YEAR A: EPIPHANY 5
February 6, 2011
Psalm 112 is another acrostic psalm, where its twenty two lines begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Like its companion psalms, Psalms 111 and 113, Psalm 112 begins with halleluyah, ‘Praise the Lord!’. Psalm 111 is also an acrostic.
Psalms 111 and 112 should be read together. Both proclaim publicly the praise of God. However, there is one difference between them. While Psalm 111 praises God directly, Psalm 112 proceeds to spell out how ‘blessed/happy’ is the one who fears the Lord (Ps 111:10) and delights in God’s commandments. There are also strong echoes in Psalm 112 of the description of the blessed worshipper in Ps. 1:1-2.
The way Psalms 111 and 112 are set up shows that the blessed person reflects in their life and actions the character of the Lord whom they fear. While the community delights in the works of the Lord (Ps 111:2) the blessed person delights in the Lord’s commandments (112.1). The clause ‘his/their righteousness endures for ever’ occurs in Ps. 111:3 in relation to the Lord and in Ps. 112:3, 9 in relation to the person. The Lord provides food (111:4) while the person distributes freely to the poor (112:5, 9). The Lord is ‘gracious and merciful’ (111:4) as is the person (112:4) and the works of both are done in justice (Pss. 111:7; 112:5). The Lord remembers the covenant forever (111:5) and the person who is righteous is remembered forever (112:6). Finally, the Lord’s works/precepts are established forever (111:8) and the heart of the person is established and not afraid (112:8). A mirror image is thus created between Psalms 111 and 112, indicating that the wonderful deeds of the Lord are reflected in the blessing and activity of the one who is righteous and honours God. It also suggests that the one who is righteous is sustained by the Lord whom they worship.
There are, however, aspects of Psalm 112 about which we
should exercise caution. Several verses speak of the well-being of the
righteous as though material blessings will flow to the one who reflects
the character of God. For example, Ps 112:2 suggests that the generation
of the upright are blessed but also that their descendants will be mighty
on the land. Verse 3 talks of the wealth and riches in their houses, while
v. 5 suggests that those who deal generously or conduct their affairs justly
are ‘well’ and indeed are secure (vv. 6-7). We know from bitter experience
that such is not always the case. The righteous person can suffer and struggle
greatly and the unrighteous one can be very well off. The psalmist knew
this too (see Ps 73:3-12). We need to treat the wording of Psalm 112 with
caution and understand the poem in ways other than literal ones. The psalm
still echoes the themes of Epiphany, however, with its references to light
in v. 4.
Suggestions for the use of the psalm in worship
The opening verse of the psalm can be used as a call to worship:
Praise the LORD!Several lines can also be collected and used for the final blessing:
Happy are those who fear the LORD,
who greatly delight in his commandments.
Praise the LORD!
Happy are those who fear the LORD,Old Testament reading: Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)
who greatly delight in God’s commandments.
The generation of the upright will be blessed;
they rise in the darkness as a light for the upright.
It is well with those who deal generously,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
They will never be moved;
they will be remembered forever.
And the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you,
now and forever.
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