Reading: Psalm 117
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
Reflections on the shortest Psalm — photo by David Kitz
Psalm 17 is the shortest of all the psalms. It reminds me of tabasco sauce. It’s concentrated; you don’t need much to set your mouth on fire.
What’s so great—so powerful—about Psalm 117 you ask? Well in 29 short words, it sums up the call and global appeal of the entire Bible.
Let’s consider this opening sentence: Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. This call to worship is for all people; it’s universal. The message of the Bible is for all people. It’s not limited to a single nation, race or people group.
This call for universal praise is unusual because it draws all humanity into a common faith in the LORD. The Jewish faith was and is a very exclusive religion. This is the faith of the chosen people—God’s chosen people. They did not choose Him, but rather they were uniquely selected by God to bear His name before the nations of the world. Throughout the Old Testament we have a clear sense that God was dealing with his own special people, and they were to walk separate from the nations. They received God’s laws and were the guardians of His word. They were instructed not to intermarry with other nations, nor be polluted by them and their idol worship. The worshippers of Yahweh were an exclusive group, a unique people, but they were not evangelistic. They kept the message to themselves.
But here in Psalm 117 the constricted, exclusive God of the Old Testament appears to break out of His narrow nationalist cocoon. We see that He is in reality a God for all nations, not just for the descendants of Abraham. Here we catch a glimpse of the big picture—the global perspective. All the nations of the earth are to praise Him. The longstanding intent of the God Israel is that every people group should know his ways and experience His salvation.
But why should all nations praise the LORD? The second verse of this miniature psalm provides the answer. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Where did the LORD demonstrate His great love for us? We see God’s love most vividly on the cross. There the Son of God poured out His blood to redeem men and women, boys and girls, from every nation under heaven. There love flowed down in a crimson stream. There God fulfilled His Abrahamic promise. “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8). There the prophecy of John the Baptist was achieved. “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Concentrated within the shortest Psalm is enough truth to set the world on fire.
Response: Father God, I just want to praise you. Thank you for your great love and faithfulness as revealed by Jesus on the cross. I love you, Lord Jesus. I am grateful that you love encompasses all. Amen.
Your Turn: Why is racism run contrary to anyone who claims to love God?