By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.
These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.
The Lord and His people comprise the focus of Psalm 111. Someone might point out this psalm specifically refers to Jehovah and the Jews, His chosen people. While that is correct, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Psalm 111 is an alphabetical or acrostic Psalm. There are several others such as, Psalm 9, 10, 24, 34, 37, 112, 119, and 145. Dr. William Theophilus Davison (1846-1935), Tutor in Systematic Theology, Handsworth College, Birmingham, England, explains, “The principle of the Acrostic is well known, but few English readers recognise how freely it is used in the Hebrew Psalter. The example of the 119th Psalm, in which are twenty-two stanzas, each with eight verses beginning with the same Hebrew letter, is familiar. But a similar arrangement is more or less observed in Psalms ix. and x., in which two verses occur to each letter, but the plan is imperfectly carried out; also in xxv., with one verse to each letter, xxxiv., xxxvii, cxi., and cxii. (in the last two cases only half a verse to a letter), and cxlv. Psalm cxi. has been thus arranged in English ¹, in order to exhibit the structure. . .” Dr. Davison cites a few lines of the Acrostic from the work of Dr. William Binnie (1823-1886), Professor of Church History and Pastoral Theology, Free Church College, Aberdeen, titled Psalms, their History, Teachings, and Use. While Dr. Binnie wrote an Acrostic for Psalm 111 and 112, allow me to share Dr. Binnie’s Acrostic for Psalm 111:
1. A dore will I the Lord with all my heart:
B oth in the meeting of the upright and in the congregation.
2. C onfessedly great are the deeds of the Lord;
D elighter in them search them out.
3. E xcellent for honour and majesty is His work:
F or evermore doth His righteousness endure.
4. G racious and compassionate is the Lord,
H is wonderful works hath He made to be remembered,’ etc.
5. J ehovah hath given food to them that fear him:
K ept his covenant forever.
6. L oudly hath he declared to his people the might of his deeds:
M aking them to inherit the heathen.
7. N otable for truth and judgment are the deeds of his hand:
O n all his commandments men may trust.
8. P lanted firmly are they forever and ever:
Q uestionless is their truth and uprightness.
9. R edemption hath he sent to his people:
S tablished forever his covenant:
T errible and holy is his name.
10. U nderstanding pertaineth to all who obey the commandments:
W isdom’s beginning is the fear of Jehovah:
Y ears without end shall his praise endure.”
Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) further explains, “The only feasible method (of exhibiting the structure of these psalms to an English reader) is to omit from our alphabet the four letters that are of least frequent use, and make the 22 characters that remain stand for the 22 consonants of the Hebrew.”
We read in Psalm 111:1-10, “Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, / In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. The works of the Lord are great, / Studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, / And His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; / The Lord is gracious and full of compassion. He has given food to those who fear Him; / He will ever be mindful of His covenant. He has declared to His people the power of His works, / In giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are verity and justice; / All His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, / And are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; / He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; / A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”
From the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary we read, “The Psalmist celebrates God’s gracious dealings with His people, of which a summary statement is given.”
Please observe three things about the Lord and His people from this psalm.
I. The Worship of the Lord by His People
From Psalm 111:1, 10 we read, “Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, / In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. . . . The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; / A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”
A. What the psalmist expressed. (Psalm 111:1)
“Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation” (Psalm 111:1).
1. A Proclamation “Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 111:1a)
It is interesting to note that Psalm 111, 112, 115-117 either begin or end with “Hallelujah” translated “Praise the Lord”. Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe advises, “If we cannot rejoice in our circumstances, we can always rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4).”
2. A Promise “I will praise the Lord with my whole heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation” (Psalm 111:1b).
From Psalm 111:10b we read, “His praise endures forever.”
We find the word translated “forever” four times in our text.
Dr. D. Stuart Briscoe explains, “In the psalmist’s mind, reverence in worship was of prime importance. We should ponder this—it might get us to church regularly and on time, with our hearts prepared and with a spirit of expectancy, awe, and reverence.”
May we sing in the words of Sir Robert Grant (1778-1838), “O worship the King, all glorious above, / O gratefully sing His power and His love; / Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, / Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.”
Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
II. The Works of the Lord for His People
From Psalm 111:2, 3, 4, 6, 7 we read, “The works of the Lord are great, / Studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, / And His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; / The Lord is gracious and full of compassion. . . . He has declared to His people the power of His works, / In giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are verity and justice; / All His precepts are sure.”
Here we find 7 descriptive words for the works of the Lord: “great, wonderful, honorable, glorious, powerful, verity [truth] and justice [just]”.
The American missionary leader Dr. Arthur T. Pierson (1837-1911) said, “History is His story.”
Dr. John Phillips (1927-2010) suggests verse 4 refers to God’s miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. He instituted the Passover to commemorate the redemption of His chosen people. Dr. Phillips explains, “God wants us never to forget what we owe Him. Israel remembered their redemption in the Passover. Today we remember our redemption in the celebration of the Lord’s supper, instituted by the Lord ‘lest we forget.’ The Lord has made His wonderful works to be remembered. And of all His wonderful works, none is greater, grander, more glorious, or more gracious than the work of the cross.”
We read in Psalm 106:1-15, “Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can declare all His praise? Blessed are those who keep justice, / And he who does righteousness at all times! Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation, / That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones, / That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, / That I may glory with Your inheritance. We have sinned with our fathers, / We have committed iniquity, / We have done wickedly. Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; / They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, / But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, / That He might make His mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up; / So He led them through the depths, / As through the wilderness. He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, / And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their enemies; / There was not one of them left. Then they believed His words; / They sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; / They did not wait for His counsel, / But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, / And tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, / But sent leanness into their soul.”
III. The Word of the Lord to His People
From Psalm 111:7b, 8, 10 we read, “All His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, / And are done in truth and uprightness. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; / A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”
In Psalm 111:7b-8, and 10, we find three designations for the Word of the Lord, namely, “precepts”, “the fear of the Lord”, and “commandments”. In Psalm 19:7-11 we discover a similar list. Here we read, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; / The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; / The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; / The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; / The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; / The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, / Yea, than much fine gold; / Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, / And in keeping them there is great reward.”
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe shared at the Christian Life Conference at the Chattanooga Keswick Convention, August 9, 1987, in a message titled, “Be Saturated with the Word”, “The Word of God is mentioned in all but 3 or 4 verses of Psalm 119.” He points out this psalm is also an acrostic using the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
The psalmist declares the Lord’s Word or “precepts are sure. The stand fast forever and ever” (Psalm 111:7b-8a). Dr. Albert Barnes shares the following about the word “established” found in the margin of some Bibles. He explains, “The Hebrew word means ‘sustained, supported.’ They will not fail or fall. Whatever else may be shaken, his law, his word, and the principles of his administration, will not fail.”
Dr. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) comments, “The one fixed point amid 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.”
Paul writes in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Paul also writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) states, “No man is wise who does not fear the Lord; no man acts wisely except as influenced by that fear. This fear will lead to repentance, to faith in Christ, to watchfulness and obedience. Such persons are of a good understanding, however poor, unlearned, or despised.”
Paul writes, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity’” (2 Timothy 2:19).
Jesus warns, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
In Philippians 2:5-11 Paul exhorts, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Remember, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander (1809-1860) poetically expresses in the second stanza of his hymn, “There is a line, by us unseen, / That crosses every path, / The hidden boundary between / God’s patience and his wrath.”
William Theophilus Davison, The Praises of Israel: An Introduction to the Study of the Psalms, (London: Charles H. Kelly, 1893), pp. 84-85
William Binnie, Psalms, their History, Teachings, and Use, 2nd ed., (London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1886), p. 142
Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.
Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Rev. Robert Jamieson, D.D., Rev. A.R. Fausset, A.M., and Rev. David Brown, D.D. , [Psalm 111] (New York: George H. Doran, 1921), p. 380
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Wisdom and Poetry, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2004), p. 293
D. Stuart Briscoe, The One Year® Book of Devotions for Men, “Reverence” (Psalm 111:10), January 8 Reading, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2000), p. 8
John Phillips, Exploring Psalms, Volume Two: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1988, 2002), pp. 205-206, Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Saturated with the Word”, Sermon Notes, Psalm 1
Albert Barnes, Notes, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, on the Book of Psalms, ed. Thulia Susannah Engall, Psalm 111:8, (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 1868), p. 159
Alexander Maclaren, The Beatitudes and Other Sermons, “God and the Godly”, (Psalm cxi. 3 [111:3], cxii. 3 [112:3]) , (London: Alexander and Shepheard Printers, 1896), p. 137
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Psalm 111, (1706), Available from: http://www.studylight.org/com/mhc-con/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=111 Accessed: 07/30/12
Samuel Willoughby Duffield, English Hymns: Their Authors and History (New York / London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1886), p. 382
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
(251) 626-6210 © August 19, 2012 All Rights Reserved