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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 111

Verses 1-10

Psalms 111:1-10

Praise ye the Lord.

I will praise the Lord with my whole heart.

The highest work of mankind--praising God

A noble resolution for this highest work.

1. Thoroughness. “With my whole heart.”

(1) Without this thoroughness it would be unacceptable to God. “He abhors the sacrifice where not the heart is found.”

(2) Without this thoroughness it will yield no happiness to ourselves.

(3) Without this thoroughness it will not be continuous, but broken, desultory, and worthless.

2. Publicity. Man has to do with society, he lives in society, and by it; and if he is thorough, worship will come out in every conversation, in every act, in the sublimity of the look, in the dignity of gait.

A mighty argument for this highest work. Founded upon--

1. The works of God.

(1) They are here spoken of generally. His works, whether of creation, government, or redemption, whether in connection with matter or mind, are in every sense great, infinitely great in number, variety, and perfection. It is here implied, however, that their greatness is only seen by those who search for them, “sought out.” Their greatness is not in their bulk, their form, their colour, but in their essence, their plan, their uses, their relations, their bearings, etc. That those only search into them who have pleasure in them. A man must be interested in the works of God before he will study them. And to be interested in them he must love their Author. Hence piety is the spring of true philosophy.

(2) They are spoken of specifically. His works are grand. Whatever He does in nature is worthy of Himself, who Himself is “clothed with honour and majesty” (Psalms 104:1). Wonderful. Can the greatest created intellect in the universe comprehend all concerning what appears to be the most insignificant work of God? Memorable. Can anything impress the human soul like the worlds of God? Beneficent (verse 5). Truthful (verse 7).

2. The character of God.

(1) His rectitude (verse 3).

(2) His mercifulness (verse 4).

(3) His faithfulness (verses 5, 7).

An essential qualification for this highest work (verse 10).

1. This “fear of the Lord,” or piety, is the commencement of wisdom. He who has not a reverential love for God has not learnt the first lessons of true wisdom. True philosophy begins in piety.

2. The “fear of the Lord,” or piety, secures a sound understanding. (Homilist.)


“Praise ye the Lord.” Just as though the psalmist would say, “Whether you will or no, I will; I will praise Him, if I am alone in doing so; I will praise Him with my whole heart--with all the fervour, spirituality, and sincerity with which I am endowed; I will praise the Lord with all my heart; and, in order that I may not be alone in praising Him, I will get into ‘the assembly of the upright,’ and probably some of my rustic notes will induce them to praise Him also; and Jehovah shall have the entire revenue of praise and glory that can be sounded forth from all the ransomed souls on earth, and all the ransomed souls in heaven.”

An exhortation. “Praise ye the Lord.”

1. This exhortation is addressed to those who possess a capacity to praise God--a heaven-born life--a quickened nature. It must be the praise of the soul, called into exercise under the immediate operation of the graces of the Holy Spirit.

2. Those persons who have a spiritual capacity--who have been born from above--have many reasons for praising God. Has this mighty God, to whom we sound our hosannahs, put forth His operations of grace, touched your proud, rebellious heart, nay, created a spiritual capacity in you, implanted all His own graces, opened your eyes to your own ruin and the law’s terrors, and then opened them to see the light of the glorious Gospel? If so, can you cease to praise the Lord?

A vow. “I will praise the Lord.” I verily believe that we have not paid attention enough to the act of praise, as going forth from the inmost soul. We may have paid more attention to the act of prayer, we may have paid more attention to the act of believing; we may have paid more attention to the act of humiliation before God in deep repentance; all these are very important; but shall we forget to praise Him? shall we forget to acknowledge the infinite debt of gratitude we owe to Him? What should we think of creatures who did this towards each other? How many thousands of providences, of a most momentous description, has He overruled for us, and not received any return of praise? How many thousands of prayers has He answered, and we not given a single tribute of praise?

Experimental godliness. “With my whole heart.” This includes spirituality, simplicity, and earnestness. There seems something of emulation in this expression--“with my whole heart”; and sure I am, that when the Holy Ghost enables us to move upwards in the spirit of praise, troubles, difficulties, temptations, snares, enemies, afflictions, sorrows, death itself, have no power to harm us; the spirit of praise bears us above all, carries us within celestial regions, where we seem to mingle our praises with the hallelujahs of glorified spirits around the throne. “With my whole heart.”

The relative position. “In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.” Where am I to find “the assembly of the upright”? The man that is upright before God has owned or confessed the worst he knows of his case before the footstool of Divine mercy, he has thrown open his books, he has declared his insolvency to the law and justice of God, he adopts the very language of the psalmist, “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid”; and instead of offering any compromise or making any specious promises, he betakes himself to the Divine Surety, of whom he obtains by faith a perfect obedience, a full satisfaction, a perfect righteousness, and presents them before God as His own. Thus he is accepted before the throne as an upright character. His condemnation is removed--his justification proclaimed--his absolution is enjoyed (without the interference of infidel priests)--his sanctification is given to him, and his glorification waits for him. (J. Irons.)

Whole-hearted praise

Without whole-heartedness our praise is not acceptable to God. He requires us, not ours. “He abhors the sacrifice where not the heart is found.”

Without whole-heartedness it will yield no happiness to ourselves. There is no true enjoyment in any service not rendered with the whole soul. No man is ever happy in any enterprise into which he cannot throw his whole being.

Without this whole-heartedness it will not be continuous. (Homiletic Review.)

Verse 2

Psalms 111:2

The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

The greatness of the works of God

Greatness, when attributed to the works of man, is a relative term, and it is only correct in one direction. Our works can only be great in comparison with the works of other men; they can have no greatness in relation to Gad, or to His operations. Our utmost skill cannot go beyond new combinations, or new discoveries of existing things; we can neither create nor preserve. Our knowledge results from creation; when correct it agrees with its works; but with God, creation results from knowledge--the prototype of it existed in the eternal mind before He began to work (Acts 15:18).

The greatness of the works of God.

1. Their immensity. What a wonderful incomprehensible work was it to produce the matter which forms our globe! Yet our planet is but a small part of the solar system: there are spheres many times larger than our world, revolving at immense distances round the same sun. The sun itself is but one among millions of suns, which in boundless space enlighten other worlds, and are the centres of other systems. We are at once lost in the vastness of creation, in the immensity of being God has called into existence; and are oppressed with an overpowering sense of the magnitude of His works.

2. Their variety. The water affects the land, the land affects the water, an endless diversity of influences of different substances on each other are perpetually producing specific and well-ascertained results. Beings possessed of life were created from inanimate substance: by the infinite power of God the sea and land brought forth abundantly, the vegetable and animal kingdoms were called into existence by the Creator’s voice, and the tribes of land and ocean proclaim the magnitude of His work.

3. The preservation and government of the world. Cause and effect is not a necessary but an ordained connection; the energy that works is not that of the instrument but that of God; substances operate upon one another in a natural way, by which we mean an habitual, ordinary manner; but it is God who causes them so to operate; whatever is the instrument its efficacy is from God.

4. His moral government over voluntary and accountable beings. What a vast work must it be to educe order out of the chaotic workings of human minds; to maintain a system of operation and government over myriads of beings, who live as they list, preserving their own schemes of aggrandizement and gratification, without any reference to the will of God: and yet the mightiest of men can accomplish nothing but what God permits, and frequently they are working out, though contrary to their own intentions, the purposes of the Eternal Mind.

5. His greatest work is redemption. It unveils the whole character of God. In the natural world we behold manifestations of His power and wisdom; in His providential government we may learn something of His justice and goodness; but neither of these perfections is so gloriously exhibited as in the Gospel of His Son, where His love and mercy shine with unclouded lustre.

Successful inquiry is in proportion to the deep interest we take in the works of God. We must love truth, and justice, and mercy, before we can in any degree estimate the expression of Divine love and justice in saving sinners by the gift and death of the Son of God. (S. Summers.)

The worlds of God, in nature, providence, and grace

In nature. Every clod of earth teems with animation; every drop of water swarms with animalculae. Surely curiosity might induce us to seek out the works of God even if we had no other motive than mere inquisitiveness and curiosity. But we cannot examine these things as we ought without feelings of lively gratitude, that through the life-giving power of Jehovah everything ministers either to the necessities or to the convenience of man. But there is a still more familiar manifestation of the works of God which we should meditate upon. I wish you to turn your reflections upon yourselves. Contemplate the human body; observe the union of its several parts, and their fitness for the particular purpose for which they are designed; mark the composition and appearance of the whole; what incomparable workmanship is perceptible in the whole frame.

In preservation.

In grace. We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Since, then, all things are yours if ye are Christ’s, whether the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come, let us call to mind that we have them as the subject matter of privilege; as the subject matter of improvement here, and as the subjects of praise throughout eternity. (H. F. Fell, M.A.)

The works of the Lord

1. Consider--

(1) The variety and multiplicity of the objects that constitute theearth and the creatures that dwell on it. How varied is the form of its surface! What an alternation of enormous ridges with summits of different heights, of hills and plains, of spacious, open fields, and of impassable, impenetrable forests, of continents and seas, rivers and lakes! What diversity and what riches in various kinds of precious gems, stones, ores, minerals, lie concealed in its bowels! What a world of wonders is enclosed in its fathomless abysses!

(2) Their beauty--no less great and admirable than their variety; consider the outline, the form, the hues, the infinitely blending shades of colours, the delicate texture, the artificial structure, the arrangement and composition of the several parts of every herb, every flower, every leaf, every tree, every plant, every greater and smaller, visible, and invisible, animal.

(3) The accurate and admirable connection that subsists between the several parts and creatures of the earth, causing them all to promote one grand design, the greatest possible welfare of the living.

(4) The gradual progress of all things to higher perfection. See how the plant, the tree expands, grows, flourishes, arrives at maturity, bears fruit, propagates and multiplies, from a seed so small as to be indiscernible to thy naked eye; how the crawling maggot rises into a butterfly; how every animal gradually acquires and communicates to others his agility, his powers, his habitudes; how the infant grows into the stripling, the youth into the man, and the man into the citizen of another world.

(5) The magnitude and inexhaustibility of the energies which animate and actuate all nature; those energies which operate so uniformly and silently, and yet so powerfully and irresistibly in all and through all; those energies which are in perpetual exertion through all successive evolutions, renovations, transformations of the whole innumerable host of creatures, and through all their efforts and effects, and in such various methods; those energies which, from what appears to be confusion and strife, produce the fairest harmony--from what we term death and destruction, incessant life and action.

2. Having considered these things, ascend in thought to the original, eternal energy, from whence these powers are derived--to the original, eternal fount of life, from whence these several kinds of life and efficacy flow--to the Supreme Dispenser of all that joy which fills the capacity of thy soul--to that God who predisposed, accomplished, and called them into being, who bears, upholds, connects, enlivens, and rejoices all, who through them all reveals Himself to His intelligent creature--man--speaks to him by a thousand voices, appears to him in a thousand varied forms, and in all and by all as Author, Benefactor, Father. (G. J. Zollikofer, D.D.)

The order and beauty of the visible creation

I the grandeur and simplicity of the works of God. How low and contemptible are all the proudest works of men compared to those of God! Could we suppose a person in full maturity of sense and understanding, but who had never seen the light of the sun and the face of nature, presented on a sudden with an ample prospect of the sublime canopy of heaven, the blazing sun, the illumined atmosphere, and the florid earth diversified with its various landscapes; how would the appearance astonish and transport him, stamp at once on his mind the new ideas of grandeur and beauty, and excite his veneration of the wisdom and power of God!

The uniformity and variety which appear in the works of creation. The heavens above, and the earth beneath, continue the same from age to age; yet afford a diversity of successive spectacles: the clouded, the clear, the parti-coloured sky; the nocturnal darkness, the meridian light. If we examine carefully the minuter productions of nature, the smallest insects, or the leaves, flowers, and fruits of plants, we find a wonderful mixture of the various and the uniform, that strikes the mind with a pleasing idea of order and beauty.

The perpetual circulations discernible in the world. The sun, moon, and stars perform their appointed courses with a stated unerring motion. What is it that unholds and directs them? How come they to know their seasons and courses? What enables them to travel incessantly with the same unremitting force? Why they never fall to the earth? Or wander through the pathless desert of the sky? In a word, why they never err?--These questions will necessarily turn our attention to the unerring wisdom of the Creator.

The regular proportions observable in the several parts of the world, are a further evidence of creative wisdom in the structure of the whole. For as in the fabric of every plant and animal, the several parts bear a due proportion to each other and to the whole, so it is of the world in general: the parts were all formed by rule and measure, proportionate to each other and to the whole system.

The multiplicity of effects in nature flowing from the same cause; and the combination of a multitude of causes to the same effect. The single principle of gravitation, pervading the universe, at the same time gives solidity to the land, stability to the mountains, and fluency to the rivers; binds the ocean to its bed, and the whole earth to its orbit; maintains the due distance of the heavenly bodies; and retains everything through universal nature in its proper situation. Similar to this is the single principle of benevolence in the moral world: which in like manner is diffused through human nature, and produces, according to its different modifications, various beneficial effects: hence parental care; relative union; combination of friends; public spirit; good government of superiors; fidelity of inferiors; and it is this which retains every individual in his proper sphere, cements human society, and contributes to all virtuous actions, honourable pursuits, and innocent delights. How should it excite the inquisitive understanding, and affect the religious temper, of every considerate person, to find the whole world framed and disposed, and all the elemental parts of it contending and co-operating in a perpetual motion, to please and benefit the human race! (S. Bourn.)

On seeking out the worlds of the Lord and praising Him

“The works of the Lord are great;” yet, great as they are, they cannot be understood nor perceived by those who are absorbed in earthly ideas and pursuits. The works of the Lord must be “sought out”; that is, they must be mindfully and diligently observed, in order to their being adequately understood: nay, if we would know anything of their vastness or their excellency. We must be in the constant habit of connecting the ordinary operations and occurrences of life with a higher power, with the counsel and government of heaven; a gracious promise is given, that “all things shall work together for good to them that love God”; and we must be always endeavouring to trace this working, and observe the striking manner in which this effect is produced. Nor can any, but the pious and faithful servant of God, find delight in this holy and profitable exercise; and the longer he lives, the more clearly he perceives the hand of the Almighty in everything; in discomforting the evil and blessing the good: he sees and admires the wonders of grace, as well as the wonders of providence, vouchsafed to others as well as himself; to the Church in all ages. In all the good he receives or does, and all the evil he escapes or prevents, he traces the power and mercy of his God: “Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but unto Thy name be the glory and the praise.” Thus he imitates the conduct of the psalmist, recorded in the text, “I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart”: all the power of his understanding and all the affections of his soul are employed in magnifying the majesty and loving-kindness of the “Author and giver of every good gift.” And the grateful Christian imitates the psalmist yet farther; he does not hide the sense of God’s goodness within his own bosom; but declares it openly as opportunity serves. (J. Slade, M. A.)

New interest in God’s works

An American poet tells us, in one of his letters, how he once met an aged French priest on the Pacific Railway. The priest told him that he was on a journey round the world, and that he had been put up to that by a dream. He dreamed that he had died, and he met the good God, who asked him how he liked the world he had come from. He was obliged to confess that he had not looked at it very much: for the whole time he was there he had been busy getting himself ready to die, and getting other people ready to die--as if getting ready to die were the chief end of man here below. When he awoke he resolved that, old as he was, if the good God would only let him stay on in this world a little while longer, he would take a good look at it before he was summoned to pass another such examination. So he had furnished himself with some little books in physical geography and the like, and was reading, and looking, and thus preparing for the other world by trying to get all the real and Divine good he could out of this earth. (John Hunter, D.D.)

Verse 3

Psalms 111:3

His work is honourable and glorious: and His righteousness endureth for ever.

God and the godly

(with Psalms 112:3):--These two psalms are obviously intended as a pair. They are identical in number of verses, and in structure, both being acrostic, that is to say, the first clause of each commences with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the second clause with the second, and so on. The general idea that runs through them is the likeness of the godly man to God. Worship is, or should be, adoration of and yearning after the highest conceivable good. Such an attitude must necessarily lead to imitation, and be crowned by resemblance. Love makes like, and they who worship God are bound to, and certainly will, in proportion to the ardour and sincerity of their devotion, grow like Him whom they adore.

In enduring righteousness. That seems a bold thing to say, especially when we remember how lofty and transcendent were the Old Testament conceptions of the righteousness of God. But, lofty as these were, this psalmist lifts an unpresumptuous eye to the heavens, and having said of Him who dwells there: “His righteousness endureth for ever,” is not afraid to turn to the humble worshipper on this low earth, and declare the same thing of him. Our finite, frail, feeble lives may be really conformed to the image of the heavenly. The dew-drop with its little rainbow is a miniature of the great arch that spans the earth and rises into the high heavens. And so, though there are differences, deep and impassable, between anything that can be called a creatural righteousness and that which bears the same name in the heavens, the fact that it does bear the same name is a guarantee to us that there is an essential resemblance between the righteousness of God in its lustrous perfectness and the righteousness of his child in its imperfect effort. Another psalmist has sung of the man who can stand in the holy place. “He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, even righteousness from the God of his salvation.” And our psalms hint, if they do not articulately declare, how that reception is possible for us, when they set forth waiting upon God as the condition of being made like Him. We translate the psalmist’s feeling after the higher truth which we know, when we desire “that we may be found in Him, not having our own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is of God by faith.”

In gracious compassion. In the former psalm we read “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion”; in the latter we find “he” (the upright man) “is gracious and full of compassion, and righteous.” Our hearts need something more than a righteous God if we are ever to worship and draw near. Just as the white snow on the high peak needs to be flushed with the roseate hue of the morning before it can become tender, and create longings, so the righteousness of the great White Throne has to be tinged with the ruddy heart hue of gracious compassion if men are to be moved to adore and to love. And each enhances the other. “What God hath joined together,” in Himself, “let not man put asunder;” nor talk about the stern Deity of the Old Testament, and pit Him against the compassionate Father of the New. He is righteous, but the proclaimers of His righteousness in old days never forgot to blend with the righteousness the mercy; and the combination heightens the lustre of both the colours. And the same combination is absolutely needful in the copy, as is emphatically set forth in our text by the addition, in the ease of the man, of “and righteous.” For whilst with God the two attributes do lie, side by side, in perfect harmony, in us men there is always danger that the one shall trench upon the territory of the other, and that, he who has cultivated the habit of looking upon sorrows and sins with compassion and tenderness shall somewhat lose the power of looking at them with righteousness. And so our text, in regard of man, proclaims more emphatically than it needs to do in regard to the perfect God, that ever his highest beauty of compassion must be wedded to righteousness, and ever his truest strength of righteousness must be knit with compassion. But, beyond that, note how, wherever there is the loving and childlike contemplation of God, there will be an analogy to His perfectness in our compassion. We are transformed by beholding. The sun strikes a poor little pane of glass in a cottage miles away, and it flashes with some likeness of the sun and casts a light across the plain. The man whose face is turned Godwards will have beauty pass into his face, and all that look upon him will see “as it had been the countenance of an angel.”

We have still another point, not so much of resemblance as of correspondence, in the firmness of God’s utterances and of the godly heart. In the first of our two psalms we read, in the seventh verse, “all His commandments are sure.” In the second we read, in the corresponding verse, “his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” The former psalm goes on, “His commandments stand fast for ever and ever;” and the next psalm, in the corresponding verse, says “his heart is established,” the original employing the same word in both cases, which in our version is rendered, in the one case “stand fast,” and in the other “established.” So that the psalmist is thinking of a correspondence between the stability of God’s utterances and the stability of the heart that clasps them in faith. His commandments are not only precepts which enjoin duty. All which God says is law, whether it be directly in the nature of guiding precept, or whether it be in the nature of revealing truth, or whether it be in the nature of promise. It is sure, reliable, utterly trustworthy. We may be certain that it will direct us aright, that it will reveal to us absolute truth, that it will hold forth no flattering and false promises. And it is “established.” The one fixed point amidst the whirl of things is the uttered will of God. Therefore the heart that builds there builds safely. And there should be a correspondence, whether there is or no, between the faithfulness of the Speaker and the faith of the hearer. Lean hard upon God, put all your weight upon Him. You cannot put too much, you cannot lean too hard. The harder the better, the better He is pleased, and the more He breathes support and strength into us. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Verse 4

Psalms 111:4

He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered.

The duty of remembering God’s wonderful works

1. In reference to any signal benefits, any extraordinary mercy received, it is necessary we should have a true sense and firm persuasion of the work of God in it, that we may learn to depend on His providence, which we find so vigilant over us, so beneficial to us; that we may attribute nothing to ourselves, or sacrifice to our own nets; that we may discern His hand in His own work, and say (Psalms 52:9; Psalms 75:1).

2. This design of God teacheth man to make a true estimate, and set a value upon the benefit received as coming from His hand.

3. This design of God ought to be embraced with all comfort and cheerfulness. For what greater honour can man receive, than that God should desire to be honoured by him? What greater advantage can we have, than that He should therefore bless us, that He may receive praise from us, and purchase His glory by the expense of His goodness?

4. The equity and excellency of the duty enforce the obligation. Here is not anything required, but what may be justly challenged, what cannot be with any pretence denied. There is a moral obligation between men, to render to every man his due, honour to whom honour: and this Divine acknowledgment is required upon no other terms (Psalms 29:2). It is required in a due proportion (Psalms 150:2), according to the manifestation of it. This is the exercise of the blessed saints and angels in the nearest view of His perfections: the language of heaven is Alleluia; and there is nothing more heavenly upon earth. (Bp. Pearson.)

Verse 5

Psalms 111:5

He hath given meat unto them that fear Him.

The Lord’s faithfulness in providing food for His people

Consider the text--

In its literal sense.

1. The work, on account of which the psalmist here calls upon us to praise God, is the supply of food; the furnishing us with those provisions which are necessary for the support and comfort of our bodies.

(1) They are the Lord’s gifts.

(2) They are special marks of the Lord’s favour to His people.

(3) They are proofs of the Lord’s faithfulness and truth.

2. Let us beseech Him to give us His grace, that we may receive with thankfulness, and enjoy with moderation, and use to His glory, those gifts of His providence, which He has been pleased to bestow on us; and that we may show forth His praise not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to His service, and by walking before Him in holiness and righteousness all our days.

3. And let us learn to confide in Him for blessings to come.

In its figurative or spiritual meaning.

1. In this sense, the meat mentioned in the text signifies that meat of which our Saviour speaks when He directs us to labour for the meat which “endureth unto everlasting life”; namely, spiritual food, that food by which the soul is supported, strengthened, and refreshed.

2. And what, in this view of the text, is the covenant of which “He will ever be mindful,” but the covenant of grace: that spiritual covenant, “well ordered in all things and sure,” which God has made with every believer in Christ? The terms of this covenant are, “Repent ye and believe the Gospel.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” And the promises of it are, “Thou shalt be saved.” “Thou shalt have everlasting life.” (E. Cooper, M.A.)

He will over be mindful of His covenant.--

The covenant

What is this covenant? If you go to a lawyer, and inquire how a deed runs, he may reply, “I can give you an abstract, but I had better read it to you.” He can tell you the sum and substance of it; but if you want to be very accurate, and it is a very important business, you will say, “I should like to hear it read.” We will now read certain passages of Scripture which contain the covenant of grace, or an abstract of it (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:25, etc.). Let us just go a little into detail about this. God has made a covenant with certain people that He will do all this for them, and in each case it is of pure grace. He will take away their stony hearts: it is clear from this promise that when He began with them they had stony hearts. He will forgive their iniquities: when He began with them they had many iniquities. He will give them a heart of flesh: when He began with them they had not a heart of flesh. He will turn them to keep His statutes: when He began with them they did not keep His statutes. They were a sinful, wilful, wicked, degenerate people, and He called to them many times to come to Him and repent, but they would not. Here He speaks like a king, and no longer pleads, but decrees. He says, I will do this and that to you, and you shall be this and that in return. Oh, blessed covenant! Oh, mighty, sovereign grace!

Have i any portion in it?

1. Are you in Christ? If so, you are saved in Him.

2. Have you faith? This is the mark, the seal, the badge of His chosen.

3. Have you been born again? Is the life that is in you a life given by God? The true life is not of the will of man, nor of blood, nor of natural excellence; but it comes by the working of the eternal Spirit, and is of God. If you have this life you are in the covenant, for it is written, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” The children of the promise, these are counted for the seed.

If indeed we can believe upon the good evidence of God’s Word that we are of the seed with whom the covenant was made in Christ Jesus, then every blessing of the covenant will come to us. I will put it a little more personally--every blessing of the covenant will come to you.

1. God cannot lie, cannot deny Himself.

2. God made the covenant freely. If He had not meant to keep it, He would not have made it.

3. On the covenant document there is a seal--the blood of the Son of God.

4. God delights in the covenant, so we are sure He will not run back from it.

5. God has sealed the covenant with an oath (Hebrews 6:18). (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Covenant blessings

The gift: “He hath given meat.” We are to understand this expression, of course in a twofold sense, of our necessities; the first, temporal, the other, spiritual.

The covenant. The covenant of grace is a covenant without any conditions on our part whatever, of any sort, in any form, or any fashion. The covenant, in fact, is not made between us and God; it is made between God and Christ, our Representative. All the conditions of that covenant are fulfilled, so that there are none left for us to fulfil. The conditions were that Christ should suffer, and He has suffered; that Christ should obey, and He has obeyed. God will not suffer one single promise of the covenant to be unfulfilled, nor one single blessing of the covenant to be kept back.

The character of the persons here referred to: “them that fear Him.” Those who fear the Lord are in the covenant of His grace. If we fear Him, we may believe that He will ever give meat unto us, and that He will always keep His covenant towards us which He has made for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 9

Psalms 111:9

He sent redemption unto His people.

Redemption and atonement

Theology has frequently confused redemption and the atonement. The atonement for sin offered by Christ on Calvary was universal, but redemption is limited to those that accept the conditions as specified in the Scriptures. Christ died for all, but, as a fact, only they that believe are saved. The atonement is God’s provision for the salvation of the world, redemption of the sinner is the object God has in view. There could be no redemption without the atonement, but if redemption is not appropriated the atonement still remains. The work of atonement was the act of one person, but redemption involves several agencies. Christ, by suffering the death of the cross, made the atonement; in effecting redemption, the subject works, the teacher works in presenting God’s truth, the Holy Spirit works and applies the Gospel with power to the heart. By this threefold agency redemption is effected. The atonement came without the world’s request; but redemption never comes without the earnest seeking of the individual. The atonement was an event that took place “once for all,” at one period, on Calvary, two thousand years ago; redemption is constantly taking place in all parts of the world, and in all periods of human history. This is the correct Biblical distinction between the two theological terms as used in the Scriptures. (R. Venting.)

Holy and reverend is His name.--

Scriptural piety

What it is. We take the term reverence to denote respect; and with this latter term we associate generally a more definite meaning. In the case, indeed, of God, respect must be of the very highest description, to rise to the character of reverence.

Its foundation. Let the mind be informed, not only that God has given a conscience to rebuke, but that God has met the rebuke of conscience, to redeem the party rebuked from despair by holding out His own Son as the vindication of His holiness. The foundation, therefore, you perceive, of Scriptural piety, is the knowledge of the Divine character.

The means of its cultivation. Shall we pray that God would enlighten us, while we refuse to come to the means, by which He has Himself told us we are to be enlightened? Shall we seek that He would give us of the Spirit, whilst we neglect the fruits of the inspiration of that Spirit, as those fruits are laid down in the testimony of Divine truth?

Its fruits. Piety is not a faculty of the mind; it is an influence, pervading all the faculties. Piety is not some particular mental power; it is an energy, that tells on the whole man. If such be the fruits of Scriptural piety upon the mind itself, what must be its fruits upon society generally? Even the ungodly and unthinking world, when they discover that piety is thus enlightened by the word of truth, and that in the Church of God there is not a greater degree of warmth than there is of light, will be compelled to confess “that God is in us of a truth.” (John Burnet)

Verse 10

Psalms 111:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Piety is true wisdom

Explain the text.

1. By “the fear of the Lord,” you are to understand, not merely one affection of our minds towards God; but, piety in general, the service of God, and the devotion of the heart to Him.

2. “Wisdom,” in the Scripture sense, is a virtue which makes a man not only skilful and intelligent, but also good and virtuous. It consists, not so much in knowledge, as in practice.

3. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This may signify, either that it is first in order of time--the rudiment, the foundation of wisdom; or first in point of dignity--the principal, or chief part of wisdom.

4. “A good understanding have all they that do thereafter;” i.e. they are truly wise, and best consult their own interests, both in this and the next world, who do such things as belong to the fear of the Lord.

Illustrate and confirm the truth of the text thus explained: showing, that to practise those duties, in which the fear of God consists, is to be really wise; that it is acting agreeably to our reason, and our interests.

1. Religion alone teaches what is the supreme good of man; concerning the nature of which the philosophers so much erred. It is religion that points out to us an end most excellent, most worthy of our efforts, and of such inestimable value, as to overpay all our labours in the attainment of it: and that end is,--to enjoy eternal, uninterrupted happiness, in the presence of God.

2. Religion not only shows this admirable end to us; but also teaches the means to be used by us for attaining to it; namely, faith and obedience, prayer and thanksgiving; which constitute our religious duty. (S. Partridge, M.A.)

The danger and folly of living without religion

Philosophically speaking, it has been said that nature abhors a vacuum; and morally speaking, it may also be said that the absence of the fear of God is revolting to the human soul.

To live without the fear of God, or, in other words, without religion, must be a dangerous thing. Whether we consider the character of God, or the sinfulness of man--whether we contemplate the sacrifice which God has made, in laying a foundation for our religious homage--whether we fix our views on the riches of God’s love, or on the terrors of His wrath,--whether we look to time or to eternity, to death or to doom: Is it not, we would ask, yea, must it not be a dangerous thing to be at war with Heaven? And what, but this, is the position of man without religion? Verily, God is to be feared and held in reverence of all His creatures. His might in creation, and His majesty in providence--our own weakness and our own wants, all combine in enforcing on us this important truth. And yet how strange that we above all His other workmanship should refuse Him a willing homage! Let it not be forgotten that the want of religion is sin, and for sin the Son of God died. Can the irreligious, therefore, the sinful man, be safe?

To live without religion is to exemplify the very perfection of folly.

1. Is he not a fool who overlooks the end of his existence--who forgets and forgets entirely the purpose for which he was sent into the world?

2. Is he not a fool who sacrifices the ethereal, the immortal mind that is in him, to the appetites and desires of the material body in which that mind is enshrined?

3. Is he not a fool who willingly foregoes all that can give a charm to worldly prosperity--a relish to the joys that Providence dispenses in this vale of tears.

4. Is he not a fool who willingly and of his own accord, and recklessly, makes a sacrifice of all that can soothe him in sorrow--support him in trial--comfort him in adversity, or give him hope in death? (W. Craig.)

Religion the highest wisdom, and sin the greatest madness and folly

Wisdom consists in two things: choosing a right end, and using right means to obtain it. Now, what end so becoming a creature to live for ever, as everlasting happiness? And what way can it be obtained, but in the way of holiness?

Men will not take the safest side in religion, which their reason and self-love carry them to do in other cases. Believe and regard what God has said; be holy in all manner of conversation; strive with all your might to enter in at the strait gate; accept of Christ as your Lord and Saviour. Do this, and you are safe, let the case be as it will; there are no bad consequences that can possibly follow from this conduct.

Is it not the greatest folly to believe, or profess to believe, the great truths of religion, and yet act quite contrary to such a belief? Do you plead, that “you intend to repent of this inconsistent conduct hereafter”? But if religion is an excellent thing, as you profess to believe it, why do you not choose it now? the sooner the better. Again, is it not the greatest folly to indulge yourselves in a practice that you deliberately intend to repent of? Will you prosecute a scheme which you deliberately intend afterwards to condemn and be sorry for?

Is it not the greatest folly for men to pretend to love God, when their temper and conduct are inconsistent with it, and plainly evidential of the contrary? What mean thoughts must they have of God, when they think to put Him off with such an empty compliment and hypocritical profession!

Is it not the greatest folly for men to hope for heaven, when they have no evidences at all of their title to it, or fitness for it? Can an illiterate rustic find pleasure in rigid mathematical demonstrations, and learned speculations, or a man of pleasure and business in the ascetic, mortified life of a hermit? Can a man, whose taste is vitiated by sickness, enjoy happiness in the entertainments of a feast? No, nothing can make a man happy, but what is suited to his relish and disposition.

Is it not the greatest madness to be more concerned about the affairs of time than those of eternity? If you should throw away an estate to obtain a farthing, if you should run upon a drawn sword to escape a prickle, if you should prefer pebbles to crown’s and kingdoms, darkness to light, or one luxurious meal to the support of your whole life, it would not be so shocking a piece of madness.

1. Since there is so much folly in the world in matters of religion, how astonishing is it that it is not universally contemned and ridiculed, or pitied and lamented!

2. With what an ill grace do the irreligious contemn and despise those that make religion their great concern, as weak, silly creatures!

3. How absurd is it for men to pretend they will not turn their thoughts to religion, lest it should make them melancholy or distracted! Alas! sinners, you cannot be more so than you are already; and you will never come to yourselves till, with the prodigal, you determine to return to your Father’s house.

4. If the fear of the Lord, religion, is the perfection of wisdom, how unreasonably does the world charge it with making people mad!

5. Since men are such fools in matters of religion, since they censure it with so much severity and contempt, how astonishing is it that God should send down that Divine, heaven-born thing, religion, into our world, where it is so much neglected and abused! (S. Davies, M.A.)

A good understanding have all they that do His commandments.--

Keeping God’s commandments the surest evidence of a good understanding

Illustrate and confirm the declaration. By “them,” or the commandments of God, we are to understand our general duty, as His reasonable creatures; whatever He hath revealed to us as His will, whether by the light of nature or His written Word. Besides living soberly, righteously, and godly, it requireth faith in Christ, love to Him, trust in Him, an humble dependence on the help of the Holy Spirit, and a compliance with the institutions of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which are commandments of God, as being enjoined by Jesus Christ, who was a teacher sent from Him. Doing His commandments implies avoiding everything that is evil (Job 28:28). It includes also learning to do well, and practising every duty which God requiteth of us. It is not sufficient to study the commandments of God as a science, to understand their meaning and extent, and to be able to explain them with the most critical exactness. It is not sufficient to talk of them, to admire their suitableness and excellency, but we are to do them, to do them sincerely, cheerfully, and constantly, unmoved by any temptations that would lead us to neglect the observance of them. Now, they who thus do God’s commandments are said to have good understandings, that is, to be wise men.

1. They understand the nature of things best, and judge rightly of their essential difference.

2. They understand the nature and will of God best.

3. They understand this world best. They consider it, not as their home and portion, but as a distant land; a school of education; a state of trial for another world.

4. They understand themselves and their own interest best. They know, and consider, that they were formed for God; for His service and honour. Therefore their first inquiry is, “Where is God my Maker?” What doth He require of me, and how is His favour to be obtained? They know, from reflecting upon their own natures, that they were not formed to scrape together the riches of earth, to indulge its pleasures, and to gratify every craving appetite. Therefore, whilst others are “cumbered about many things,” their attention is fixed upon the “one thing needful.” They know that “to fear God, and keep His commandments, is thewhole duty and interest of man,” and therefore they do this.

Apply it in some useful reflections and advices.

1. Let us be thankful for the Divine commandments, which are adapted to exalt us to such dignity and felicity.

2. We may hence learn to judge, who are truly wise, and have good understandings.

3. Here is the true test of orthodoxy. There is no error or heresy so opposite to the Gospel as a wicked life. “There are many,” saith Mr. Flavel, “who hate doctrinal errors, yet perish by practical ones; who hate false doctrine, yet perish by a false heart.”

4. Let us all make it our great care and business to do the commandments of God. Let us study this as the most important branch of science; mind this as the great concern of human life. Here let your labour and zeal be employed. (Job Orton, D.D.)


Psalms 112:1-10

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 111". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.