Daily Devotion – January 25, 2021 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison
111:1 Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
111:2 Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
111:3 Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
111:4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
111:5 He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
111:6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.
111:7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
111:8 They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
111:9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name.
111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.
This psalm lifts God’s name with praise and thanks. Such hymns and psalms were known well to worshippers in synagogues and the Temple. They were part of the bread and butter of the faith.
Psalm 111 particularly concentrates of the actual deeds and work of God, providing food, making and keeping a covenant, and even revealing to humankind what God is doing.
Verses 9 and 10 mention, as result of all these deeds, that “Holy and awesome is his name” and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” an oft-quoted line from scripture. Awesome here means creating awe and even fear; awe is stunned silence at mighty power and the vastness of control, as when one contemplates the beauty and at the same time the size and rawness of the Grand Canyon and the literally hundreds of ways one could die there. We are in awe in a situation when we are stunned by artistic prowess, but we are also in awe when we are rendered speechless by complete devastation after a fire or flood. That is what awe really is.
In Psalm 111 God is the source of blessing, even life-sustaining feeding and rule-keeping. And, at least as a corollary, God is awe-provoking: stunning because of the raw power God commands.
Most Americans don’t think about the power of God too often. We more often think of the power of nature in times of disaster. But for the children of Israel, God was, at least in their psalms and hymns and ritual, admitted to be the most powerful force in the universe. Would it make much of a difference to us as American Christians if we spent more time thinking of God in this way? What would it do to our daily activities if we began them by praying Psalm 111 every morning? Is this even the God we believe in? I wonder what would happen if we tried for just a week to place these images of God before us each day.
Lord God, Thank you for loving us. Reveal to us, oh Lord, how you want us to behold you, to think of you, to pray to you. Teach us, oh God, how to know you and your love as well as your power better. Thank you for loving us. Amen.