Psalm 117: The Old Testament and Missions

12 Jun

“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!”
-Psalm 117

In Psalm 117, we have the shortest of the songs that God has given us in the book of Psalms.  Despite its brevity, there is a wealth of wisdom contained within it.  Not only is a sliver of God’s incomparable character revealed, but also a call to worship and missions.

Great is the Lord
In verse 2, the psalmist proclaims the greatness of the Lord.  But what, in particular is great about Him? He is steadfast in His love and His faithfulness endures forever. The Israelites turned from God again and again. They turned away from God to pursue sinful desires, and they sought satisfaction in idols instead of the all-satisfying God. Yet, even when the people were most unfaithful, God’s steadfast love remained, as well as His faithfulness towards them. He would, at times, discipline them, but gave them a hope in His promises of a Messiah who would save them and usher in an eternal reign to the glory of God. These promises would be fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ; His perfect life, death, resurrection and imminent return.

And even more so than this, God’s love and faithfulness will endure forever! There will be no end to His love and faithfulness towards those who are His children in Christ.   This is why the Lord is great.

Going Back For The Response
So what is the response to this revelation of God’s character? The people rejoice! They can praise God because God is who He says He is.  They can glorify Him by living lives of faith in Him and His Word.  They can enjoy God by seeking to be obedient to His will, seeking to be used by God to accomplish His plans.  Reveling in the character of God should evoke worship in our hearts.

All Nations Means All Nations
Some claim that there is not a missionary call to the Israelites in the Old Testament, yet I believe this short song presents us with one such motivation for the Israelites to go forth with the message of their loving, faithful God who will save a people through the promised Messiah. “Praise the Lord, all nations!” This is not merely a call for the people of Israel to extol the Lord, but rather a beckons for the people of the world to see the majesty and power, the glory and surpassing worth of the God of Israel. And who was going to declare His name, His claim on the world and His promises of the Messiah? It had to be the Israelites.  To quote another Psalm that puts it more directly, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! (Psalm 96:3)” All nations were to know and to respond to this news.

John Piper, in his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, wrote, “Missions exist because worship does not.” When we come to know Christ, the promised Messiah of the God of Israel–who has taken away the sin of those who trust in Him–we are charged as God’s people to take the Gospel message to those of the nations who have not yet heard.  And why? The reason remains the same as before: So that they would know this good news and that it would provoke them to worship and glorify the God of our salvation.


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