Bad rap, Psalm 117

Psalm 117 gets a bad rap. You remember Psalm 117? It’s the one you read when it was your turn for family devotions and you were eager to play outside.

It’s the shortest chapter in the Bible, and that’s all most of us know about it. Its brevity leads to a perception of it as insignificant. If your parents were like my husband and me, they made you read at least part of Psalm 118 after your quick rendition of Psalm 117. And that likely helped instill the idea that Psalm 117 wasn’t important.

But we know that all scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16) and, of course, Psalm 117 is no exception. In fact, it has a lot offer in its two short verses.

Psalm 117 portrays the beauty of simplicity. Editors of the ESV Literary Study Bible write, “This shortest psalm unfolds with a pleasing simplicity…” (p. 881).

Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the LORD!

From the start, we see that this is a small psalm with sweeping scope. The call to praise and extol the Lord isn’t just to the Western world or only to believers, but to all nations and all peoples.

We know from Romans 1:18-20 that all people are without excuse when it comes to acknowledging God’s existence:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Because the whole earth reveals God’s glory, it is totally appropriate for the psalmist to call all nations and all people to praise God and extol his name. It is also appropriate because God is God. His steadfast love and faithfulness never fail.

God shows his steadfast love toward us in the refreshing rain and the warming sun of spring. His love gleams in bright yellow daffodil blooms and green grass transforming the barren winter landscape. His love upholds us in our anxious and despairing moments. It pulses in our joy at the birth of a precious child.

Our faith fades. But when we doubt and sin, God remains faithful. Our faith isn’t forever; when Christ returns, we won’t need faith anymore. It will become sight. But God’s faithfulness never fails. It endures through all the trials of our present life and through all the triumphs of our future glory.

The next time you or someone you know is tempted to read Psalm 117 as a quick devotion, take time to mine the depths of its simple beauty. Take time to sincerely praise the Lord!

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