Psalm 111: Delighting in the Works of God

Psalm 111:2 reminds us of a fundamental principle: Delight leads to study. A Lover can recall every feature of his Beloved’s face. A mother knows every dimple, hair, and birthmark on her baby’s body. When we recognize something as full of splendor and majesty, careful attention is no chore. When we are fascinated, when we marvel at some wonder, when our hearts rise with delight in some reality, the natural and unavoidable response is to move further up and further in, to seek after the object of our affection, to devote concerted effort to observing, understanding, and evaluating what we love and then to feel, apply, and express what we’ve seen.

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.”

So What Are These Works?

I believe that this psalm wants to draw our attention back to God’s work on behalf of his people in Exodus through Joshua. The reference to God’s grace and mercy (verse 4) reminds us of the revelation of God’s name in Exodus 34. His redemption (verse 9) takes us to the exodus, his precepts (verse 7) to Sinai, the provision of food (verse 5) to the wilderness wandering, his inheritance (verse 6) to the Promised Land.

So the question is: Do you study those wondrous works? He has caused them to be remembered (verse 4). He has written them in a book so that we can study them from delight. Do you remember the story?

Do You Remember . . .

  • How God remembered his promise to Abraham when Pharaoh had forgotten about the saving deeds of Joseph?
  • How he turned the sacred river into a torrent of blood?
  • How the Lord of hosts assaulted Egypt’s gods with a battalion of bugs, boils, and fiery hail?
  • How his Death-Angel struck down sons that slept under blood-less doors?
  • How he baked Pharaoh’s heart into a hardened clay pot and then shattered it beneath a wall of water?
  • How at his signal earth and sea swallowed the horse and the rider whole?
  • How he sent redemption to his people and led them out as a mixed multitude?

Do You Remember . . .

  • When his people grumbled with hunger, and he fed them with magic bread from heaven?
  • When they groaned with thirst, and he squeezed water from a rock?
  • How he rode a thunderstorm to Sinai and ignited the top of a mountain? How he spoke in thunderclaps out of a cloud of smoke? How he called Moses into a tornado of fire so that he could give him Torah, precepts and commands etched on stone by the finger of God himself?
  • How he revealed his name as the Lord, sovereign in grace and mercy, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiver of sins and punisher of guilt?
  • How he built a Glory-tent out of goat’s hair, acacia wood, and colored linen, decked it with starry jewels, and filled it with fragrant incense and a golden tree? How outside he constructed a bronze altar of death and put away sin on the charred carcass of an unblemished bull, all so that he could dwell among his people without consuming them?
  • How he swallowed faithless priests who offered strange fire?
  • When the rabble wistfully longed to eat slave food in an Egyptian death camp, and he unleashed fiery dragons to strike them down?
  • When the people rebelled out of fear of giants, he turned the wilderness into a garden of death, a graveyard for an entire generation?

Do You Remember . . .

  • That he remembered his promise to Abraham, the promise of blessing, offspring, and a land for his people?
  • That he demonstrated his power by sending his angelic general to fight on their behalf?
  • That he leveled a city with a marching band, but not before he saved a prostitute who by grace had come to fear and believe?
  • That he cleansed the land of Canaanite idolatry so that his people could have a holy inheritance among the nations?
  • That he caused his people to literally walk on the throats of his enemies?
  • That he led them into a land that flowed with milk and honey and gave them rest?

But wait, we’re not just supposed to remember these wondrous deeds. This psalm is not merely about the past. We're also directed to the future with five “forevers.”

  • His righteousness endures forever (verse 3)
  • He remembers his covenant forever (verse 5)
  • His precepts are established forever (verse 8)
  • He commands his covenant forever (verse 9)
  • His praise endures forever (verse 10)

These “forevers” remind us that there were greater works yet to come, works that we also do well to remember and study with delight.

So Do You Remember . . .

  • How he disarmed the principalities and powers through a carpenter on a tree?
  • How he conquers the kingdom of darkness with fishermen, tax collectors, and prostitutes?
  • How he still protects his people from the Death-Angel with Lamb’s blood on the door?
  • How he still provides daily bread and magic bread from heaven?
  • How, when his people thirst, he squeezes living water from the Rock who is Christ?
  • How he commands his covenant on fleshly hearts and dwells within them as his lasting abode?
  • How he is building a Glory-Tent out of people, a human temple built with living stones from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation?
  • How we are that people, wandering in a graveyard of death, building our homes on billions of bodies and bones buried under the earth?
  • How we follow the Greater Joshua into the inheritance of the nations, conquering with a two-edged sword (and a worship band or two)?
  • How we await the day when we will turn this graveyard into a holy Garden-City, when he will send Death to Hell, and when everything sad will come untrue?

Do you remember?

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.”

Joe Rigney (@joe_rigney) is Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary and author of Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles.