October 12, 2015
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
Short but by no Means Least
“Praise the Lord all ye nations … all ye people … praise ye the Lord.”
Many children consider Psalm 117 their favorite. They are happy to have it read at the table after dinner. Its brevity stands in contrast to Psalm 119 and other long Psalms. This is the shortest of all Psalms; yet it is quoted by Paul in Roman 15:11, to show that it has ever been God’s intention to bless Gentiles. The Spirit of God calls upon “all ye nations” to praise and give glory to God. While short, its truth is far reaching and wonderful. Universal praise, unconquerable grace, unfailing faithfulness … Centuries before the advent of the Lord Jesus and the teaching of Paul that Gentiles were included in God’s plan, we are assured that we were in the mind of God.
As part of the Hallel sung at the Passover feast, this was God’s way of balancing any pride Israel would have in their relationship to Jehovah. It would remind them that their responsibility was to bring the nations to a knowledge of the True God.
Note some of the features of this Psalm. It begins with:
v 1 The Call to Praise Recognized
It begins with a call to the nations and tribes of the earth to raise their hallelujah to the Lord, and to laud Him. The word for “people” in verse 1 is actually tribes, and sends our minds forward to the book of Revelation where we are told that from every kindred and “tribe” there will be those who worship God. To “laud” God is actually to commend Him and to speak well of His character.
This occupation with the “why” of worship will be the theme of verse 2.
v 2 The Cause for Praise Emphasized
The psalmist posits two reasons why God should be worshiped and praised: His loving-kindness and His truth. The steadfast love of God is great; His truth is guaranteed. Often through the Old Testament, these two qualities of God (and of His throne) are mentioned together. We should not be surprised that when God revealed Himself in His Son, when the Word became flesh, we read that He was full of grace (loving-kindness) and truth. All that God is, He was “full of” and not merely reflecting.
His love is great in its conquest. The word great actually means “to prevail.” His love has conquered. It will undo all that Satan has brought into the world. But to add to the cause for worship, that love is toward us; we are its recipients and benefactors of His love. It brought the Savior from above to a cross to undo the works of Satan (1 John 3:8).
As a result of what that love has done for each of us, the psalmist concludes his short yet weighty psalm by:
v 2 The Command to Praise Personalized
While nations and tribes are called upon to praise the Lord, and while we look forward with impatient wonder at a day when a myriad of believers will be gathered round the throne to worship, we are called upon individually to praise the Lord.
1. Think of the different words we link with worship and differentiate between them: adoration, thanksgiving, worship, appreciation, and others.
2. Look at all the places where God’s truth is linked with His loving-kindness.