I was reminded very recently while seeing the Sight & Sound production of “David” that the best thing we can do when feeling burdened, defeated, persecuted and overwhelmed is to worship God. Ironically, however, this psalm was not written by David. It was presumably written by one of the Levites to encourage the Israelites after they returned from captivity to Babylon. Historians suppose it was to encourage Israel because they were still being persecuted from all sides even though they were set free.
The first verse in Psalm 111 is translated from the word “hallelujah.” However, the wording here in the original text goes deeper. It’s a vow, an internal encouragement, a prompting to get up and move. To quote one commentary about this, the psalmist is saying:
“Sometimes we simply need to get ourselves by the nape of the neck and decide to do what is right no matter how we feel!”
How does that work out for you? Can you force yourself to worship God despite what you are going through right now? Can you…no, let me reword that…WILL you praise the Creator of the heavens and the earth even though you aren’t in a “good place” right now? That’s what this psalm is about. It’s a call to action. It’s a battle cry against the forces of darkness that try to use our misfortune and fatigue against us to try to make us lose faith and fall apart.
As the psalmist continues, he remembers how great our God really is. Why should we praise Him? In our darkness we find it hard to feel like praising Him. How can we want to jump and shout for joy when our world is crumbling around us…or worse, crushing us? Yet we remember: great are the works of the Lord. Sometimes life sucks. It confuses us. It’s downright hard. But that doesn’t negate the goodness nor the greatness of Almighty God.
Then we transition in verse 4 to something more personal: how He takes care of us. Yes, we might have interpersonal conflicts. Sure we might be losing people we love to sickness and death. Of course we feel overburdened, underpaid, and unappreciated. But we still have what we need today. He provides, Jehovah Jireh, not because we deserve it but because He loves us and He is our Abba Father.
The last half of the psalm we are reminded of God’s ultimate justice and righteousness. Things in this world are unfair, unjust, and downright evil. We have been wronged so many times we have lost count. We haven’t gotten what we wanted when we thought we deserved it. We have been persecuted, abused, misused, and worse! But God is just! He is our redeemer, vindicator, advocate, and judge! He will set things right! There is hope, even when things seem hopeless.
This is why we can sing praises from the bottom of the pit. This is why it doesn’t matter what happens to us. This is why God is worthy of praise.