Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher - Works Upon This Psalm
TITLE. 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, Ps 111:1; and then proceeds to furnish us with matter for adoration in
God's works and his dealings with his people, Ps 111:2-9. He closes his song
with a commendation of the worship of the Lord, and of the men who practice it.
Verse 1. 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 Load 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
Verse 2. 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 handiwork, 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.
Verse 3. 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 all 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.
Verse 4. 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.
Verse 5. 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
earnest 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
Verse 6. 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.
Verse 7. 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 thing 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
Whatever the mighty Lord decrees,
Shall stand for ever sure.
The settled purpose of his heart
To ages shall endure.
Verse 8. They stand fast 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 till the end of time.
Verse 9. 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 redemption. 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 ecstasy 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
trifling matter, but for that very reason we would urge that the foolish custom
should be allowed to fall into disuse.
Verse 10. 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.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. This is the first alphabetical psalm which is
regular throughout. The four former alphabetical psalms, namely, 9 and 10, 34
and 37, 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 Psalms 111 and 112 perfectly
regular, but, furthermore, that not one various reading of note or importance
occurs in either of these psalms. --John Noble Coleman.
Whole Psalm. 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, 1
Before the congregation of the righteous; Deeds of
goodness are the deeds of Jehovah, 2
Earnestly desired of all them that have pleasure therein;
For his righteousness endureth for ever, 3
Glorious and honourable is his work; He hath made
his wonderful works to be remembered, 4
In Jehovah is compassion and goodness; Jehovah hath
given meat to them that fear him, 5
Keeping his covenant for ever, Learning his people
the power of his works, 6
Making them to possess the heritage of the heathen;
Nought save truth and equity are the works of his hands, 7
Ordered and sure are his commands, Planted fast for
ever and ever, 8
Righteous and true are his testimonies; Salvation
hath he sent unto his people, 9
Their covenant hath he made fast for ever; Upright
and holy is His name, 10
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.
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, Mt 26, that Christ and the
disciples sang a hymn before they went out into the garden. --Solomon
Whole Psalm. The two psalms, Psalm 111 and Psalm 112,
resemble one another in construction, alphabetical arrangement, and general tone
and manner. They are connected in this way: Psalm 111 sets forth the greatness,
mercy, and righteousness of God: Psalm 112 the reflection of these attributes in
the greatness, Ps 112:2, mercy, Ps 112:5, and righteousness, Ps 112:4,9, 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.
Whole Psalm. The scope of this Psalm is to stir up all 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 begins 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 insinuated thus much to us. --David Dickson.
Verse 1. 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.
Verse 1. 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 notes that he will do it openly.
Verse 1. 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 thy whole heart." And we have the result of
this determination in the following verses of the psalm. --Barton
Verse 1. 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.
Verse 2. 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
Verse 2. 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.
Verse 2. 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.
Verse 2. Great. The word lwdg (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.
Verse 2, 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
Verse 2. 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.
Verse 2. 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 the
mighty operations and the glorious majesty of thy kingdom." --Thomas Dick
(1772) in "The Sidereal Heavens."
Verse 2. 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
vrd; 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
Verse 2. 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
Verse 2-4. 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
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
Verse 3. 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 coeternal 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,"
Verse 4. He hath made his wonderful works to 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.
Verse 4. 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.
Verse 4. 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.
Verse 5. 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.
Verse 5. 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.
Verse 5. Meat. Literally, booty or spoil:the
spoil (Ex 12:36) brought by Israel out of Egypt, as God had engaged by
covenant to Abraham, Ge 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
"meat" in general, in Pr 31:15; Mal 3:10. --A. R. Fausset.
Verse 5. He hath given meat. I rather choose to render it
portion, in which sense it is taken in Pr 30:8 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.
Verse 5. 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 to 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.
Verse 6. 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.
Verse 6. 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.
Verse 6. 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.
Verse 6. 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 Zange's
Verse 7. The works of God expound his word, in his works his
word is often made visible. That's 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.
Verses 7-8. 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.
Verse 8. They stand fast for ever and ever. Mykwmo, 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
Verse 8. 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.
Verse 8. 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 of 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
Verse 8. Are done. Ps 111:7-8 contains a precious meaning
for the soul whose rest is in 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 of 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. --Arthur Pridham.
Verse 9. He sent redemption to his people. Once out of
Egypt, ever out of Satan's thraldom. --John Trapp.
Verse 9. 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.
Verse 10 (first clause). In this passage fear
is not to be understood as referring to the first or elementary principles of
piety, as in 1Jo 4:18, but is comprehensive of all true godliness, or the
worship of God. --John Calvin.
Verse 10. 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, Pr 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,
Pr 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.
Verse 10. 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, Ps 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 (Ps
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.
Verse 10. 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.
Verse 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 operatar
justitiam, 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
Verse 10. Can it then be said that the nonreligious 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 fellowmen, 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
recognize 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.
Verse 10. The beginning of wisdom. That is, the principle
whence it springs, and the fountain from which it flows. --William
Verse 10. 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
Verse 10. 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 or 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.
Verse 10. 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
Verse 10. 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
Verse 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 the 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,
"Ps 99:1 18:31 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 expounds 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 (Ps 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. Ps 112:6 --John
Verse 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.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Verse 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.
Verse 1. With my whole heart. This includes spirituality,
simplicity, and earnestness. --Joseph Irons.
1. Who are the upright?
2. What are they doing? Praising God.
3. What shall I do if I am favoured to stand among them? "I
will praise the Lord."
Verse 1. Where I love to be, and what I love to do.
Verse 2. The Christian philosopher.
1. His sphere: "The works of the Lord."
2. His work: "Sought out."
3. His qualification: "Pleasure therein."
4. His conclusion: "Praise, "as in Ps 111:1.
Verses 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.
Verse 3 (last clause). As an essential attribute, as
revealed in providence, as vindicated in redemption, as demonstrated in
punishment, as appropriated by believers.
Verse 4. The compassion of the Lord as seen in aiding the
memories of his people.
Verses 4-5. God's marvels ought not to be nine day wonders.
1. It is God's design that his wonders should be
(a) He made them great.
(b) He wrought them for an undeserving people.
(c) He wrought them at memorable times.
(d) He put them on record.
(e) He instituted memorials.
(f) He bade them tell their children.
(g) He so dealt with them as to refresh their memories.
2. It is our wisdom to remember the Lord's wonders.
a. To assure us of his compassion: "The Lord is gracious."
b. To make us consider his bounty: "he hath given meat."
c. To certify us of his faithfulness: "he will ever be mindful
of his covenant."
d. To arouse our praise: "Praise ye the Lord."
Verse 5. There is,
1. Encouragement from the past: "He hath given meat," etc.
2. Confidence for the future: "He will ever be mindful," etc.
Verse 6. The power of God an encouragement for the
evangelization of the heathen.
Verse 9. 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.
Verse 9. 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.
Verse 9. 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.
Verse 9. 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.
Verse 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.
Verse 9. Redemption.
1. Its author: "He sent."
2. Its objects: "Unto his people."
3. The pledge it gives us: "He hath commanded his covenant,
4. The praise it creates in us.
Verse 9. Holy and reverend.
1. The holiness of God the object of our reverence.
2. Such reverence has much useful influence over us.
3. It should always accompany our faith in redemption and
covenant. See preceding clauses of verse.
1. The beginner in Christ's school.
2. The man who has taken a degree: "a good understanding, "
3. The Master who receives the praise.
1. The beginning of wisdom: "The fear of the Lord" --God is
2. 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
3. Its end, praising God for ever: "his praise, "etc. --G.
WORKS UPON THE HUNDRED AND ELEVENTH PSALM
In the Works of John Boys, 1626, folio, pp. 841-845, there is a
short exposition of this psalm.
Jesus God and Man; an Exposition of Psalms 111 and 112. By
the Rev. James H. Vidal, M.A., Vicar of Chiddingley, Sussex. London: 1863