Psalm 117 is the shortest Psalm in the Bible. It is made up of 2 verses which are made up of 33 words. It also takes its place as the middle chapter of the Bible. Although not as well-known as some of the other Psalms; this Psalm takes its place as not only a conspicuous, but also one of the most important of all the Psalms.
This Psalm in spite of its short length contains several of the main themes we find throughout the Holy Scriptures: the need to praise God, His mercy that is shown to man; and the truthfulness of His Word. As a matter of fact, the principles we read of in Psa 117 are so important that the Apostle Paul quoted portions of this Psalm in Romans 15:11.
Psa 117:1 – O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.
O praise the LORD, … praise him, …
In the first verse, we find a universal truth that applies to every inhabitant of the world… the requirement to “Praise the Lord”. What do we mean by the term “praise”? In this verse two different Hebrew words are translated “praise”.
1. In the first phrase “praise” is derived from the Hebrew word “halal” which has the idea of drawing other’s attention to an object that has been beautified.
Think of it like this…. a man is throwing a victory party after winning a trophy in an athletic contest. He takes the trophy, polishes it until it shines brightly, clears off the mantle above his fireplace and then places the trophy on display on the center of the mantel to be clearly seen by all party attendees.
He has done everything He can for others to see his trophy. He invited them to his house to see it, he shined it to attract their attention, he placed it where it was conspicuous and can be easily examined. This is how we should share our Lord with others every day. This is the first word for “praise”.
2. In the second phrase “praise” is translated from the Hebrew word “shabach”. This word carries with it two basic ideas… “to speak loudly” and “to pacify, to bring peace, to keep a relationship”.
The basic idea is this… The greatness of our Lord demands that He be glorified and honored. One of the ways we can meet this requirement is through boldly, unashamedly telling others of His greatness. One extreme example of this is a street preacher would proclaim the truths of God loudly so all could hear his message.
By meeting this requirement, as Christians, in a sense we are “keeping peace with God”.. In other words, by keeping His commands to be a faithful witness, we will be pleasing to God and allowing unhindered communion to take place. In that sense we are keeping peace with God by keeping our responsibility to Him.
Who Is Required To Do These Things?…
… all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.
Who is to praise the Lord? Everyone!
“Nations” is the Hebrew word “gowy” and refers to Gentile nations. Remember, in those days Gentiles were commonly restricted from the temple worship. Here, the Psalmist is emphasizing that not simply Jews, but Gentiles also, are held accountable to praise the Lord, although it was not a common occurrence.
“People” is the Hebrew word “any collection or group of people” which would include both Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, bond and free, black and white, male and female. Here, the Psalmist is emphasizing that ALL mankind, no matter what might be their gender, nationality, language, race etc etc is obligated to praise its Creator and Lord.
The Reason For The Requirement….
Psa 117:2 – For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.
Now the Psalmist explains the dual basis for the requirement to praise Him in all things…
” his merciful kindness is great toward us”
First of all, we are to praise Him because of His “merciful kindness”. The term “merciful kindness” comes from a single Hebrew word “checed” . Checed is a type of kindness shown to the undeserving that beautifies the giver.
Mother Teresa is a wonderful example of this kind of kindness. She went and invested her life in helping the needy in foreign lands. She was not obligated to do this, she did it of her choosing. In spite of her being physically unattractive, she became VERY attractive and honorable to all who knew of her wonderful works of kindness.
Our Lord’s kindness on our behalf demands that we praise and honor Him. He deserves it. His works of self-sacrificial kindness to us prominently excels over any acts of kindness performed by fallen man. Keep in mind His temporal, earthly, kindness is shown to lost and saved alike (Matt 5:45). Because of this ALL MANKIND is to praise and honor Him.
“the truth of the LORD endureth for ever”
The second reason that we are obligated to praise our Lord is because His Word endureth forever. The phrase “endureth forever” is based on one Hebrew word (gabar) that means “to go to the vanishing point” “time out of mind” or “forever”.
What a wonderful certainty! The truths of God’s Word exist as far as the eye can see. We cannot even imagine a time in our mind when His Word will become null and void. His truths are in effect throughout eternity. His Word contains truths that apply to both just and unjust. Also, keep in mind His Word is to be taken to all the world (Acts 1:8). No wonder all mankind is to praise and honor the Lord for His eternal truths.
To those who are saved:
1Pet 2:9-10 (KJV)
9) But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
10) Which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Need I say more?
To those who are not saved:
Acts 14:15-17 (KJV)
15) And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:
16) Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.
17)Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
Won’t you turn to Christ? He has been so kind to all of us.
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May the Lord bless you as you seek His truth.
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May the Lord bless your study of His Word. Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”