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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Psalms 111

Verses 1-10

The Beginning of Wisdom

Psalms 111:10

Are we as a people entering upon a period of physical and moral deterioration? It is a question which is vexing the minds of many. May it not be said that few lovers of their country can be wholly at their ease as they watch the streams of thought and habit and speech which seem to be carrying along with them the great masses of our people of every rank and class?

I. The Source of Strength. Have we as a people the moral stuff and strength with which we can venture to be what is called an imperial race. It is easy, of course, to talk in generalities. Do we not all agree in our heart of hearts that we stand as a people in grave need of a moral renovation, a strengthening of our moral fibre, and a raising of our moral idea? Now if this be so, what is to be the attitude of those who wish to be on the side of religion? We are not to bemoan these tendencies but to redeem them. It is the special duty of a religious man at the present moment to look round about and ask, What is it that I feel to be wrong in the tendencies of this people of which I am a part? and then to set himself, with serious prayer and self-discipline, to exhibit in his own life and extend by his own influences just those very primary moral qualities of which he feels that his kind is lacking.

II. The Lack of Reverence. If you were asked which of all these qualities is the one of which we stand most patiently in need, what would your answer be? I think there are many of you who would say, We stand most in need of the sense of reverence, the recognition of an excellence beyond and above ourselves which claims our homage and devotion. Now it is plain is it not? it is needless to labour the point, that there can be no great future for any nation which is lacking in the sense of reverence. In the case of the people, as in the case of men, we can only rise if we can dare to stoop; we can only rise in character if at some point we bow in reverence. It is forgetfulness of God that is accountable for the spread of impudence and irreverence. It is the fear of God that alone can restore it.

III. The Fear of God. So it is that the Bible lays down from beginning to end that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is not a slavish terror. It is merely a reverent and reasonable recollection of the claim and being of God.

IV. God as a Sovereign. In our hold of the Fatherhood of God let us not forget His sovereignty. Let us keep before us always this sense of the majesty and the mastery of God. And from this sense of reverence for God we shall draw a sense of reverence for the world in which he has placed us. We shall feel that it is after all the vestibule of a great Presence.

Archbishop Lang, Christian World Pulpit, vol. LXVII. p. 213.

References. CXI. 10. J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 177. CXI. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 382.

Heavenly Light in Earthly Darkness

Psalms 111:4

Everywhere the blessing is given on conditions. Men fail to receive because they refuse to meet the conditions laid down. Even grace can enter only the open heart and a free salvation can be gripped only by faith.

I. The man who in the text is promised light is the upright. He dares stand on his feet, does not cringe to the great, nor apologize to the foolish. With a clear conscience he can look the whole world in the face. He is upright. He does the right thing at any cost. We must admit that the hard and sometimes harsh theology of our fathers made strong men. I am afraid the softer theology of today has a tendency to make a race of weaklings. There seems to be nothing worth contending for. Even among Christians we have too much moral flabbiness and too little grit. True manliness is not all strength, but strength blended with grace. The good man is not only brave, but is also a gentleman.

II. Man's pain is never in vain. His sufferings are never for nothing. Man, to be man, must struggle, fight, and conquer. He must struggle on to even keep what he has, and if he wants more he can have it only in the sweat of his face. His very dinner is a victory over many opposing forces. His clothing is won in battle. The house in which he dwells is a conquest. All progress is through war and sacrifice. Those who oppose us teach us. A world without pain, without a trial, without a sorrow, would be a world without a hero, without a saint, without a martyr.

III. Nothing succeeds like failure. On noblest natures failure acts like a spur to greater efforts. Men are stung to victories. Out of failures they are made conquerors. For the upright there is light in the darkness itself. We sometimes think progress is slow and evil is strong, but amidst all the strifes and fightings we hear the voice of the all-conquering Christ saying: 'Lo, I come'. He is winning His kingdom, the kingdom of love and truth. He will not fail us nor fail any who trust Him. In this confidence let us face the future. The Lord's servants are not fighting a losing battle, for the battle is the Lord's, and our defeat would be His too. Our victory will be His also.

W. J. Evans, Homiletic Review, vol. LVI. p. 386.

Psalms 111:4

Speaking of the Irish problem in 1868, John Bright observed: 'It is a dark and heavy cloud, and its darkness extends over the feelings of men in all parts of the British Empire. But there is a consolation which we may all take to ourselves. An inspired king and bard and prophet has left us words which are not only the expression of a fact, but which we may take as the utterance of a prophecy. He says, "To the upright there ariseth light in the darkness". Let us try in this matter to be upright. Let us try to be just. That cloud will be dispelled.'

References. CXII. 4. E. Bersier, Sermons (2nd Series), pp. 273, 286. CXII. 6. W. F. Shaw, Sermon Sketches, p. 110. CXII. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 647. CXII. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 384. CXIII. Ibid. p. 387.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 111". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.