Psalms For Life
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Psalm 111

A good God

How do we know the best path to take in life? By being objective, renouncing objectivity, or just following the latest influencer? This psalm says we know it by submitting ourselves humbly to our gracious redeemer God.

Praise YHWH!
I will thank YHWH with all my heart
in the assembly of those who seek him.
2 So fantastic are YHWH’s deeds
that those who delight in them
devote themselves to studying them.
3 Glory and majesty mark everything he does
and his saving justice endures forever.

4 Renowned for his miracles
YHWH is gracious and compassionate.
5 Ever mindful of his covenant
he provides food for those who revere him.
6 He showed his people his power in action
by giving them the lands of the nations.

7 With truth and justice as his stock-in-trade
all his instructions are trustworthy.
8 They’ll endure forever and ever
and are to be obeyed faithfully and sincerely.
9 He redeemed his people
establishing his covenant with them for all time
and revealing himself to be holy and awe-inspiring.

10 Reverence for YHWH
is where the path of wisdom begins.
All who take it live life in the real world.
His praise endures forever!

Psalm 111 and Psalm 112 are both tight acrostics, presenting a comprehensive view, but from opposite perspectives: the former focuses on God’s redemptive acts, the latter on the response of God’s people. Together, they introduce a series of praise psalms that respond to calls to praise given in earlier psalms.

The psalmist commits to heartfelt public praise of God.* She says those who long to be in tune with him reflect thoughtfully on what he’s done. They align their lives with his purposes since his deeds demonstrate his holy character.

Due to its brevity, this psalm says a lot by allusion. As king, God memorably rescued his people from oppressors in Egypt. He cared for them in the wilderness and then gave them the lands of other nations. Besides redeeming his people, he gave them his law, their nation’s constitution, to guide them into just and healthy relationships. The Psalms anthologist includes Israel’s formative stories here in Book V to then present Israel’s return from exile as another instance of God’s liberating and redeeming his people.

The psalmist implicitly calls us to respond to the ongoing story of God’s revelation of himself. His awesome holiness calls for our reverent submission. This is where wisdom’s path to understanding the world and the good life God has for us begins.

Rescuing us from sin’s oppression, Jesus, your life, death, and resurrection accomplished the greatest exodus of all. I praise you for dying and rising for me. Help me live in holy reverence, walking the path you walkedto all the freedom and joy you have for me. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Reverence for YHWH
is where the path of wisdom begins.
All who take it live life in the real world.
His praise endures forever!


* I imagine the psalmist here as a woman of faith, like Miriam, Deborah, Hanna, or the Virgin Mary (see further, my answer to the question: Who wrote the psalms?).


Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.