PSALM 111 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD

PSALM 111 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD

 (The first Psalm is a series of Psalms that feature the word “Hallelujah” which means praise the Lord and this first Psalm speaks of praising the Lord because of his great works in saving his people and giving them so much from food to a land to live in and of course Salvation and therefore this demands our reverence, faith, obedience and praise.)

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INTRODUCTION

 It is said that over 100 versions of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” have been sung and recorded and the popularity of this song will mean many more will come as well. Apparently Leonard Cohen recorded the song on his not so popular record album in 1984 called “Various Positions” and no one noticed it except Bob Dylan who sang it in some of his late eighties concerts.

Then a young artist by the name of Jeff Buckley recorded it on his debut album called “Grace” in 1994 and the song really took off. Interestingly Jeff Buckley tragically died in an accidental drowning before he finished his second studio album at the young age of 30.

What do the words of this very popular song mean?

The popular music magazine “Rolling Stone” in an article in 2012 on this song said that Leonard Cohen had, “Brilliantly mingled sex and religion” in his song Hallelujah. Leonard Cohen was asked why is the song so popular and he said, “It has a good Chorus”. Later Cohen is also said to have explained the meaning of the song as,

“It explains that many kinds of Hallelujah’s do exist, and all the perfect to the broken Hallelujah’s have equal value”.

 I have sung this song many times in Ukulele groups I have belonged to and as Leonard Cohen said it is the chorus that gets me in because it is that magical pure Hebrew word Hallelujah that strikes a deep spiritual chord within my soul. Hallelujah is a combination of two Hebrew words, “Hallelu”, praise and “Yah” which is the first letters of the special name for God we call either “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” and this is because the full name for God that “Yah” represents is the start of a name of God which was never fully written down because it was considered so sacred and only appears in the Hebrew texts a YHWH missing it’s all important vowels.

“Yah” then is the special name for the Lord our God whose name “Yahweh” which literally means, “ I am who I am” donating the supremacy and immortality of the God of the bible. “Hallelujah” translated into English usually is something like “Praise the Lord” and Psalm 111 is the first of a series of Psalms, 111 – 118 that are called “The Hallelujah Songs” (Allen Harman).

Leonard Cohen says that his “Hallelujah” song is a mixture of those who have faith in God in Cohen’s own words, “the perfect Hallelujah’s” and those who do not have faith in God or have doubts in God in Cohen’s own words, “the broken Hallelujah’s”.

Well Psalms 111 – 118 are part of what I call the perfect Hallelujah’s and we can be part of those perfect Hallelujah’s by uniting with the Psalmist who wrote them with our own praise for the Lord of Heaven and earth based on these Psalms.

Each Psalm in this series except for Psalm 114, which does not use the word “Hallelujah”, will have at the start of its title “Hallelujah” and then what the Psalmist is saying “Hallelujah” for. I must also say that Palm 118 does not have the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” in it but it is clearly is a song of praise for the Lord like Psalm 114 is. Psalm 118 continually uses the phrase, “His love endures forever”, so that Psalm will be entitled by me as “Hallelujah his love endures forever”.

So what is Psalm 111 praising God for?

The answer I think appears in the first seven words of verse 2,

“Great are the works of the Lord”

 These seven words then will be the theme of praise that I will develop in this Psalm talk. I must also comment on the structure of the first two Psalms of these “Hallelujah Songs” series as both Psalm 111 and 112 are what is called “acrostic” Psalms that Allan Harman explains for these two Psalms with the words,

“They start each half verse with the consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet”.

 Other acrostic Psalms start each verse with the consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet and of course Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the book of Psalms starts each group of eight verses with a word that has a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Other acrostics Psalms are 9, 10, 25, 34, 37 and 145.

Why did the ancient Hebrew go to all the trouble of writing acrostic Psalms?

Here I would like to quote my answer to this question from my Psalm 37 talk,

“This devise could have been used to help people memorize it as ancient Hebrew people could only carry around the word of God in their heads as expensive and cumbersome scrolls were only kept in special places like the Temple. Another commentator, J.A Motyer suggested the acrostic Psalm was, “a poetic way of saying that a total coverage of the subject was being offered”. This is like saying that this is the “ABC” or the “A to Z” of a subject.”

 Most commentators believe that Psalm 111 and 112 is a pair of Psalms written by the same author who probably lived after the return from exile in Babylon. The two Psalms are exactly the same length, same style (acrostic) and contain similar Hebrew phrases like the phrase; “his righteousness endures forever” which is in verse 3 in Psalm 111 and verse 3 and 9 in Psalm 112.

H.C Leopold best puts why it was written after the return from Babylonian exile for me with these words,

“Since the era after the return from Babylon Captivity was one of discouragement and littleness of faith, one cannot help but feel that the psalm was written to hearten the faith of that generation by showing the nature of God’s works throughout the history of his chosen people and then concluding with the patient observation that the fear of the Lord and the doing of His commandments were still basic for God’s people as they had always been”.

These Psalms were incorporated then in the final book of Psalms, which we know, from evidence like the Dead Sea scrolls after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. So if faith in God was little or shallow when the Jews returned from exile then how could it be described today?

Simply as people like Leonard Cohen reveal faith in God is even smaller than little yet men Cohen still show signs that their inner being aches for spiritual satisfaction and meaning as the popularity of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” demonstrates.

I hope as you journey with me through these “Songs of Hallelujah” you will turn your broken Hallelujah’s into the Psalmist’s perfect Hallelujah’s and this will help strengthen our little faith in God and help us sing a real and true Hallelujah to the great God of the bible.

My breakdown then for Psalm 111 is:

  1. (vs. 1)   HALLELUJAH / PRAISE THE LORD

 

  1. (vs. 1a)   Hallelujah explained
  2. (vs. 1b)   Praise the Lord in your heart and in your church

 

  1. (2 – 9)   HOW GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD

 

  1. (2 – 4)     God’s great works declared
  2. (5 – 9)     God’s great works fleshed out

  

  1. (vs. 10)   HOW GOD’S GREAT WORKS SHOULD EFFECT US

 

  1. (vs. 10a) Cause us to fear or reverence the Lord
  2. (vs. 10b) Cause us to trust and obey the Lord
  3. (vs. 10c) Cause us to praise the Lord

 

  1. (vs. 1)   HALLELUJAH / PRAISE THE LORD
  1. (vs. 1a)   Hallelujah explained

As I said in my introduction most of the Psalms between Psalm, 111 and 118 contain the Hebrew word, Hallelujah which is made up of two Hebrew words, “Hallelu” which is a word that exhorts the worshipper to praise and “Yah” which is an obviation of the special name for God first given to Moses we translate either as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” and means that God is the one and only God who has always existed as Moses was told, “I am who I am”.

Putting these two Hebrew words gives us the spiritually uplifting word “Hallelujah” and it’s meaning is usually translated in English versions of the bible as,

“Praise the Lord”

 This is the opening words of Psalm 111 and we will come across this term a number of times in the next seven Psalms giving them the special name of “The Hallelujah Psalms”.

I also mentioned in my introduction that in Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” speaks of a broken Hallelujah as one version puts in verse 3, which says,

“You say I took the name in vain,

I don’t even know the name,

But if I did, really what’s it to ya?

There’s a blaze of light in every word,

It doesn’t matter which you heard

The holy or the broken Hallelujah”.

 Maybe at the start of Psalm 111 we have an example of the “Holy” or as Leonard Cohen put it in an interview the “perfect” Hallelujah. Maybe because of our many sins we all sing or say a broken Hallelujah but I believe God wants and even longs for us to say Hallelujah even though he knows and sees our many sins and we will see from the second section of this Psalm that we who speak a broken Hallelujah can be united to the Holy or perfect God through what he has done for us out of his love in Christ when he died on the cross to forgive us our sins and make us right, holy, perfect before God as Paul says in Romans 5: 9,

“Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him”.

 Yes we all, one way or another sing or say broken Hallelujah’s or “Praise the Lord” because of our many sins but through faith in Jesus Christ and not by any good deeds of ours our broken Hallelujah’s can become holy or perfect Hallelujah’s before God himself.

  1. (vs. 1b)   Praise the Lord in your heart and in your church

The writer of Psalm 111 then commences his acrostic Psalm with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet kicking of the second part of verse 1 and it deals with how and where he wants to sing and say his Hallelujah’s or Praise for his Lord. So lets have a look at the how and where he wants to praise the Lord.

  1. How he wants to praise the Lord

He expresses how he wants to praise the Lord with the words,

“I will extol the Lord with all my heart”.

 David Guzik explains this expression with these words,

“There would be nothing help back in his praise, it would be given to God with his whole heart”.

 He wants to pour out of his inner most being pure praise for God, if there is anything like pure or perfect praise from us it must come out of our hearts. I have heard a lot of singers over the years and the ones that stand out to me are the ones who sing from their hearts. They are people who sing sincerely what they really believe and they don’t hold back what they really want to say. Sadly of course what they believe is not uplifting or even true but I still admire a singer who sings from his or her heart because at least they are really giving themselves in their singing and not putting on an act.

The writer of Psalm 111 sang his praise for God from his heart and he really believed in it he was singing. Many examples of people in the bible could be cited here, as people who sang perfect or pure Hallelujah’s and I will only mention here two, one from the Old Testament, David or King David and one from the New Testament, the Apostle Paul.

First we have David who Leonard Cohen speaks of in his Hallelujah song and points out the broken Hallelujah of King David and mixed with the story of Sampson from the book of Judges Cohen’s song says,

“Your faith was strong but you needed proof,

You saw he bathing on the roof,

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya.

She tied you to a kitchen chair,

She broke your throne she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah”

 However even though David sinned and sinned really badly he knew the forgiveness of God that even forgave a King who fell to the twin serious sins of adultery and murder and in his confessional song he sang from his heat these words in Psalm 51: 14 – 15,

“Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise”.

This is the only real perfect Hallelujah or “Praise the Lord” we can sing as we might not have murdered someone or committed adultery but as Jesus says about sin in Matthew 5: 21 – 22,

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell”.

Then he speaks of the sin of adultery in verses 27 and 28 of the same chapter in Matthew,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

Leonard Cohen is right on the money when he says we sing broken Hallelujah’s but like David we too can sing a perfect or holy Hallelujah through what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross for our sins.

My New Testament example of a man who sang God’s praise from his heart is the Apostle Paul who before he discovered the life changing forgiveness of God in Christ went around arresting Christians, having them put in prison, beaten up and even executed. However listen to this man Paul who could be said sang a spoke broken Hallelujah’s yet in Ephesians 1: 3 – 8 Paul speaks from his heart a perfect Hallelujah or Praise of the Lord that he says was made possible by Christ,

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding”.

  1. Where he wants to Praise God

Then the writer of Psalm 111 tells us where he wants to Praise God or sing his Hallelujah,

“In the council of the upright and in the assembly”

 I call this praising God in his church because the expressions in this last phrase of verse 1 are Old Testament terms for what we call today as the Christian church.

David Guzik explains,

“The word assembly and the word for congregation speak of different size groups. Assembly (or council) refers to a smaller group – something like our modern small group, and congregation to the larger gatherings of God’s people”.

 The word “church” in modern times refers usually to the building alone that Christians meet in but as Mary Fairchild points out in her article on the “What is the Church”,

“The word “church” as rendered in the New Testament comes from the Greek term ekklesia which is formed from two Greek words meaning “an assembly” and “to call out” or “called out ones.”.

Fairchild gives a number of bible references in her articles but I like her reference to Ephesians 1: 22 – 23, where Paul speaks of the church as the body of Christ,

“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way”.

It is in the presence of other God fearing, God honouring and God praising people that the writer of Psalm 111 wants to sing Hallelujah or his praises to God and its here we should seek the same. As Peter also speaks about in 1 Peter 4: 11 where he speaks of how we in the church or body of Christ we should minister to one another with the unique gifts God has given us,

“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen”.

The hallelujah or praise of the Lord in church in small or large gatherings of God’s people are the holy or perfect ones given by forgiven broken people who know the forgiveness and love of God in Christ.

Peter was not speaking as some kind of perfect human being here but he too was broken by sin when he denied the Lord three times on the night before his death. Peter was met by Christ after Christ rose from the dead and three times he asked him if he loved him and three times Peter answered, “Yes Lord you know that I love you. Now forgiven by Christ love he could sing the perfect Hallelujah.

  1. (2 – 9)   HOW GREAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD

1.  (2 – 4)     God’s great works declared

So each of these “Hallelujah Songs”, Psalms 111 to 118 will give lots of reasons for saying Hallelujah’s or Praise the Lord and the middle section of Psalm 111 gives us this Psalms reasons for singing Hallelujah or Praise the Lord and it is summarised well by verse 2,

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them”.

 So in verses 2 – 4 we have six truths about the great works of the Lord declared and they are:

  1. The Lord does great works (vs. 2a)
  2. God’s great works are pondered by those who delight in them (vs. 2b)
  3. God’s works are glorious and majestic (vs. 3a)
  4. God’s righteousness endures forever (vs. 3b)
  5. God’s wonders are caused to be remembered (vs. 4a)
  6. God’s works are gracious and compassionate (vs. 4b)

Lets have a closer look at each of these six truths about the great works of God:

  1. The Lord does great works (vs. 2a)

The God of the bible is not just a God who should be praised for who he is but also for what he has done. In fact the first part of verse 2 implies that we know how great God actually is by seeing and remembering what he has done,

“Great are the works of the Lord”

 The God of the bible is presented to us as a God of action or works and in verse 3 of this Psalm deeds. We see God’s works in this world in so many ways, for instance take the natural world, we find even in the microscopic world to the larger beautiful world we live in to the vastness of space God’s amazing design pointing to his glorious greatness as David declares in Psalm 19: 1,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”.

 Notice how David sees in nature represented by the sky the evidence for the work of God’s hands. A son of Korah says this about the God of the bibles greatness in this world in Psalm 47: 2,

“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great king over all the earth”,

 Then in the next Psalm, Psalm 48 verse 1 he says,

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise”.

The perfect Hallelujah then centres not on what we have done but on what God has done and because of what he has done we proclaim how great he is.

However the great works of God are not only visible in nature but are also seen in his saving works which are great as well. The writer of Psalm 111 will speak of these soon but for now I must state that God is seen as being great because he has reached down to us with his love as David declares in Psalm 57: 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends his love and his faithfulness”.

 Israel knew this great God of loving action in so many ways and their very existence as a Nation over thousands of years is a result of this great loving works of their God, the God of the bible.

We who live after the coming of Jesus know the greatness of God’s loving works even more than the writer of Psalm 111 did as we know that God sent his only Son in the world to die for our sins on the cross to make a way for us back to him in heaven as Paul declares in Ephesians 2: 4 – 5,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved”.

It is only because of God’s great love and mercy, which Paul calls grace that we who sing broken Hallelujah’s can now sing holy or perfect Hallelujah’s praising the great love of God in and through the great works of his Son Jesus Christ.

  1. God’s great works are pondered by those who delight in them (vs. 2b)

God’s greatness is clearly seen in his works of creation and new creation in hearts and lives of those who believe in him but only appreciated or pondered or and declared by those who delight in what he has done for them as we read in the second part of verse 2 says,

“They are pondered by all who delight in him”

 Mankind’s rebellion to God which the bile calls sin will cause them to seek and find something other than God for answers to questions like who made the world and did Jesus really come from God to save us as Paul makes clear to us in Romans 1: 21 – 23,

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”.

Ancient people exchanged the glory of God and acknowledgement of his great works of creation to false images of God but modern man has come up with other foolish answers to the creation of the world and the explanation of who Jesus was and did.

Some would rather speak of Mother Nature than God or Evolution did this or that or it all happened by a great gigantic accident called the big bang.

They explain Jesus away by saying he is like Santa Clause a myth or they say his word and deeds where a invention of the church in the fourth Century.

However mother nature, evolution and big bangs cannot explain the intricate detail and beauty of the design and purpose of things like the human body or even just the working of say the human eye that can visualise the wonder of the creation around it. Can anyone honestly believe that chaos produced order or nothing produced something and that something made itself into the miracle of life on earth?

The sad truth is that so many people today, because of their rebellion to God’s rule do believe that something came out of nothing and the great design of the universe is just an incredible accident called evolution.

So the truth of verse 2b of this Psalm is that only those who ponder the God question and believe in him actually delight in his wonder and greatness. David challenged the people of his day in Psalm 34 verse 8 to try believing in God and see what he is like and what he can do for you,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”

Jesus put it another way in Matthew 7: 7,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”.

 Our broken or sinful and empty Hallelujah’s can become perfect Hallelujah’s if we would but seriously take God at his word ponder, taste or seek him and because we do that then we will delight in him and praise his name.

  1. God’s works are glorious and majestic (vs. 3a)

Continuing the theme of the greatness of the works of the Lord the writer of Psalm 111 says this about them in verse 3a,

“Glorious and majestic are his deeds”

 I really like Nancy deClaisse – Walford’s comment on this,

“The Hebrew word translated ‘wonderful deeds’ is nipha’oth it means something that I simply cannot understand, or something different, striking, remarkable, something transcending the power of human intelligence and imagination”.

 I love the old hymn “I cannot tell” and its first verse goes like this,

“I cannot tell why he whom angels worship

Should set his love upon the sons of men.

Or, why as shepherd he should seek the wanderers

To bring them back, they know not how nor when.

But this I know, that he was born of Mary

When Bethlehem’s manger was his home

And that he lived at Nazareth and labored;

And so the Savior, Savior of this world has, come.

 God’s deeds are so much not like our deeds, God’s love is so much not like our love as the prophet Isaiah put it in Isaiah 55: 8

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord”.

These words are preceded by Isaiah’ version of David’s challenge to taste God and see and are like Jesus challenge to seek God and find, in verses 6 and 7 of the same chapter,

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon”.

Leopold says,

“When God acts, his deeds are always done on a high level and are worthy of the great Lord who performs them”.

So our Hallelujah or praise the Lord has substance if we are focused on his wondrous, majestic and great deeds or works for us.

  1. God’s righteousness endures forever (vs. 3b)

Then the writer links the wondrous, majestic and great deed or works of God to his righteousness in the second part of verse 3,

“And his righteousness endures forever”

I could not work out initially what this phrase actually means unto I read this written by Allan Harman,

“The word ‘righteousness’ in the Old Testament often means more than just uprightness. As here, it often denotes God’s saving activity on behalf of his people and in accordance with his covenant promises”.

So the God of the bible always acts true and sure according to his many promises and in Old Testament terms that is in accordance to his covenant, a fact that is also referred to in verse 5 of this Psalm.

God can be relied upon because he is Holy and Righteous and we compared to him are as Isaiah puts it in Isaiah 64: 6,

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”.

The Old Testament covenant offers God’s promise of salvation freely given by God to his chosen people Israel however it was not fully realised unto Christ came to fulfill or complete the covenant God by the shedding of Christ blood payed for our sins. We see a clear understanding of this in Romans 4 where Paul says that even Abraham, the father of the covenant was saved by faith, Roman 4: 1 – 3,

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Paul completes his arguments about how Abraham was saved under the old covenant through faith that was made complete in Christ who gives us God’s righteousness through what he did on the cross, Romans 4: 22 – 25,

“This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”.

So we can sing or say the perfect Hallelujah because Jesus has given us the gift of God’s righteousness through faith in Christ and his death and resurrection for us.

  1. God’s wonders are caused to be remembered (vs. 4a)

God has gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that his great works and deeds will be remembered as the first part of verse says,

“He has caused his wonders to be remembered”

God chose a people through calling Abraham and this people’s history is a living testimony of the wonderful amazing and great deeds of God and in this people lives the traditions of the Passover which is a major example of a great and wondrous deeds of God. Interestingly not only is the story of the Passover written down in the bible but also it is year after year celebrated and remembered by the Jews in the festival of the Passover.

God made what Jesus did for us another and even greater act of love in history and Jesus, who died for our sins on the cross during the Jewish Passover instituted a memorial service for Christians to remember his wondrous act of love when he died on the cross as recorded in the Gospels and made clear as a memorial act for all Christians by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 25,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

But of course the prime way God has caused his wonders to be remembered is through the creation of his word the bible and Peter says this about the creation of that in 2 Peter 1: 21,

“For prophecy (scripture) never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.

Paul says this about God’s word the bible in 2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

So when we use what God made to cause our remembrance of his wondrous deeds namely the bible in our praise of him we are not giving him a broken Hallelujah but a perfect one.

Interestingly there is a number of history of Israel Psalms like Palm 78 and in verses 1 – 4 of that Psalm we read,

“My people hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done”.

  1. God’s works are gracious and compassionate (vs. 4b)

Then the writer of Psalm 111 gives us the main thrust of the great and wondrous deeds of God expressed all through the bible and that his deeds of gracious love and compassion, he writes,

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate”.

This expression seems to be a very clear echo of the famous words about the loving attributes of God in Exodus 34 verse 6,

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

Here God comes close to Moses and what is said of God is that he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. All through the bible and indeed the history of Israel God’s love and compassion is on show. On so many occasions he could have destroyed completely this sinful and stiff necked people but so often he showed them love and forgiveness.

Even David, who I mentioned as a part of Leonard Cohen’s example of a broken Hallelujah as he slept with another man’s wife and then had her husband killed to cover up her pregnancy owing to his act of lustful adultery was forgiven by God. Why did God forgive David?

David answers that at the start of his famous Psalm of confession, Psalm 51: 1,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgression”.

Then in the New Testament God’s love is declared for all the world in John 3: 16,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

Paul tells us clearly how God demonstrates his love for us in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

The sending of Jesus and the death of Jesus for us is God’s greatest great wondrous deed or act of love and Paul says that it is that act of love that helps transform our lives as Paul goes on to say in Romans 5: 9 – 11,

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”.

Our perfect Hallelujah or Praise of the Lord should be out of thanks for God’s great love and compassion for us expressed in praise and thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead to give us new life.

  1. (5 – 9)     God’s great works fleshed out

 The composer of Psalm 111 after stating what is the basis of his Hallelujah or praise for the Lord is namely the great works or deeds of God for him and his people now fleshes out those deeds of God in verse 5 to 9 and he speaks of four actual things God gave his people and they are:

  1. Food (vs. 5)
  2. Land (vs. 6)
  3. Law (vss. 7 – 8)
  4. Redemption (vs. 9)

Lets have a closer look each of these four things:

  1. Food (vs. 5)

In verse 5 we read of God’s basic provision of food for his people,

“He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever”.

This provision of food is probably a reference to the manna God gave his people, Israel in the wilderness for 40 years. This was given by a miraculous deed or work of God and it was such a strange substance that the wilderness people called it Manna which literally means, “what is it”, Exodus 16: 15.

Once the people entered the Promised Land we are told in Joshua 5: 10 – 12,

On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan”.

Note how the manna stopped once the people were in the Promised Land because now God could provide them food the normal way which is through crop growing and other farming techniques that God has blessed man with over the course of history.

God’s provision of food in verse 5 is said to be God remembering his covenant forever and this by Matthew Poole,

“Of his covenant which he made with Abraham and with his seed forever; whereby he obliged himself to be their God, and to provide all necessaries for them”. (Genesis 17)

In the New Testament we have a interesting incident relating to God’s provision of manna and that is how some of the people who were fed freely by Jesus at the feeding of the 5,000 came after Jesus to feed them without having to work for their food and Jesus says this to them in John 6: 26 – 27,

“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, and you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Then in verse 29 Jesus says this,

“Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Finally Jesus says to this group of what I call freeloaders in verses 32 – 33,

“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus went on of course to declare that he is the bread of life and he is using the physical provision of food to speak of the spiritual food or nourishment we all need to get people by seeking him for the right reasons but of course they like most people today reject Jesus offer of spiritual nourishment and this is why so many people end up in such a mess both physically and socially.

Our perfect Hallelujah or Praise of the Lord should also include how he provides us with both physical and spiritual food as it is part of God’s great deeds or work spelt out in our daily lives.

  1. Land (vs. 6)

The second of the four things the writer of Psalm 111 speaks of fleshing out his great deeds or work in the history of his people Israel is the provision of his Promised land for them,

“He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations”.

 Right back to Abraham the land known as Canaan was promised to his descendants, which was a land, occupied by many different nations of people at the time of its conquest by Israel.

God did not take the land of these nations away from them to spite them or even just to favor his special people but because the provision of this land was also a judgment on the great sins over many generations of these ancient Canaanites. Israelites would show the world how God wants people to live as we read in Deuteronomy 7: 1 – 6,

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—

and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.

 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

 Of course the Israelites failed to obey God in both driving out the wicked people God was judging and even after time turned to the ways of the Canaanites and from time to time God judged Israel for this and especially through the Assyrians in Israel and Babylonians in Judah God judged his people by driving them out of the Promised Land.

For Judah this captivity in Babylon only lasted for 70 years and God restored them to the Promised land around 539BC.

So this verse 6 in Psalm 111 would have spoken to this generation of God’s people as the writer of that Psalm probably wrote it during that time and so they saw,

“The power of his works”.

 For us we have a greater inheritance than a piece of earthly land as our Promised Land in Christ is heaven itself as Hebrews 9: 15 says,

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

And Peter spells out how this eternal inheritance of Heaven is given to us by God’s great mercy or grace in Jesus Christ and this should cause us to say Hallelujah or Praise the Lord in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 4,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you”.

  1. Law (vss. 7 – 8)

The start of verse 7 mentions again the great works of God in nature,

“The works of his hands are faithful and just”

 Then the parallel rhyming thought is a reference to the law of God, which in Old Testament terms is the word of God,

“All his precepts are trustworthy”

 One bible dictionary I consulted defined a biblical precept this way,

“A commandment, an authoritative rule for action; in the Scriptures generally a divine injunction in which man’s obligation is set forth”.

 This verse reminds me of Psalm 19 that presents the two ways God makes himself known to us, which is through his works of nature, represented by the first verse of that Psalm,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”.

 The second way God makes himself known is through his word, which, as I said in Old Testament terminology is the law or precepts represented in Psalm 19 by verse 7,

“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple”.

Notice how David speaks of the law or God’s revealed word as being perfect and Psalm 111 says that God’s revelation of himself is both “just” and “trustworthy”. This means that no matter how out of step we as believers in the God of the Bible might seem compared to the way others think and behave in the world around us we must trust in God and his word because only there will we find real truth that not only makes wise the simple but gives real refreshment for the soul as David puts it.

Paul speaks of how we need to not be conformed to the pattern of the world in Romans 12: 2 but be transformed by the renewing of our minds,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.

It is through God’s word that we learn the truth and it is that truth that renews us or as Jesus puts in John 8: 31 – 32, will free us,

 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 Then in verse 8 the writer of Psalm 111 says this about the precepts or word of God,

“They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness”.

 The word of God presents an image of what God is like and we saw in the first part of this middle section of the Psalm that God is great, glorious, majestic, righteous or here in verse 8 upright and steadfast in loving faithfulness. This last part of what God is like is a echo as I said before of Exodus 34: 6,

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

So God is all these things so his word is all those things as well because his word is an expression of who he is and what he has done for us that flows out of who he is. If God is great, glorious and majestic then his word is great, glorious and majestic and here in verse 8 our writer of Psalm 111 is saying that God’s word is steadfast (reliable), faithful (loving) and upright (always true totally) and of course this is because the author of the laws or word of God is all these things as well.

John in his first chapter of his Gospel starts by talking about the word of God and says this, verse 1,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning”.

 Then in verse 14, John tells us who this “Word of God” is,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

So Jesus is God’s word become flesh and so if God’s word is a reflection of what God is like than all that God is like can be seen in Jesus and therefore all the wonderful attributes of God that the writer of Psalm 111 speak of can be seen in Jesus, namely, true greatness, glory and majesty and here in verse 8 our writer of Psalm 111 is saying that God’s word is steadfast (reliable), faithful (loving) and upright (always true totally).

When I taught junior High school scripture to teenagers who usually knew nothing about God and his word I was often asked two questions,

“How do you know that there is a God? and

“If God is there what is he like?

The answer to these two often asked questions is, Jesus, we know there is a God because Jesus came to call us to repent and believe in him and we know what God is like because Jesus is as Paul says in Colossians 1: 15 – 20 is,

“The image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.

 By the way verse 15 is not saying Jesus was born but the term “Firstborn” means that Jesus is supreme over all creation and is then a term that is saying he is God or as we know from the teaching of the New Testament the second part of the united three in one God which is called the Holy Trinity.

So if we want to sing or say a perfect Hallelujah or Praise the Lord as opposed to a broken or sinful Hallelujah we need to use in our praise of God the word of God we call the bible.

  1. Redemption (vs. 9)

The last fleahing out of the greatness of God who we are praising with that special word Hallelujah is found in verse 9, which says,

“He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant holy and awesome is his name”.

 This is clearly speaking of what I call Old Testament salvation based on God’s love outworking in ancient history to create and save a people or a special nation that it seems he wanted to use as a means towards saving people from every nation. We see hints of this in the very calling of the Nation of Israel when given the renewed covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the saved nation of Israel at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19: 3 – 6,

“Then Moses climbed up the mountain to meet with God. The Lord spoke to him on the mountain and said, “Tell this to the Israelites, the great family of Jacob: ‘You people saw what I did to the people of Egypt. You saw that I carried you out of Egypt like an eagle and brought you here to me. So now I tell you to obey my commands and keep my agreement. So if you do this, you will be my own special people. The whole world belongs to me, but I am choosing you to be my own special people. You will be a special nation—a kingdom of priests.’ Moses, you must tell the Israelites what I have said.”

Note three truths here that relate to Psalm 111 verse 9 and they are:

  1. God redeemed his people Israel (vs. 9a)
  2. God only renewed his covenant at Mt. Sinai (vs. 9b)
  3. God is called both Holy and awesome (vs. 9c)

Let me comment on each of these great truths here that relate to Psalm 111 vs. 9:

  1. God redeemed his people Israel (vs. 4)

The writer of Psalm 111 would have had in mind the redemption of the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt when he wrote verse 4, that simply says,

“He provided redemption for his people”

 God’s saving acts of redemption happened all through the little nation of Israel’s history. I believe we cannot fully grasp the miraculous nature of Israel surviving as a nation for so long today as in ancient times hundreds maybe even thousands of nations have come an gone often wiped out by bigger more humanly powerful nations.

Even in Roman times we have the example of the powerful North African nation of Carthage but in 146BC after years of conflict with the Romans Carthage as a nation fell to the Roman sword and was virtually wiped out. Israel in the north suffered a similar fate to Carthage in 722BC at the hands of the Assyrians.

It seemed Judah to the south had suffered the same fate in 587BC to the hands of the Babylonians but a large number of the Jews from Jerusalem and Judah went into exile in Babylon and in 539BC.

God’s redemption for Judah came in the form of the Persians who then allowed the Jews to return to Israel and even allowed them to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. So if this Psalm was written after the return from Babylonian captivity in exile then the words of verse 9 also applies to God’s redemption of his people from exile in Babylon. So again this tiny nation of Israel miraculously survived for another 400 years so that Christ could come for God to be able to offer salvation or redemption to the whole world.

As the prophet’s like Isaiah predicted like Isaiah 59: 20,

“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins, declares the Lord”.

 And to the whole world in Isaiah 42: 6 – 7,

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness”.

In the ministry of Jesus we see these prophecies of Isaiah fulfilled both literally and spiritually and Jesus refers even John the Baptist to his fulfillment of the bibles prophecies in his ministry on earth when even John the Baptist and some of his close disciples had questions about Jesus being the Messiah and Jesus answer refers to another Messiah prophecy recorded in Luke 7: 22 – 23,

 “So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Isaiah 35:4 – 6)

 Jesus saw his mission on earth as a spiritually redemptive one as we see from his own words in Mark 10: 45,

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 The ransom is his life that redeems the payment for our sins as Paul states clearly in Ephesians 1: 7,

“ In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”.

The people of God in the writers time could look back to their ancestors being redeemed or saved out of Egypt and together with their own redemption from exile and captivity in Babylon which was an experience they could sing or say a perfect Hallelujah to their saving God.

We as Christians can look back to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our redemption or salvation and with that in mind sing or say the perfect Hallelujah to praise God as well.

  1. God only renewed his covenant at Mt. Sinai (vs. 9b)

Then the writer in the next phrase of verse 9 speaks again about the covenant of God with his people,

“He ordained his covenant forever”

 There are two major covenants in the bible that God has ordained, the covenant of law and covenant of grace, which the New Testament calls “The New Covenant.

After Abraham, Isaac and Jacob God ordained a major renewal and restating to Moses at Mt. Sinai of his covenant with his people of Israel. In this restating of the covenant is introduced to the covenant the idea of the law and the keeping of the law.

The big jump of course in God’s covenant is seen in the New Testament in its renewal and in fact fulfillment through the work of the coming of the Messiah who of course is presented in the New Testament as Jesus Christ and the word Christ is not a last name for Jesus but a title which is the Greek word for Messiah. This covenant shift and fulfillment is so great it is called “The New Covenant” or the Covenant of grace as we read of in Hebrews 8: 6 – 13,

“But the work that has been given to Jesus is much greater than the work that was given to those priests. In the same way, the new agreement that Jesus brought from God to his people is much greater than the old one. And the new agreement is based on better promises. If there was nothing wrong with the first agreement, then there would be no need for a second agreement. But God found something wrong with the people. He said,

“The time is coming, says the Lord, when I will give a new agreement to the people of Israel and to the people of Judah. It will not be like the agreement that I gave to their fathers. That is the agreement I gave when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. They did not continue following the agreement I gave them, and I turned away from them, says the Lord.

 10 This is the new agreement I will give the people of Israel. I will give this agreement in the future, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write my laws on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

 11 Never again will anyone have to teach their neighbours or their family to know the Lord. All people—the greatest and the least important—will know me. 12 And I will forgive the wrongs they have done, and I will not remember their sins.”

13 God called this a new agreement, so he has made the first agreement old. And anything that is old and useless is ready to disappear”

Note how the writer of the letter to the Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah 31: 31 – 32 which is a prophecy for the coming of the New Covenant of God.

So the writer of Psalm 111 speaks of God’s covenant being ordained by God forever as it is based on this great covenant of God that God will use to judge and save all mankind.

We know from the teaching of the New Testament that it is by grace we are saved and this is for all people from every nation both Jews and Gentiles (non – Jews) as Paul declares in Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

Concerning the difference between Jews and Gentiles Paul says in Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“ So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

So in our perfect Hallelujah or praise of God we need to include our praise and thanks to God for his grace in saving us which is expressed in the New Covenant or agreement between God and us which came into being or was ordained forever through the coming and dying of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. God is called both Holy and awesome (vs. 9c)

The last phrase of verse 9 simply says,

“Holy and awesome is his name”

 Two final biblical attributes of God close this verse and they are holy and awesome which are stated as closing remarks to this section part of the second section of this Psalm which has been fleshing out the great works of God especially in saving his people which we relate to through the new covenant and its promise of salvation through God’s grace.

In the context of what has been said about God’s great works for his people the writer of Psalm 111 is saying that the God of the bible is:

  1. Holy
  2. Awesome

Lets have a look at these two final attributes of God:

  1. Holy

He is Holy because his ways and acts of love are so different than any of any creature or so-called God can do or has done. As we read in Psalm 77: 13,

“Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?”

He is Holy because he is so different than us in his perfection and righteousness, as we see in Psalm 99: 3 – 4,

“Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy. The King is mighty, he loves justice-  you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right”.

Peter applies the concept of the holiness of God to the life we should live because of the grace of God and says this in 1 Peter 1: 13 – 16,

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Our lives lived for God in holiness or as Peter says, obedience to God is a way of offering God a perfect Hallelujah or praise to the Lord as with our lives we show God and the people around us that we are children of the grace and in this we give glory to God and not ourselves.

  1. Awesome.

The attribute of Awesomeness is a wonderful way to finish this second section of Psalm 111 as it speaks in another way of the greatness of God. Many Psalms have made the same point and one Psalm in book two of Psalms, Psalm 66 features the concept of the awesomeness of God which a term devalued today because of the way it is used as a popular slang word, verses 3 and 4 contain key concepts to Psalm 66 and they read this way,

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you,

 they sing the praises of your name.”

I would like to quote from my Psalm 66 Psalm talk in my explanation and application of this word awesome in the context of making a perfect rather than a broken Praise to God or Hallelujah,

“The God this writer wants us to focus our praise on is an awesome God of deeds. This is the first time we come across the “awesome” word in this psalm. As I said in my introduction don’t think of the slang meaning of this word which is as Robert Lane Greene says is the default description for anything good”.

 Rather lets think of the “Dictionary.com” meaning for awesome which is,

 “Causing or inducing awe, inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration or fear”.

 This God should be feared because the next line of verse 3 reads,

 “So great is your power”

 The writer of Hebrews says this in Hebrews 10: 31, As the English standard version and many others translate it,

 “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

 The fear hear is reverence or respect for a God who is so big and even dangerous if you are on the wrong side of him.

 So God is great, glorious, powerful and awesome and this is who our loud and joyful praise should be focus on”.

  1. (vs. 10)   HOW GOD’S GREAT WORKS SHOULD EFFECT US

We come then to the last verse of this Psalm 111 and I have made it a separate section to the Psalm because it moves on to a different concept or idea in the Psalm. I understand that verse 10 is the writer of Psalm 111 attempt to apply what he has been speaking about in making what I have called a perfect Hallelujah as compared to a broken Hallelujah and Hallelujah remember is the Hebrew word we translate in English as Praise the Lord.

The verse has three aspects to this application, which are:

  1. (vs. 10a) Cause us to fear or reverence the Lord
  2. (vs. 10b) Cause us to trust and obey the Lord
  3. (vs. 10c) Cause us to praise the Lord

These three aspects of our writer of Psalm 111 application of making a perfect Hallelujah become then my three parts of this third and last section of this Psalm.

  1. (vs. 10a) Cause us to fear or reverence the Lord

The first part is the phrase in verse that says,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

 This follows what we read at the end of verse 9 that God or the God of the bible is both Holy and Awesome. If he is Holy, different and perfect and awesome, great and powerful then he deserves our respect and worship, which the Old Testament calls fear.

This verse reads and sounds like it comes from the book of proverbs and Allan Harman picks out four similar book of Proverbs references that speak of the fear of the Lord and wisdom, Proverbs 1: 7, 9:10, 15: 33. I would like to quote the first of these Proverbs 1: 7,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

Note how this verse, very similar to some of the wording of Psalm 111: 10 speaks of how fearing God or reverencing him also brings knowledge as well as wisdom which Godless people simply do not have or will not have if they continue to rebel against God.

Paul says in Romans 1: 21,

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened”.

People are wilfully living their lives without any acknowledgment of God ignoring God and even defying him and his laws and then wondering why their lives fall foul to his judgments in the form of sinful consequences in their lives and of course all this will lead to the ultimate judgment to come when they will stand before his throne in the final judgement.

As Paul and that verse in Proverbs points out the not fearing God or reverencing him also has consequences to our way of thinking.

We might appear to be smart or even intelligent but we will lack real wisdom in life if we continue to ignore God and not fear him or revere him as Holy and Awesome or great.

The broken Hallelujah that Leonard Cohen spoke of in his song Hallelujah comes from the mouth of he or she who is still in rebellion to God and his rule in their lives but the perfect Hallelujah that he spoke about comes from the lips and lives of those who acknowledge God as Holy, Awesome and great.

  1. (vs. 10b) Cause us to trust and obey the Lord

What I have just said might sound very negative to some but a very positive application of singing, saying and living a perfect Hallelujah, reverencing him as God leads to according to the writer of Palm 111,

“All who follow his precepts have good understanding”.

 The writer of Psalm 111 could also have had the verse on fearing God and gaining wisdom and understanding from the book of Job as Job 28: 28 says,

“And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

 The positive side of fearing God is that it leads to wisdom and understanding and Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 1 that what we believe about God and especially about Christ and his death on the cross for our sins is foolishness to those who do not believe in God but is in fact God’s wisdom that leads us into wisdom and understanding, ! Corinthians 1: 18 – 21,

 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe”.

So knowledge that does not include God is foolishness but those who are spiritually perishing consider those who include God in their understanding of things fools. However Paul is saying that when we come to understand and accept that Jesus died for our sins on the cross we are not only given understanding and wisdom but we are saved from perishing before the Judgement seat of God.

I leave my last word on this positive aspect of fearing or reverencing God to Spurgeon who writes,

“To know God as to walk aright before him is the greatest of all the applied sciences. Holy reverence of God leads us to praise him, and this is the point, which the psalm drives at, for it is a wise act on the part of a creature towards his Creator. A good understanding have all they that do his commandments. Obedience to God proves that our judgement is sound”

 The perfect Hallelujah or Praise the Lord is a result of fearing or reverencing God which puts God in his place as Lord and King of our lives and this is expressed in our gratitude for his saving work for us in Christ.

  1. (vs. 10c) Cause us to praise the Lord

 The Psalm commenced with the Hebrew word Hallelujah which is translated in English as “Praise the Lord” and it finishes with a statement of how if we understand and believe in the greatness of God particularly seen in his deeds of saving works then we should praise him eternally,

“To him belongs eternal praise”

 The book of Revelation which is the closest we come to seeing or at least understanding what its is like in heaven speaks of great and wonderful eternal Hallelujah’s as people and Angels praise the Lord and my final bible reference comes from a passage in Revelation that speaks of this great eternal perfect praise of God, Revelation 19: 6 – 10,

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

 “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

 In that great wedding supper of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and his bride the church, which we who believe in him are part of will be the place that great perfect Hallelujah’s will be sung and spoken and these Hallelujah’s or Praise for the Lord will then be a eternal praise that the great God of the bible deserves.

As I have been referring to Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” all through this Psalm talk I have attempted to write my closing original poem in the structure of that song. Then I will close this Psalm talk with a prayer.

THE PERFECT HALLELUJAH

(Based on Psalm 111 /

and using the structure of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”)

 Now I heard there is a perfect way

To praise the Lord every day

For you know he is the Lord who really loves yah?

It goes like this, he is the best

He says to us I long to bless

He wants us all to say Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

So I will seek to impart

My praise for God with all my heart

So come an join the perfect Hallelujah

God’s works are great they show his love

So enjoy and praise the Lord above

And join his family in Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

The perfect praise for God above

Praises God for his deeds of love

Majestic is the God who really love’s Ya.

He saves your life and his word is true

He even provides food for you

So join me now and sing your Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

He sent to earth his only Son

Who through the cross our salvation won

So come and praise him now with Hallelujah.

His steadfast love is great and sure

It’s made a way to heavens shore

And there we’ll join the angels in Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

So this is my song of praise

For an awesome God in so many ways

Revere him now and sing your Hallelujah

Follow what his word does say

And you will prove him every day

And then you’re sing the perfect Hallelujah.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Words by: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we lift our voices up to you in Hallelujah. Yes Lord we long to sing and say the perfect Hallelujah, which we know from your word, speaks of all the great things you have done for us. You sent your Son from heaven above to come to earth and become one of us to then die for our sins on the cross so that we can be forgiven and one day join with other believers and the Angels in heaven to evermore sing Hallelujah. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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