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Psalm 111

A good God

Do we know what’s true by being objective, renouncing objectivity, or just following the latest influencer? This psalm says we know what’s what by submitting ourselves humbly to our gracious redeemer God.

Praise Yahveh!
I’ll thank Yahveh with all my heart
in the assembly of those who seek him.
2 So fantastic are Yahveh’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
Yahveh is gracious and compassionate.
5 Ever mindful of his covenant
he provided those who revere him with food.
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
framed in truth and faithfulness.
9 He redeemed his people
establishing his covenant with them for all time
revealing himself as holy and awe-inspiring!

10 Reverence for Yahveh
is where the path of wisdom starts.
All who take it live life in the real world.
His praise will never end!

Focusing on God’s redemptive acts, this psalm dovetails with Psalm 112, which focuses on how God’s people respond to his loving acts. Both tight acrostics, these psalms present the full picture from their different perspectives and introduce a series of praise psalms responding to earlier calls to praise.

The psalmist commits to heartfelt public praise of God. Longing for him to work in us, we carefully reflect on what he does so we can align our lives with his purposes since his deeds declare that he’s our king.

Due to its brevity, this psalm says a great deal by allusion. As king, God unforgettably rescued his people from oppression in Egypt. He fed them in the wilderness and then gave them the lands of other nations. Besides redeeming his people, he enacted the Torah, the nation’s constitution, which guided them into just and healthy relationships. The Psalms compiler includes Israel’s formative stories here in Book V to give the Jews hope by enabling them to see their return from exile as another instance of God’s liberating and remaking his people.

God’s people respond to his revelation of himself as holy and awesome with reverent submission. This is where wisdom’s path to understanding the world and the good life God has for us begins.

By your death and resurrection, Jesus, you accomplished the greatest, most majestic act of exodus, rescuing your people from sin’s oppression. I praise you for dying and rising for me. Help me live in holy reverence, walking the path that leads to all the freedom and joy you have for me. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Reverence for Yahveh is where the path of wisdom starts.
All who take it live life in the real world.
God’s praise will never end!

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name 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. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.