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August 16, 2009
Psalm 111

This psalm was also set for the week of Epiphany 4 this year. See that week for some comments on the psalm in general and suggestions on how it might be used in worship.

The choice of Psalm 111, a wisdom psalm, is appropriate when set alongside the story of Solomon’s dream in 1 Kgs 3:3-14, where he asks the Lord for wisdom at the beginning of his reign. It is also appropriate because of the mention of covenant in v. 9 recalling, in this context, the covenant and promise to David and his dynasty in 2 Samuel 7, and which is presumed in today’s Old Testament reading (1 Kgs 3:3, 14). It is also appropriate because of the strength of faith in the Lord expressed by way of thanksgiving. The Lord’s greatness, honour, majesty, righteousness, grace, mercy and provision for his people are clearly understood by the psalmist. Their thankfulness arises from within their whole being and they are glad to proclaim it in the company of the upright and the congregation (Ps 111:1). The psalm ends with ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’, likely an old proverb. ‘Fear’ in this context is not terror but rather worship or awe. That is the starting point for all wisdom, whether it be ruling a whole nation or getting on with the supposed hum drum of life.

Further suggestions for the use of the psalm in worship (see also Psalm 111 for Epiphany 4):

The beginning of the psalm is suitable for a call to worship said in responsive fashion:

Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright,
in the congregation.
Sentences from the psalm could be used to introduce petitions in the prayers of the people:
5 [The LORD] provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
        Prayers for the church
6 [The LORD] has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.
        Prayers for the world
7 The works of [The LORD’s] hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
        Prayers for world leaders and peace
4 [The LORD] has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
        Prayers for the needs of the people

Old Testament Reading: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

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