“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord.”
Short and sweet, this is the briefest of all the Psalms, verifying that worship need not be lengthy. Although short in terms of the number of words, it is vast in content. An author in 1871 called this “a precious little testimony.” Psalm 117 is nearly the central passage of the entire Bible, and it is interesting that it points to the universality of the Gospel, that the entire world should be praising the Lord.
Verse 1: “Praise the Lord”
This Psalm opens and concludes with, “Praise ye Jehovah!” In Hebrew, the phrase, “Praise the Lord” is “Hallelujah.” This is the watchword of the crowd around the throne of God (Revelation 19:1-6). God has a claim to universal worship.
Matthew refers to Isaiah 42 in 12:21 and writes, “In Him (Messiah) will the Gentiles trust.” Thus, this Psalm anticipates what is only possible after the sacrifice of Christ. The cross of Calvary was the commencement of the era which began to break down the wall between Jew and Gentile. Psalm 117 shows the global obligation to adore God. In Acts 18:6 Paul said, “I’ll go to the Gentiles.” Later, Paul points out in Romans 3:28 that God is the God of the Jews, but He is also the God of the Gentiles.
The word “praise” here means “to soothe; to be still; restrain.” Psalm 117 refers to the “perks” of praise. One gains some reciprocal benefits of worship in that we ourselves are soothed through this effort. Our one specific duty is to praise the Lord all the time.
“All ye nations”
Moses, in Deuteronomy 32:43 prophesied that all nations will rejoice. The Word of God must have no territorial boundaries. The inference here is that your praise blesses others as well.
Three times in these two verses we find the word praise, and the term as used in Psalm 117 always means “praise with a high voice!” The entire world is encouraged to worship God and not be shy about it.
“All ye people”
The Hebrew word is plural: “peoples.” This is to correct the typical Jewish thinking that Jehovah was their exclusive possession. But the Psalmist expects people of all ethnicities will want to praise the Lord. The spirit of the New Testament Great Commission is our mandate to reach the entire world for Christ. His praises are sung in every known language. The Bible is still the most translated book, and thousands of songs and choruses have evolved from God’s Word. The Psalmist stresses that all people need to know the one true God.
“For his merciful kindness is great toward us”
This short Psalm also provides the reason we are to praise God: He is compassionate and kind. This reveals God’s motive in dealing with the human race. These two words express two key aspects of God’s personality which endear Him to believers: kindness and mercy. His mercy and grace are specifically directed at human beings and the entire Old Testament is full of examples of this. So praise the Lord accordingly.
“And the truth of the Lord”
Truth is seen here as God’s unchangeable standard. It also includes the concept of the faithfulness of His promises. Love of God’s truth is love of the facts. God does what He says. He is trustworthy because He tells the truth. His facts are reflected in His acts. There is no good reason not to praise the Lord.
This means that His Word relates to all generations, for it is permanent and enduring. Do not fear that we will run out of reasons to praise the Lord. Do no fear that God will ever become unworthy of praise. Do not fear that you can ever praise the Lord too much. For in heaven we give to God, “Blessing, honor, glory and power unto the Lamb forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13). In fact, the concept of worshipping God “for ever and ever” is found in ten times in the book of Revelation.
“Praise ye the Lord”
Praising God is an aspect of the lifestyle of the faithful. We are to worship Him fervently, zealously and endlessly. The Psalmist closes the circle by ending with the same concept he opened with—praising the Lord.
Praising God in this brief Psalm isn’t seen as a duty, but a privilege. We don’t have to praise the Lord, we get to. Let us not neglect this wonderful, perpetual opportunity.
“From all who dwell beneath the skies
Let the praise of Jesus now arise
Let our Redeemer’s name be sung
In every land, by every tongue.
Eternal are thy mercies Lord
Eternal truth is in your Word
We shall praise you more and more
And teach your truth from shore to shore.”