All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
June 17, 2018
Text: Psalm 111
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen
Last week as we examined Psalm 8, we looked at how it displays the glory of God and how it is shown in all of creation. We saw how God’s creation is designed to glorify Him, and by extension we are designed to let this glory permeate our entire lives. As we ponder this, we are reminded of the great words of the Westminster Catechism – that the chief end of man is the glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
However, as we look at our own hearts we are reminded of our frailty, our selfishness, our sinfulness, and our brokenness. We are reminded of how often we fail to even slightly magnify the glory of the Lord in our actions. We choose to lust after another instead of loving them, we chose anger over compassion, we chose the fear of man over the fear of God. Again, and again we order our affections poorly. As we look within ourselves we see a desperate need for a redeemer, for we know that without one we will continue to fail at loving God, and loving others.
This ordering of creation and our failure brings us to our Psalm 111. It may seem as though this Psalm has less to do with God being a redeemer, and more to do with Him as a creator. When we think of our redemption, we need to think of it as both a divine re-creation and a divine rescue. It is not enough to say, I have come to know Christ, so I am saved, but we must say, I have come to know Christ, now I cast all I have at his feet, that he may give me a new heart, a new mind, and a new life. God is not simply pulling us out of the mire of our sin-filled affection and leaving us on the bank, hoping that we won’t decide to jump back in, but he is pulling us out and putting us on the path of righteousness, setting us in the right direction, with a good shepherd who corrects us as we go to seek the Lord.
Psalm 111 is as much about the creation of the heavens and the earth, and how all of that creation magnifies the glory of the Lord as it is about our redemption, restoration, and re-creation.
Psalm 111 is a part of a trilogy of Psalms – the Hallelujah Psalms as many call them. It, along with Psalms 112 and 113 start with the phrase – “hallelujah” which is translated in most English Bibles – “Praise the Lord.” Each of these three Psalms points our hearts and minds back to the praising of the Lord. This simple acclamation is left out in the Psalter in our prayer book in order to start the Psalm with “I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart.” Hallelujah being seen as a title here.
Another point that makes this Psalm interesting is that it is tied to Psalm 112. Psalm 111 tells us of the works and nature of God, while 112 tells us about the nature and character of the son of Man. Additionally, these Psalms are acrostic, which means that each phrase begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Sadly, this is lost in our English translations.
Much like Psalm 8 which starts and ends with praising God for His glory and majesty which is displayed in all creation – today we start and end with the action of praising the Lord. This reminds us again of the goodness in adopting a posture of praise in all we do, whether it be the simplest of actions like washing dishes or the most glorious actions like our Sunday morning worship of the Lord where we come together as a part of the body of Christ to sing Him praise. All we do is to be given to the Lord in Praise.
On this practice of praising God in all we do a 17th century monk, known as Brother Lawrence, penned the following words as a reminder that we worship God in all things:
O Lord of pots and pans and things,
Since I have no time to be
a great saint by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming Heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food
in room, or by the sea,
Accept the service that I do-
I do it unto Thee.
Our lives are to be an act of praise poured out to the Lord.
We strive to keep in mind that our hearts are created to praise the Lord and yet we find a million little distractions along the road and so often even in the company of the upright and the congregation we don’t praise the Lord, and this drives us to remembering our need for a redeemer, a need to throw our selves at the foot of the cross that that we would be remade in the image of the one who did give thanks with His whole heart, the one who while in the company of the upright, was the perfect image and example of the upright and so we pray to be modeled and made into the image of Christ that we too would devote our whole hearts to Him.
We now come to verse two – “the works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” The works the Psalmist is talking of here are probably creation – not necessarily his redemptive, and providential works within His people, but all which we see, and experience, which are designed to glorify the Lord. At the same time, we can’t help but to recall how great His work of redemption is as well.
The last verse of the Psalm will remind us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and we will talk about what that means shortly – but the ground work is being set for that statement. For any study, whether it be of God’s work in creation, studying His Holy Word, or even studying how language works, can and in fact should be an act of worship, for there is no knowledge that doesn’t point back to God.
In all that we study there is a risk that we might reduce it to something to be possessed. We see this in the sciences, where life is, too often, viewed as random. Biblical scholars may reduced scripture to an old story to be dissected and examined, not a book written so God’s people could know God better. Scholars of Shakespeare and Chaucer and even Faulkner can deconstruct literature to the point that it loses its beauty. Those who choose to delight in their own achievements and knowledge too often see human wisdom as an end to be possessed. There is always a risk that we would use it to puff ourselves up, not to come into a deeper understanding of God. So, as we sing our praises to the Lord in this Psalm we are reminded of making our efforts to learn more about our world are to be an act of glorifying the Lord. All wisdom starts with the Lord, and is rooted in humility. We start with submitting ourselves to our savior and redeemer.
This brings us to the third verse, and the center of our thoughts today: “His work is worthy to be praised and had in honor, his righteousness endures forever.” Here we change our view from God’s creative works, to God’s re-creative, and redemptive works. The next seven verses are intently curious about how God reveals himself in this, and what we know of Him. We are reminded, that because of our salvation, we come before the Lord in praise, we are given new hearts that desire to worship the Lord, even in the smallest of things.
As we read on, in verse 4, we can’t help but remember the working of God in the redemption of His nation of Israel, but not only that, but even in our conversion. Perhaps we remember the day when we came to know Christ, or the season of our life where we finally came to our knees in prayer to Him, or perhaps his pulling us out of our wandering, or our exile that first led us into a spiritual Babylonian captivity, and then through His grace we were finally freed from those sinful affections. As we think of these season in our lives, looking back – we can’t help but say or think – of how marvelous his works are, and how we continually delight in His providential provision for us.
Yet, God’s provision isn’t only spiritual. He is a God who saves us from our sin, but His provision extends to our temporal needs. We are reminded of this when we pray the Lord’s prayer, when we pray that God would give us our daily bread. This bread is both the spiritual bread found in the word of God, but also the meat which lays on our table and we eat. For God provides all that His children need. The way in which our temporal, or material needs are met may be simpler than we desire, but in He is always faithful to provide.
This tenderness of provision in our physical needs is contrasted in verse seven to his incredible and awesome power. We run the risk of reducing God to a kindly old man in the sky who gives us what we want and lets us be, or conversely reducing Him to this fiery force of Judgement who is unknowable, and merely looking for us to fail so he can condemn us.
No, God is a just judge, but he is also merciful, he is the redeemer who cleanses us from our sin, he is the provider for our all our spiritual and temporal needs, he is faithful, he is both mysterious and knowable. He is infinitely big, and yet, tender and kind personally known by His people. Let us not conflate one attribute of God at the expense of the others, but rather look at the totality of His goodness for the Lord is the definition of good.
In verse eight we are reminded that God does not change – He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The witness of scripture is one voice, spoken through different authors over the history of time, but throughout the whole thing God is the same. Even though we would like to create God in our own image, it is His image that we are created in, and so we submit our hearts and mind to His word that we would know Him better.
As we approach the end of Psalm 111 we are reminded yet again of His redemptive power. For just as He, time and again, redeemed His people, the Israelites, from their enemies, he saves his people the Church from their spiritual enemies. He has made a covenant in the blood of Christ with us. Our portion of the covenant is that we would return to Him, that we would submit our hearts and minds to Him that he would give us new hearts, that he would replace the hearts of stone within us and write on our new fleshly hearts His law – His promise is that we would know Him.
We end with this often cited phrase – “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do thereafter.” We don’t like to think of fearing God, and yet this is a good thing, and Augustine summarizes it well when he was preaching on the Ten Commandments: Nobody fulfills these ten commandments by his own strength of character, unless helped by the grace of God. So if nobody fulfills the law by his own strength of character, unless God helps with his Spirit … “the Spirit of God, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and courage, of knowledge and piety, with the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.” … he, coming down on us as it were from above, begins from wisdom and ends with fear. We, however, going up from below, begin from fear and are perfected in wisdom. “The beginning of wisdom,” after all, “is the fear of the Lord.”
We come before the Lord in the fulness of reverence, in the fullness of knowing that God is larger and mightier than anything that we could imagine, and yet, he also gives us the spirit that we could know him fully.
As we come to the end, like last week, we come to the place where we began – not fear but the praise which flows out of fear, that is reverence and awe, and wisdom. Our reverence for God leads us to seeking to praise God for all He has done. Our redemption in Christ allows us to see how God creates and re-creates, how He provides for our spiritual and temporal needs, how He is tender and powerful, how He is just and merciful, how He is persistently faithful, and his promises are trustworthy, because He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
So in our redemption, let us give thanks to the Lord, let us with one heart, one voice, and one mind sing praises to Him. Let us be not satisfied with merely giving Him the words of our mouth, but let all our actions be actions of praise in all we do - for His mercy endures forever.
In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.