As this new school year begins, I’ll be teaching New Testament Survey for the Juniors and Seniors at the local Christian High School, The Kings Academy. As I ponder how to motivate these young scholars to dig deep into the New Testament, my thoughts turn to Psalm 111:2, one of my favorite verses:
“Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them.” NASB
I’ve found this verse useful to introduce just about any class that I teach. Here’s why.
On the Importance of Studies
I first latched on to this verse because it highlights the word “study.” Granted, I am showing preference for the NASB and ESV translations, which use the term “study”, because my aim is to motivate others to study God’s works. The meaning of the Hebrew word translated “study” has broader meaning than just academic study, as brought out by the NIV, “they are pondered by all who delight in them” or the KJV which says, “sought out”. The root seems to go deeper than academic study to include meditation and reflection. So to “study,” “ponder” “seek out” God’s great works is first application of this verse.
Where we can Discover God’s Great Works
As I have pondered this verse over the years, I experienced several great “Aha!” moments when I realized where we can discover God’s great works.
I’ve taught Old and New Testament survey classes before and have shared Psalm 111:2 with my students to motivate them to study the scriptures, because the Bible records the marvelous works of the Lord. A casual reading of the Bible will notice that it records God’s works.
In particular Jesus claimed to have worked the works of God. These claims are especially prevalent in John’s Gospel. For example:
But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. John 5:36 ESV
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do”
John 17:4 ESV.
So the Bible is our first “go to place” to discover the works of God.
There is a collection of books called The Great Books, about 500 works of literature that have shaped Western Culture and still have contemporary significance. However, the Greatest Book ever written is the Bible. It has been read by more people, translated into the most languages, and has exerted the greatest positive influence on world history than any other literary work. The Bible is the greatest book because it records, the “great …works of the Lord”. And, yes, its author is God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16) – through the agency of human authors (2 Peter 1:20-21). That alone should make it the Greatest Book ever written!
So it is obvious that the Bible is a rich place to study the “great…works of the Lord. “ But there are other places where we can also discover the God’s works.
All Created Things
I once substituted for a natural science class and shared a devotional thought based Psalm 111:2 with the young scholars, motivating the them to study the physical world, because it is God’s creation, the work of his hands (Psalm 8:6). The Bible begins with an account of how God “created the heavens and the earth.” And God’s work was good, yes, very good. Psalm 19, written by David, begins “The heavens are declaring the glory of God.” Paul too refers to God’s revelation of himself though creation when he says “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” (Romans 1:20) Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), who is considered the father of the scientific method, observed “God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course, we are all familiar with the first book he wrote, namely Scripture. But he has written a second book called creation.” No doubt Bacon’s understanding of the Creator motivated him to devise methods to study His creation. So then the study of the natural sciences, astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, botany and biology, can point to the “great …works of the Lord,” leading us to marvel at his power and wisdom.
Human History Points to His Story
I’ve taught the history of Christian missions on several occasions. Psalm 111:2 is fitting to share with those classes, as a trained mind should be able to discern the “great…works of the LORD” throughout the history of Christian missions. There is a German word that I love: heilsgeschichte – it is fun to say and means :”an interpretation of history emphasizing God’s saving acts and viewing Jesus Christ as central in redemption” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). In my opinion, the person who coined this term got it right. We can discover in history God’s great works. Human history points to His Story!
The Present Day Mission Work
Recently I used Psalm 111:2 to introduce a training seminar on missionary research. The mission organization that I serve with, One Challenge International, says, “We ask how God is at work, then we assist the Body of Christ to being God’s transformation to individuals, communities and nations.” Since we hold that God continues to work in the world today, missionary field research enables us to seek how God is at work today – if we connect the facts with the divine factors causing Church growth (1 Corinthians 3:5ff) – and then join Him in His redemptive purposes.
The mission information worker or researcher is much like a news reporter – relating the story of what God is doing today.
So my second observation from Psalm 111:2 is that God’s works can be found in many places: scripture, the created order, in the history of Christian missions and on the mission field today. We have plenty to study!
Discovering God’s Work is Delightful!
This leads to a final observation: studying the works of God is delightful. Psalm 111:2 concludes on this note: “Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them.” I’ve found great delight in discovering God’s work.
I remember when I first started to read though the Bible with spiritually open eyes. Wow! What wonderful discoveries I made that I was blind to in previous readings. This was also the same time when I discovered the highlighter. Vast portions of my Bible turned yellow as I marked those marvelous, life transforming passages. I discovered, as David wrote, that the scriptures “are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).
Over the years as a mission information worker, I’ve spent hundreds of hours entering data into Church and Christian worker databases. Many would consider this mundane work, but I’ve found it exhilarating, after I realized that I’m not just entering data, but I am recording the great works of the Lord. Each baptism represents God’s work in the life of a new believer. Each new church has God’s fingerprints all over it. Every new missionary sent out, every new Christian Worker is evidence of God’s work. I’ve experienced delightful moments of worship when I’ve recognized God’s work in the data of Christian missions.
Motivation for Education
We might view the interaction of God’s works, study and delight as a spiral. The more we study, ponder, reflect on God’s works, the more we delight in them. And the more we delight in God’s work, the more we want to study them.
I hope that you frequently experience the joy of discovering God’s great works – where ever they are found.
Sharing the Great News of God’s Wonderful Works
Another motive for studying the great works of the Lord is to “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples” (Psalm 96:3 NASB). We cannot share with another what we have first discovered ourselves. As we turn to the New Testament, we realize that the greatest work of the Lord is the atoning death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead, which provides the basis for the forgiveness of sins. Luke summarizes, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46,47). This succinct summary points to the greatest news of God’s wonderful works, and our 21st century obligation to share it with all peoples.
My Next Step
The New Testament has quite a bit to say about how God continues to work out his redemptive plan. So I intend to write a brief piece that identifies some of the specific items that a “trained mind” looks for to discover God’s work in history and the present.