Reverence for the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom. The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him. Praise his name forever! - PSALM 111:10
Comedians often make a living by being irreverent. They capitalize on the foolish adage “nothing is sacred!” Some even advertise their humor as “irreverent” and thereby attract a following of people who like to demean that with which they do not agree and diminish that which they possibly do not even understand. There is no doubt some justification for humorists to point out the foibles of pompous people and to generate the kind of humor that will help us see the alarming gap between our pretentiousness and our actual performance. But they cross the line when they deprecate legitimate authority and lampoon holiness. There is a place for reverence, and he is a poor man who fails to recognize it and acknowledge it.
The psalm writer recognized the need for reverence, particularly reverence for God. The writer of Psalm 111 concluded his beautiful and intricate poem with the following lines:
Reverence for the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom.
The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him.
Praise his name forever! - (Ps. 111:10)
As the psalmist contemplated the Lord, he knew that reverence for God is the only appropriate response to his existence—not only in public worship, but in the day-to-day matters of the heart.
First of all, the psalmist recounted the amazing deeds of the Lord and instructed his hearers to “ponder them.” As a citizen of God’s covenant nation, Israel, he was referring particularly to the events in the nation’s history that clearly demonstrated the power and majesty of the Lord. God had wonderfully rescued Israel from their Egyptian oppressors (111:4); had fed them in the wilderness (111:5); had “shown his great power to his people by giving them the lands of other nations” (111:6), meaning the Promised Land; and all this because “he always remembers his covenant” (111:5). When God makes promises, as he did to Israel, he keeps them! The recollection of these events—which actually happened in time and space—generated a sense of reverence in the psalmist’s heart, which he encouraged the other worshipers to share.
The psalm writer then turned his attention to the giving of the Law to the people of Israel. This was instruction of the highest order, the means whereby the people would know how to conduct themselves as God’s people. The law was a revelation of God’s character and purposes and an exposition of the Most High’s expectations, promises, and warnings. He is the God who graciously communicates with his creatures who revere and obey him.
It is noteworthy that this psalm was composed for use when “godly people” gathered for worship (111:1). In the psalmist’s mind, reverence in worship was of prime importance. We should ponder this—it might get us to church regularly and on time, with our hearts prepared and with a spirit of expectancy, awe, and reverence. This is, after all, “the foundation of true wisdom” (111:10). Irreverence may come across as witty and sharp, but in the end it is reverence that shows we are wise!
For Further Study: Psalm 111