PSALM 111 OVERVIEW.
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, Psalms 111:1 ; and then proceeds to furnish us with matter for adoration in God's works and his dealings with his people, Psalms 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 delightful exercise?
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,
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 Gesner.
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, Psalms 112:2 , mercy, Psalms 112:5 , and righteousness, Psalms 112:4 Psalms 112:9 , of his chosen. The correspondence of purpose in the two psalms is important to the right appreciation of some difficulties connected with the latter psalm. --Speaker's Commentary.
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,
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. --Thomas Wilcocks.
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 Bouchier.
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.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
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.
- Who are the upright?
- What are they doing? Praising God.
- 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.