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Psalm 111:1-4

1. Praise ye Jehovah. 336336     The Hebrew for Praise ye Jehovah is Hallelujah. This is probably the title, and no part of the psalm itself. The alphabetical construction of the poem seems to confirm this opinion. It is acrostic, and begins with aleph, and each succeeding hemistich commences with the other letters of the alphabet in order; but were Hallelujah, which begins with the fifth letter of the alphabet, answering to our H, the first word of the psalm, that would destroy its perfectly alphabetical character. (א, aleph,) I will praise Jehovah with my whole heart, (ב, beth) In the congregation and assembly of the just. 2. (ג, gimel,) The works of Jehovah are great, (ד, daleth,) Sought out of all who have a desire to them. 3. (ה, he,) His work is beautiful and magnificent: (ו, vau,) And his justice endureth for ever. 4. (ז, zain,) He hath caused his marvellous works to be remembered: (ח, cheth,) Jehovah is compassionate and merciful.

 

1 I will praise Jehovah The best and most efficient method of inculcating the performance of any duty is to be exemplary; and, accordingly, we find that the prophet, in the present instance, sets himself for an example, to lead others to engage in the celebration of God’s praises. His resolution to praise God consists of two parts; that he would celebrate God’s praises unfeignedly, with all his heart, and that he would do it publicly, in the assembly of the faithful. He very properly begins with heart-praise, because it is much better to praise in secret, and when no one is conscious of it, than to lift up our voice, and shout forth his praises with feigned lips. At the same time, the person who, in secret, pours out his heart in grateful emotions towards God, will also set forth his praises in swelling strains, otherwise God would be deprived of one half of the honor which is due to him. The prophet then determines to praise God with the whole heart, that is, with an upright and honest heart; not that he engages to come up to the full measure of his duty, but he declares that he would not be like the hypocrites, who, coldly and with a double heart, or rather guilefully and perfidiously, employ their lips only in the praises of God. This is a point worthy of notice, lest any should be discouraged, in consequence of not being able to cherish the hope of attaining to that perfection of heart which is so desirable; for however defective our praises may be, they may nevertheless be acceptable to God, provided only we strive unfeignedly to render unto him this act of devotion. We come now to the other part of his resolution, in which he says he would proclaim the praises of God before men; for although the Hebrew term סוד, sod, denotes a private assembly, 337337     “Aben Ezra and others think that עדה is put in opposition to סוד, which denotes a more secret assembly; and so the verse, they say, means, in substance, as follows: ‘I will praise the Lord with all my heart, both privately and publicly.’ This, however, I think can scarcely be the sense: it is much more likely that סוד is here employed to express a congregation of Israelites; because the rest of the world was excluded from such assembly, and so far it partook of the character of private or secret. This is the view taken by Luther, whose paraphrase of this verse is as follows: ‘I thank the Lord here in this public assembly, where we (Israelites) meet one another as in private counsel, and where no heathen nor strangers can be present.’” — Phillips. yet I think that, in this passage, he employs two words of synonymous import. At the same time, should any one be inclined to take a more refined view of the passage, he may do so if he please. He says, in the congregation of the just, because the principal object for which holy assemblies are convened, is to afford the worshippers of God an opportunity of presenting to him sacrifices of praise, agreeably to what is stated in Psalm 65:1,

“Praise waits for thee, O Jehovah! in Zion.”

2 The works of Jehovah are great He now proceeds to inform us that there are abundant materials for praising God, supplied by his works, to which at present he makes only a general reference, and which he, subsequently, defines more explicitly in relation to the government of the Church. The magnitude of God’s works is a subject which, generally, eludes the observation of men, and, therefore, few of them are acquainted with it. This ignorance the prophet ascribes to the indifference and ingratitude of men, comparatively few of whom condescend to notice the great wisdom, goodness, justice, and power, which shine forth in these works. Expositors are divided in their sentiments about the second clause of the verse. Some translate it, sought out for all their delights; and, indeed, the Hebrew term חפף, chaphets, signifies good pleasure; but as this is too harsh an interpretation of the word, it is better to understand it as an adjective, expressing the idea of loving or desiring. As to the participle, sought out, which, according to the Hebrew verb, דרש, darash, properly denotes, to search with diligence, we yet find that the works of Jehovah are, in this place, called דרושים, derushim, that is, perceived or found out. Hence, in Isaiah 65:1, it is said, “I was found of them who sought, me not.” I must, however, not lose sight of the prophet’s design, namely, that in consequence of so few applying themselves to the study of the works of God, he teaches us that that is the reason why so many are blind amidst a flood of light; for, when he says that the excellency of the works of God is known to all who desire it, he means that none are ignorant of it, except such as are wilfully blind, or rather, malignantly and contemptuously quench the light which is offered to them. We must, however, attend to the means which we possess for arriving at the knowledge of these words because we know, that as long as the faithful are on earth, their understandings are dull and weak, so that they cannot penetrate the mysteries, or comprehend the height of the works of God. But, incomprehensible as is the immensity of the wisdom, equity, justice, power, and mercy of God, in his works, the faithful nevertheless acquire as much knowledge of these as qualifies them for manifesting the glory of God; only it becomes us to begin the study of his works with reverence, that we may take delight in them, contemptible though they be in the estimation of the reprobate, who treat them with impious scorn. The LXX. having rendered it, sought out in all his wills, Augustine has therefore taken occasion, with philosophic finesse, to ask, How can there be, or, at least, appear to be, a plurality of wills in God? And it is indeed a pleasing consideration, that though God manifest his will in his law, nevertheless there is another secret purpose by which he is guided in the wonderful management of human affairs. This doctrine, however, is, foreign to the exposition of this passage.

3 His work is beautiful Others render it splendor. The meaning of the clause is this, That every act of God is replete with glorious majesty. In the following part of the verse he specifies more clearly in what this beauty and magnificence consist, by stating that the justice of God is everywhere conspicuous. It is not the design of God to furnish us with such a display of his power and sovereignty in his works, as might only fill our minds with terror, but he also gives us a display of his justice in a manner so inviting as to captivate our hearts. This commendation of the works and ways of God is introduced in opposition to the clamor and calumny of the ungodly, by which they impiously endeavor, to the utmost extent of their power, to disfigure and deface the glory of the works of God. In the next verse, he more especially extols the wonderful works in which God has principally set forth his power. To cause his marvellous works to be remembered, is equivalent to the doing of works worthy of being remembered, or the renown of which shall continue for ever. 338338     “זכר עשה. He hath made a memorial for himself in his wonderful works. זכר, the same as זכרון in Numbers 17:5. So the LXX., in Exodus 17:14, render זכר by ὄνομα, name; accordingly, זכר עשה may signify, He hath made himself a name; i.e., His wonderful works will exist as memorials of his name.” — Phillips. And having above called upon us to contemplate his justice, now, in like manner, and almost in like terms, he celebrates the grace and mercy of God, principally in relation to his works, because that justice which he displays in the preservation and protection of his people, issues from the source of his unmerited favor which he bears towards them.


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