I studied Psalm 111 for my weekly quiet time. Psalm 111 concludes by saying, "The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do [his commandments]: his praise endureth for ever" (King James Version).
How does the fear of the LORD lead to wisdom,
according to Psalm 111? Wisdom includes people doing what is conducive
to their own self-interest. That's why wisdom literature, such as the
Book of Proverbs, tells readers that those who fear God and do the right
thing will experience prosperity, whereas those who behave unwisely or
wickedly are hurting themselves. There is an appeal to self-interest
According to Psalm 111, people act according to their own
self-interest when they fear the LORD. The reason is that God is active
in the world, rewards people according to their commitment to God's
covenant, and provides for those who fear him. The Psalmist appeals to
God's activity in history (i.e., giving Israel the land of the
Canaanites) to validate such points. Why should we fear the
LORD, according to Psalm 111? Because God is on the winning side, and
we will be be among the winners, too, if we side with God.
what's important is not just that God acts, as if we should fear the
LORD just because he is bigger and stronger than we are. Rather, God
acts, not arbitrarily, but righteously and with honor. And God
created the world to reflect God's righteousness, which may be at least
part of what v 7 means when it affirms that "The works of his hands
[are] verity and judgment; all his commandments [are] sure." When one
obeys God, one is acting in accordance with the cosmos. Sin, however,
results in chaos and is ultimately self-destructive to those who
practice it. Wisdom entails a regard for one's own well-being,
and the fear of the LORD is partially a recognition that God is powerful
and thus we should do what God says for things to go well with us. But
there is much more to wisdom and the fear of the LORD than that: there
is an adoration of God on account of God's righteousness, and wisdom
entails us partaking of what is beautiful, tried, and true.
detailed some of my problems with a "reward and punishment" view of
God's activity in the world, as well as the belief that the biblical
commandments are tried and true, in my post here,
which concerns Psalm 12. In terms of my own faith, though, I take the
following from Psalm 111 as I attempt to apply it to my own life:
is a God who acts righteously, even though there are many times when
God appears to be silent. In the end, good will prevail.
when people behave righteously, society is better off than it would be
were most people to behave wickedly. You know the old saying: "There's
no honor among thieves." Thus, as Psalm 111 affirms, there is a sense
in which God's precepts are true and permanent.
something beautiful about righteousness. If you want to regard
righteousness as conformity to rules, then I don't think that's entirely
wrong, for one can look at God's laws and profitably seek to discern
what is orderly and wholesome about them. But righteousness is not just
conformity to rules. It includes God's passionate love for us. If you
are a Christian, you most likely include in that love God's act of
self-sacrifice in Jesus Christ.
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