding" have "all they" that do this, "all" of them without exception: however weak some of them may be in other things, they are wise in the most important respect; but without this, however cunning they are in other things, they have lost their understandings; they contradict common sense; they are beside themselves. In short, to pursue everlasting happiness as the end, in the way of holiness as the mean, this is "wisdom," this is common sense, and there can be none without this. - Samuel Davies, A.M. (1724-1761)President of Princeton College, New Jersey.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Now, then, I demand of the worldling what is the most high and deep point of wisdom? Is it to get an opulent fortune, to be so wise as fifty thousand pounds? Behold, "godliness is great gain," saith Paul, and the Christian only rich, quoth the renowned catechist [Clement] of Alexandria. Is it to live joyfully, (or to use the gallant's phrase) jovially? Behold, there is joyful gladness for such as are true hearted, Psa 97:11. A wicked man in his mad-merry humour for a while may be Pomponius Laetus, but a good man only is Hilarius; only he which is faithful in heart is joyful in heart. Is it to get honour? the praise of God's fear (saith our text) endures for ever. Many worthies of the world are most unhappy, because they be commended where they be not, and tormented where they be; hell rings of their pains, earth of their praise; but "blessed is the man that feareth the Lord" (Psa 112:1), for his commendation is both here lasting, and hereafter everlasting; in this world he is renowned among men, in the next he shall be rewarded amongst saints and angels in the kingdom of glory. - John Boys.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." It is not only the beginning of wisdom, but the middle and the end. It is indeed the Alpha and Omega, the essence, the body and the soul, the sum and substance. He that hath the fear of God is truly wise.... It is surely wisdom to love that which is most lovable, and to occupy our hearts with that which is most worthy of our attachment, and the most capable of satisfying us. - From the French of Daniel de Superville, 1700.
Psa 111:10 (first clause)
Fear is not all then; no, for it is but the beginning. God will have us begin, but not end there. We have begun with qui timet Eum, "who fears him;" we must end with et operatur jutitiam, "and does justice," and then comes acceptus est Illi, and not before. For neither fear, if it be fear alone; nor faith, if it be faith alone, is accepted of Him. If it be true fear, if such as God will accept, it is not timor piger, "a dull lazy fear"; his fear that feared his lord and "went and digged his talent into the ground," and did nothing with it. Away with his fear and him "into outer darkness." - Lancelot Andrewes.
Can it then be said that the non-religious world is without wisdom? Has it no Aristotle, no Socrates, no Tacitus, no Goethe, no Gibbon? Let us understand what wisdom is. It is not any mere amount of knowledge that constitutes wisdom. Appropriate knowledge is essential to wisdom. A man who has not the knowledge appropriate to his position, who does not know himself in his relation to God and to his fellow-men, who is misinformed as to his duties, his dangers, his necessities, though he may have written innumerable works of a most exalted character, yet is he to be set down as a man without wisdom. What is it to you that your servant is acquainted with mathematics, if he is ignorant of your will, and of the way to do it? The genius of a Voltaire, a Spinoza, a Byron, only makes their folly the more striking. As though a man floating rapidly onwards to the falls of Niagara, should occupy himself in drawing a very admirable picture of the scenery. Men who are exceedingly great in the world's estimation have made the most signal blunders with regard to the most important things; and it is only because these things are not considered important by the world, that the reputation of these men remains.
If you have learned to estimate things in some measure as God estimates them, to desire what he offers, to relinquish what he forbids, and to recognise the duties that he has appointed you, you are in the path of wisdom, and the great men we have been speaking about are far behind you - far from the narrow gate which you have entered. He only is wise, who can call Christ the wisdom of God. - George Bowen.
"The beginning of wisdom." That is, the principle whence it springs, and the fountain from which it flows. - William Walford.
As there are degrees of wisdom, so of the fear of the Lord; but there is no degree of this fear so inferior or low, but it is a beginning, at least, of wisdom; and there is no degree of wisdom so high or perfect, but it hath its root in, or beginning, from this fear. - Joseph Caryl.
"Beginning of wisdom." The word translated beginning is of uncertain sense. It may signify the first in time only, and so the rudiments, first foundation, or groundwork, and so though the most necessary, yet the most imperfect part of the work. And if it should thus be understood here and in other places, the sense would be no more but this, that there were no true wisdom, which had not its foundation in piety and fear of God. But the word signifies the first in dignity as well as in order of time, and is frequently used for the chief or principal of any kind.... And thus it is to be understood here, that "the fear of the Lord" (which signifies all piety) is the principal or chief of wisdom, as sapientia prima in Horace is the principal or most excellent wisdom; according to that of Job 28:28 : "Unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding," that, by way of eminence, the most excellent wisdom and understanding. - Henry Hammond.
"A good understanding have all they that do his commandments." They which do the commandments have a good understanding; not they which speak of the commandments, nor they which write of the commandments, nor they which preach of the commandments, but they which do the commandments, have a good understanding. The rest have a false understanding, a vain understanding, an understanding like that of the scribes and pharisees, which was enough to condemn them, but not to save them. - Henry Smith.
"A good understanding have all they that do," etc. So much a man knoweth in true account, as he doth; hence understanding is here ascribed to the will; so Job 28:28. Some render it good success. - John Trapp.
Psa 111:10 (last clause)
"The praise of it endures for ever"; or as other translations, "his praise"; referring it either to God, or else to the man who fears God. Some divines ascribe this praise to God alone, because tehilla properly signifieth only that kind of praise which is due to God; and so they make this clause to contain both a precept and a promise. Precept, exhorting us to praise God with all our heart, both in the secret assemblies of the faithful and in the public congregation. And lest any man in executing this office should be discouraged, the prophet addeth a promise, "God's praise doth endure for ever"; as if he should have said, "The Lord is King, be tile people never so impatient; the Lord is God, albeit the Gentiles furiously rage together, and the Jews imagine a vain thing; the kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers combine themselves against him," Psa 99:1; Psa 18:31; Psa 2:1. He that dwelleth in heaven hath all his enemies in derision, and makes them all his footstool; his power is for ever, and so consequently his praise shall endure for ever; in the militant church, unto the world's end; in the triumphant, world without end.
Most interpreters have referred this unto the good man who fears the Lord, yet diversely. S; Augustine expoundeth it thus, "his praise," that is, his praising of the Lord, "shall endure for ever," because he shall be one of them of whom it is said (Psa 84:4) "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee." Others understand by "his praise" the commendation of the good man, both in the life present and in that which is to come, for his righteousness shall be had in an everlasting remembrance. Psa 112:6. - John Boys.
Psa 111:10 (second clause)
Where the fear of the Lord rules in the heart, there will be a constant conscientious care to keep his commandments: not to talk them, but to do them; and such "have a good understanding," i.e., First, They are well understood, their obedience is graciously accepted as a plain indication of their mind, that they do indeed fear God. Secondly, They understand well.
1. It is a sign they do understand well' the most obedient are accepted as the most intelligent. They are wise that make God's law their rule, and are in everything ruled by it.
2. It is the way to understand better. "A good understanding are they to all that do them"; i.e., the fear of the Lord, and the laws of God give men a good understanding, and are able to make them wise unto salvation. - Condensed from Matthew Henry.
1 Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.
"Praise ye the Lord," or, Hallelujah! All ye his saints unite in adoring Jehovah, who worketh so gloriously. Do it now, do it always: do it heartily, do it unanimously, do it eternally. Even if others refuse, take care that ye have always a song for your God. Put away all doubt, question, murmuring, and rebellion, and give yourselves up to the praising of Jehovah, both with your lips and in your lives. "I will praise the Lord with my whole heart." The sweet singer commences the song, for his heart is all on flame: whether others will follow him or not, he will at once begin and long continue. What we preach we should practise. The best way to enforce an exhortation is to set an example; but we must let that example be of the best kind, or we may lead others to do the work in a limping manner. David brought nothing less than his whole heart to the duty; all his love went out towards God, and all his zeal, his skill, and his ardour went with it. Jehovah the one and undivided God cannot be acceptably praised with a divided heart, neither should we attempt so to dishonour him; for our whole heart is little enough for his glory, and there can be no reason why it should not all be lifted up in his praise. All his works are praiseworthy, and therefore all our nature should adore him. "In the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation"; - whether with few or with many he would pour forth his whole heart and soul in praise, and whether the company was made up of select spirits or of the general mass of the people he would continue in the same exercise. For the choicest society there can be no better engagement than praise, and for the general assembly nothing can be more fitting. For the church and for the congregation, for the family or the community, for the private chamber of pious friendship, or the great hall of popular meeting, the praise of the Lord is suitable; and at the very least the true heart should sing hallelujah in any and every place. Why should we fear the presence of men? The best of men will join us in our song, and if the common sort, will not do so, our example will be a needed rebuke to them. In any case let us praise God, whether the hearers be a little band of saints or a mixed multitude. Come, dear reader, he who pens this comment is in his heart magnifying the Lord: will you not pause for a moment and join in the delightful exercise?
2 The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
3 His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
4 He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
5 He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant.
6 He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.
7 The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments, are sure.
8 They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.
"The works of the Lord are great." In design, in size, in number, in excellence, all the works of the Lord are great. Even the little things of God are great. In some point of view or other each one of the productions of his power, or the deeds of his wisdom, will appear to be great to the wise in heart. "Sought out of all them that have pleasure therein." Those who love their Maker delight in his handiworks, they perceive that there is more in them than appears upon the surface, and therefore they bend their minds to study and understand them. The devout naturalist ransacks nature, the earnest student of history pries into hidden facts and dark stories, and the man of God digs into the mines of Scripture, and hoards up each grain of its golden truth. God's works are worthy of our researches, they yield us instruction and pleasure wonderfully blended, and they grow upon, appearing to be far greater, after investigation than before. Men's works are noble from a distance; God's works are great when sought out. Delitzsch reads the passage, "Worthy of being sought after in all their purposes," and this also is a grand truth, for the end and design which God hath in all that he makes or does is equally admirable with the work itself. 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. Because the works are great they cannot be seen all at once, but must be looked into with care, and this seeking out is of essential service to us by educating our faculties, and strengthening our spiritual eye gradually to bear the light of the divine glory. It is well for us that all things cannot be seen at a glance, for the search into their mysteries is as useful to us as the knowledge which we thereby attain. The history of the Lord's dealings with his people is especially a fit subject for the meditation of reverent minds who find therein a sweet solace, and a never failing source of delight.
"His work is honourable and glorious." His one special work, the salvation of his people, is here mentioned as distinguished from his many other works. This reflects honour and glory upon him. It is deservedly the theme of the highest praise, and compels those who understand it and experience it to ascribe all honour and glory unto the Lord. Its conception, its sure foundations, its gracious purpose, its wise arrangements, its gift of Jesus as Redeemer, its application of redemption by the Holy Ghost in regeneration and sanctification, and all else which make up the one glorious whole, all redound to the infinite honour of Him who contrived and carried out so astounding a method of salvation. No other work can be compared with it: it honours both the Saviour and the saved, and while it brings glory to God it also brings us to glory. There is none like the God of Jeshurun, and there is no salvation like that which he has wrought for his people. "And his righteousness endureth for ever." In the work of grace righteousness is not forgotten, nor deprived of its glory; rather, it is honoured in the eyes of the intelligent universe. The bearing of guilt by our great Substitute proved that not even to effect the purposes of his grace would the Lord forget his righteousness; no future strain upon his justice can ever be equal to that which it has already sustained in the bruising of his dear Son; it must henceforth assuredly endure for ever. Moreover, the righteousness of God in the whole plan can never now be suspected of failure, for an that it requires is already performed, its demands are satisfied by the double deed of our Lord in enduring the vengeance due, and in rendering perfect obedience to the law. Caprice does not enter into the government of the Lord, the rectitude of it is and must for ever be beyond all question. In no single deed of God can unrighteousness be found, nor shall there ever be: this is the very glory of his work, and even its adversaries cannot gainsay it. Let believers. therefore, praise him evermore, and never blush to speak of that work which is so honourable and glorious.
"He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered." He meant them to remain in the recollection of his people, and they do so: partly because they are in themselves memorable, and because also he has taken care to record them by the pen of inspiration, and has written them upon the hearts of his people by his Holy Spirit. By the ordinances of the Mosaic law, the coming out of Egypt, the sojourn in the wilderness, and other memorabilia of Israel's history were constantly brought before the minds of the people, and their children were by such means instructed in the wonders which God had wrought in old time. Deeds such as God has wrought are not to be admired for an hour and then forgotten, they are meant to be perpetual signs and instructive tokens to all coming generations; and especially are they designed to confirm the faith of his people in the divine love, and to make them know that "the Lord is gracious and full of compassion." They need not fear to trust his grace for the future, for they remember it in the past. Grace is as conspicuous as righteousness in the great work of God, yea, a fulness of tender love is seen in all that he has done. He treats his people with great consideration for their weakness and infirmity; having the same pity for them as a father hath towards his children. Should we not praise him for this? A silver thread of lovingkindness runs through the entire fabric of God's work of salvation and providence, and never once is it left out in the whole piece. Let the memories of his saints bear witness to this fact with grateful joy.
"He hath given meat unto them that fear him." Or spoil, as some read it, for the Lord's people both in coming out of Egypt and at other times have been enriched from their enemies. Not only in the wilderness with manna, but everywhere else by his providence he has supplied the necessities of his believing people. Somewhere or other they have had food convenient for them, and that in times of great scarcity. As for spiritual meat, that has been plentifully furnished them in Christ Jesus; they have been fed with the finest of the wheat, and made to feast on royal dainties. His word is as nourishing to the soul as bread to the body, and there is such an abundance of it that no heir of heaven shall ever be famished. Truly the fear of the Lord is wisdom, since it secures to a man the supply of all that he needs for soul and body. "He will ever be mindful of his covenant." He could not let his people lack meat, because he was in covenant with them, and they can never want in the future, for he will continue to act upon the terms of that covenant. No promise of the Lord shall fall to the ground, nor will any part of the great compact of eternal love be revoked or allowed to sink into oblivion. The covenant of grace is the plan of the great work which the Lord works out for his people, and it will never be departed from: the Lord has set his hand and seal to it, his glory and honour are involved in it, yea, his very name hangs upon it, and he will not even in the least jot or tittle cease to be mindful of it. Of this the feeding of his people is the pledge: he would not so continually supply their needs if he meant after all to destroy them. Upon this most blessed era nest let us settle our minds; let us rest in the faithfulness of the Lord, and praise him with all our hearts every time that we eat bread or feed upon his word.
"He hath shewed his people the power of his works." They have seen what he is able to do and what force he is prepared to put forth on their behalf. This power Israel saw in physical works, and we in spiritual wonders, for we behold the matchless energy of the Holy Ghost and feel it in our own souls. In times of dire distress the Lord has put forth such energy of grace that we have been astonished at his power; and this was part of his intent in bringing us into such conditions that he might reveal to us the arm of his strength. Could we ever have known it so well if we had not been in pressing need of his help? We may well turn this verse into a prayer and ask to see more and more the power of the Lord at work among us in these latter days. O Lord, let us now see how mightily thou canst work in the saving of sinners and in preserving and delivering thine own people. "That he may give them the heritage of the heathen." He put forth all his power to drive out the Canaanites and bring in his people. Even thus may it please his infinite wisdom to give to his church the heathen for her inheritance in the name of Jesus. Nothing but great power can effect this, but it will surely be accomplished in due season.
"The works of his hands are verity and judgment." Truth and justice are conspicuous in all that Jehovah does. Nothing like artifice or crooked policy can ever be seen in his proceedings; he acts faithfully and righteously towards his people, and with justice and impartiality to all mankind. 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." All that he has appointed or decreed shall surely stand, and his precepts which he has proclaimed shall be found worthy of our obedience, for surely they are founded in justice and are meant for our lasting good. He is no fickle despot, commanding one tiling one day and another another, but his commands remain absolutely unaltered, their necessity equally unquestionable, their excellence permanently proven, and their reward eternally secure. Take the word commandments to relate either to his decrees or his precepts, and we have in each case an important sense; but it seems more in accordance with the connection to take the first sense and consider the words to refer to the ordinances, appointments, or decrees of the great King.
"Whate'er the mighty Lord decrees,
Shall stand for ever sure,
The settled purpose of his heart
To ages shall endure."
"They stand last for ever and ever." That is to say, his purposes, commands, and courses of action. The Lord is not swayed by transient motives, or moved by the circumstances of the hour; immutable principles rule in the courts of Jehovah, and he pursues his eternal purposes without the shadow of a turning. Our works are too often as wood, hay, and stubble, but his doings are as gold, silver, and precious stones. We take up a purpose for a while and then exchange it for another, but he is of one mind, and none can turn him' he acts in eternity and for eternity, and hence what he works abides for ever. Much of this lasting character arises out of the fact which is next mentioned, namely, that they "are done in truth and uprightness." Nothing stands but that which is upright. Falsehood soon vanishes, for it is a mere show, but truth has salt in it which preserves it from decay. God always acts according to the glorious principles of truth and integrity, and hence there is no need of alteration or revocation; his works will endure to the end of time.
"He sent redemption unto his people." When they were in Egypt he sent not only a deliverer, but an actual deliverance; not only a redeemer, but complete redemptions. He has done the like spiritually for all his people, having first by blood purchased them out of the hand of the enemy, and then by power rescued them from the bondage of their sins. Redemption we can sing of, as an accomplished act' it has been wrought for us, sent to us, and enjoyed by us, and we are in very deed the Lord's redeemed. "He hath commanded his covenant for ever." His divine decree has made the covenant of his grace a settled and eternal institution: redemption by blood proves that the covenant cannot be altered, for it ratifies and establishes it beyond all recall. This, too, is reason for the loudest praise. Redemption is a fit theme for the heartiest music, and when it is seen to be connected with gracious engagements from which the Lord's truth cannot swerve, it becomes a subject fitted to arouse the soul to an ecstacy of gratitude. Redemption and the covenant are enough to make the tongue of the dumb sing. "Holy and reverend is his name." Well may he say this. The whole name or character of God is worthy of profoundest awe, for it is perfect and complete, whole or holy. It ought not to be spoken without solemn thought, and never heard without profound homage. His name is to be trembled at, it is something terrible; even those who know him best rejoice with trembling before him. How good men can endure to be called "reverend" we know not. Being unable to discover any reason why our fellow-men should reverence us, we half suspect that in other men there is not very much which can entitle them to be called reverend, very reverend, right reverend, and so on. It may seem a trilling matter, but for that very reason we would urge that the foolish custom should be allowed to fall into disuse.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." It is its first principle, but it is also its head and chief attainment. The word "beginning" in Scripture sometimes means the chief; and true religion is at once the first element of wisdom, and its chief fruit. To know God so as to walk aright before him is the greatest of all the applied sciences. Holy reverence of God leads us to praise him, and this is the point which the psalm drives at, for it is a wise act on the part of a creature towards his Creator. "A good understanding have all they that do his commandments." Obedience to God proves that our judgment is sound. Why should he not be obeyed? Does not reason itself claim obedience for the Lord of all? Only a man void of understanding will ever justify rebellion against the holy God. Practical godliness is the test of wisdom. Men may know and be very orthodox, they may talk and be very eloquent, they may speculate and be very profound; but the best proof of their intelligence must be found in their actually doing the will of the Lord. The former part of the Psalm taught us the doctrine of God's nature and character, by describing his works: the second part supplies the practical lesson by drawing the inference that to worship and obey him is the dictate of true wisdom. We joyfully own that it is so. "His praise endureth for ever." The praises of God will never cease, because his works will always excite adoration, and it will always be the wisdom of men to extol their glorious Lord. Some regard this sentence as referring to those who fear the Lord - their praise shall endure for ever: and, indeed, it is true that those who lead obedient lives shall obtain honour of the Lord, and commendations which will abide for ever. A word of approbation from the mouth of God will be a mede of honour which will outshine all the decorations which kings and emperors can bestow.
Lord, help us to study thy works, and henceforth to breathe out hallelujahs as long as we live.