Psalm 117 July 17, 2016
Sermon Series: “Short and Sweet Summer Psalms”
Today’s Sermon: Psalm 117 – “Praise the Lord, All You Peoples”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
“Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. 2 For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.”
I have two questions for each of you:
First question: Why did you come to church this morning? What is your purpose in being here? For seeing your friends? Because it’s your habit or obligation? To hear a sermon that might pick you up?
Second question: Did the thought of global missions cross your mind as you drove here? Did you think about God’s glory among the nations as you entered the building? No?
I’d like to help you answer those two questions, as we look together at the shortest psalm in the Bible, Ps. 117.
But before we jump into that content, may I call your attention to the simplicity and the beauty of the structure of this short psalm? [Note that God inspires both the content and the structure of His Holy Word! Both aspects of the Bible are glorious and wonderful!]
The structure of Psalm 117:
It begins and ends with the call to “Praise the Lord” (Hebrew: “Hallelu”)
Verse one is the call to all nations and peoples to praise and extol the Lord, while verse two gives the cause why all the people groups should give such praise to the Lord.
Both verses have a two-fold emphasis: the first verse invites both the nations and the peoples to praise the Lord; while the second verse states two reasons why they ought to do so: the Lord’s mighty love and His enduring faithfulness. The first reason looks back to the Lord’s redemptive acts in history, while the second reason looks forward to an eternity of His faithfulness to us.
And let’s not miss the main point of the psalm: it is a missionary song! The psalmist is calling all people groups everywhere to join God’s chosen people in praising Him. What does that mean for us? It means that as long as there are ethnic/ language groups who have not heard of the Good News of Christ, then we must continue singing this psalm and putting it into practice!
Okay, let’s move to the content of Psalm 117:
I. A call to all peoples (to praise the Lord) (v. 1)
“Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.” Who is being called on to give praise to the Lord? Not just Israel, but all nations and all peoples. That’s significant. It would be like us going to the United Nations building in New York, and inviting all the countries of the world to join us in a worship service, to praise the Lord Jesus Christ!
Actually the word “nations” is the Hebrew word for Gentiles, but it really stands for all the different ethnic groups in the world; that is, all the non-Jewish people groups, or the Goyim. In other words, the psalmist isn’t simply referring to countries such as Egypt or Syria, but he means every people group with its own language and customs. So for instance in Iraq, there are Kurds, Assyrians, Yazidis, as well as Shite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, Marsh Arabs, Bedouin, Iraqi Turkmen, Arab Christians, Gypsies and more, and all of them would be considered one of these people groups or nations. In addition, the second word, “peoples,” has the sense of a tribe or a community of people, and therefore reinforces this idea of a united people.
Therefore, this is not a call to a multi-religious service; rather, the psalmist is calling every people group, on the face of the earth, to worship the one true God, and Him alone!
Now a basic principle of interpreting the Bible is that when we are studying a passage in the Old Testament, we should always ask how God deals with that passage in the fuller revelation of the New Testament, especially through the lens of Jesus Christ. So let’s do that with Ps. 117.
Let’s see how the New Testament uses this language, this verse, and this idea:
First, this language of “all the nations” is used by Jesus Christ in Matt. 24:14, when He says that “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all nations…” (i.e. the Goyim, the ethnic groups.) Jesus is applying Ps. 117 to us, in our gospel witness to all peoples. Therefore, as long as there are people groups who have not had the love and faithfulness of Jesus Christ proclaimed to them, we still have work to do!
Second, Ps. 117 is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 15:9-11 9 “so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.” 10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.” The Apostle is showing that long before the Son of God came to earth as a man, God’s Word was already calling for all the peoples, Jew and Gentile, to bow before the Lord in worship.
Third, Ps. 117 is gloriously fulfilled in Rev. 7:9 “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb….” Picture that scene, when you will be standing side by side with the redeemed from every nation, tribe, people and language, as we all face the throne of God, in joyous worship and praise! What a worship service that will be!
Now do you see how this little psalm sets you free from your tiny little world, and inspires you to have a global picture of what God is doing? Do you see how when you came to church this morning, you were not only being called to praise and extol the Lord, but in doing so, you are calling the people groups of the world to join you!
Jesus Christ is building his church around the world, and God’s purpose is that He should be praised by all the peoples! And therefore, as John Piper puts it, “Missions is a cross-cultural movement aimed at helping people stop making much of themselves, and start making much of their Creator. Missions is a cross-cultural effort to transform people’s hearts, so that God is felt to be more praiseworthy than any sports star, singer, entertainer or hero. Missions is a cross-cultural endeavor to help people experience God as their Treasure above all earthly treasures forever.”
There’s one more thing we should say about the call to praise in v. 1. Noted author C. S. Lewis wrote that “the most obvious fact about praise- whether of God or anything – had strangely escaped me….(that is), I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…The world rings with [people who go about praising their favorite songs, books, movies, artwork, foods, sport teams, etc.]. …I had not noticed, either, that just as people spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?”
The Psalmist, in telling everyone to praise God, is doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about…. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy, because the praise not merely expresses, but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” (C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms)
Doesn’t that ring true for you? That you spontaneously not only praise whatever you value, but your joy in what you value is completed when you tell others about it. Think of children or grandchildren, a new car or new house, or a new hobby.
Shouldn’t that be true of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel? Isn’t that what the author pf Psalm 117 is telling us? Think of what that means for our worship and for our witness, to the world.
II. The cause of this praise (to the Lord) (v. 2)
“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.”
In the second verse we are told why the nations and peoples should worship the Lord, the God of Israel. There are two reasons given: there is a backward look and a forward look, for it is both Israel’s past- and her future – that inspire this tiny yet magnificent song of praise.
The Past: When Israel sang “Great is His love toward us” she was thinking of what God has done for her, in His mighty acts of redemption. The Gentile nations are to praise the Lord for His love toward Israel! Yet, this makes sense, because in Abraham all the nations would be blessed. In other words, Israel is saying to the nations, “When you see what God has done for us, you will realize that He alone deserves your worship.”
Imagine a 20 year old woman who has a very caring but strict father, and the dad tells her, “No man is ever going to be good enough for you to marry you!’ Then she goes off and meets this wonderful Christian man who lavishes her with a Christ-like love, and she goes back and tells her father, “You have to meet this man. His love for me is so great, and he wants to marry me!” Eventually, her father is won over, because of this man’s mighty love for his daughter. So it should be for us, as we proclaim God’s great love to us, in Christ, and the peoples of the world are won over to the Lord!
The Future: And when Israel declares that “His faithfulness endures forever,” God’s people are thinking of how trustworthy the Lord will be in the years and centuries to come. His faithfulness is eternal. God’s plans and promises are as fresh and intact now as on the day they were made, and they will remain so. Israel can speak as she does because the Lord has made Himself known as Her Redeemer. That’s why all the nations are to praise Him.
To pick up on the previous illustration, imagine that same woman has now been married to that loving man for 50 years. At their golden anniversary celebration, she tells everyone present, “My husband has been faithful and true to me and to all the vows and promises he made to me, a half-century ago. I want to sing his praises for his faithfulness to me all these years!” And as people hear her, even those who have gone through painful divorces all acknowledge that indeed, God has blessed his man and woman, and they are drawn to them… and their Savior!”
In a similar way, we are to proclaim Jesus Christ’s faithfulness to us, as His bride, and in doing so, others are drawn to Him.
To put it another way, it is as if the psalmist is saying to the pagan nations: “When you grasp what He has done for us…when you see what the Passover and the Exodus mean…when you see their counterparts in the New Testament, the cross and the resurrection of Christ mean to us…. then you will see that He alone deserves your allegiance too.”
And how shall they hear this? As we declare His glory in our worship! As we speak of Jesus Christ as the exalted One! As we reach out to the nations- even the ones who are coming to us in Montgomery County -with the gospel!
Right here in Eastern Montgomery County, there are thousands of people who come from India, Korea, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Egypt and Afghanistan. Most of them want to improve their English, and most would welcome an American friend. You don’t need a passport or visa; and you don’t have to learn another language.
All you need to do is proclaim and live out Ps. 117: “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. (Why?) For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!”
So… what will be your mindset as you come to the worship service at church next Sunday? And will God’s global mission be on your heart? Ask the Lord to work in you.