(1) HALLELUJAH! (Praise Yahweh!) I will give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the congregation. (2) Great (are) the works of Yahweh, pondered by all who delight in them. (3) Splendid and majestic (is) his work, and his righteousness endures forever. (4) He has made his wondrous works to be remembered. Gracious (is) Yahweh and compassionate. (5) He has given food to those who fear him. He remembers his covenant forever. (6) He has declared to his people the power of his works in giving them the heritage (lands) of other nations. (7) The works of his hands (are) faithful and just. All his precepts (are) trustworthy. (8) (They are) established forever. (They are) done in truth and uprightness. (9) He sent redemption to his people. He has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome (is) his name. (10) The fear of Yahweh (is) beginning of wisdom. All those who do them (his commandments) have good understanding. His praise endures forever.
Psalm 111 is composed as an acrostic poem. This means that each line in the psalm begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, two per verse in the first eight verses and three per verse in the last two. In other words, this psalm constitutes a complete cataloguing of God’s praise from alef to tav or, as we might say in English, from A to Z.
We find several repetitions in the psalm including the name, “Yahweh,” used five times (twice in vs. 1 and once each in vss. 2, 4, & 10). Also repeated are “remember” (in vs. 4 as a noun & in vs. 5 as a verb), “works” (vss. 2, 6, & 7) including several synonyms for “works” (vss. 2, 3, & 4), “forever” (vss. 5, 8, 9, & 10), “his people” (vss. 6 & 9), “his covenant” (vss. 5 & 9), and “fear” (vss. 5 & 10). These repeated words lead us to the message of the psalm.
I. Declaring the praise of Yahweh (1)
II. Describing the works of Yahweh for which he is to be praised (2-9)
III. Determining to fear and obey Yahweh (10)
Because of all he has done, Yahweh is ever to be praised and obeyed by those whom he loves.
The great works of Yahweh, first in creating and sustaining all things, and then, more specifically, his work of redeeming for himself a people, establishing his covenant with them, and giving them a land where he might pour out his blessings on them, are the focus of this psalm. As we ponder his works, we should be drawn into an ever deepening attitude of reverential fear that leads us into the kind of worship and obedience that honors him. Two “aw” words come to mind. We are to have an awareness of him that produces within us a sense of awe. The more aware we are of what He has done, the greater our awe will become.
That is precisely the message of the final verse, a statement voiced twice by Solomon in the Book of Proverbs (1:7 & 9:10). Many consider the statement, “The fear of Yahweh (is) the beginning of wisdom,” to be the central idea of the book of Proverbs. This means that out of a deep reverence for Yahweh we should be motivated to live our lives wisely, in ways that please and glorify him.