Psalm 117 is the shortest of all the psalms but packs a punch far more powerful than its brevity would indicate.
The first thing to note is that it is addressed to ‘all nations’ and ‘all peoples’. Wow – so this tiny psalm has a global audience! The whole of the world is told to ‘praise the Lord’ and ‘extol Him’. What reach! And what audacity for the psalmist to command the whole earth to praise God and tell of His virtues!
Unless, of course, the Lord is worthy of such acclamation…
After getting everyone’s attention the psalmist gives his two reasons for praise:
Reason 1: ‘For great is His steadfast love towards us’ (v2a)
This is such a simple statement on the surface but we need to prepare ourselves for a lifetime of unpacking what this means!
Addressing a world in which there is such suffering, strife and confusion the idea of God being a God of love is often questioned. However, we know from Scripture that God’s very nature is love. John states it in the simplest of terms when he says, ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). This means that all of His actions are loving and all of His motives are loving.
But the nature of this love is startling. ‘By this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him’ (1 John 4:9). The outworking of God being love is that Jesus was sent so that we might benefit. The goal of sending Jesus was life for us, as we know from the famous verse ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
And yet this all happened when we were hostile towards God, enemies of Him, wandering far from the One we had rejected. It was at that point when His love was demonstrated: ‘But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). And because of that action of God we are able to say, ‘See what kind of love he Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.’ (1 John 3:1)
So vast and mind-boggling is the love of God that Paul has to pray for His Ephesian brothers and sisters that they ‘being rooted and grounded in love may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Reason enough to praise, I think! But the Psalmist goes on to give us
Reason 2: ‘The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’ (v2b)
The God of love extolled and worshipped by the whole world is not fickle. He does not waver. He does not change. His love does not blow hot and cold. His love is not a passing fad or fancy.
This God is faithful. Unrelentingly faithful. There is no shadow of turning in Him.
He is entirely dependable. Utterly reliable. Eternally constant. Unswervingly faithful.
He is the Rock on which we can stand. He is the strong tower to which we can run. His are the everlasting arms into which we can sink.
Since He is so steadfastly faithful to the end it means that the demonstration of His love will stand true forever. It means that all the benefits from the action of His love in Jesus will last for eternity. It means that our salvation is permanently secure.
And so, with the Psalmist, we have reason to praise!