Psalm 117: A Short Psalm of Immense Praise

Do me a favor and please read Psalm 117.

Did that take long to read? Probably not. This psalm is the shortest psalm in all of scripture. And on top of that if you were to add up all the different chapters of the Bible (Genesis thru Revelation) and then find the middle then this is where you’d land (this psalm). This psalm is short, to the point, and simply about praise. We begin with praise…end with praise…and the middle is the reason: Because God’s love is immensely great and his faithfulness endures forever. It’s like we have a praise sandwich – or praise Oreo.

We don’t know who wrote this short ditty, but its part of the “Hallel” psalms (113-118). These psalms are meant to be sung and praised by the readers or singers because of God’s faithful love and enduring presence. The Hallel Psalms praise God for his vast and unending work (113), for his saving them (114), his dedication and protection (115), his mercy and compassion (116), his love (our psalm today), and his enduring work (118). When Jesus was about to depart to the Mount of Olives on that Passover night Matthew (26:30) states that they sang a “hymn” and most commentators feel that it would have been one of these Hallal psalms. And while we don’t know if it was THIS one specifically (Matthew doesn’t say) the feeling is that it WAS Psalm 117 as it seems most fitting for who Christ was, what he spoke of, and what he was doing. And even Paul uses this psalm (in summary) in Romans 15:7-13 to proclaim who Christ is and what he came to do. So for all the shortness that this psalm is…it’s absolutely heavy in Christ.

We’re coming towards the end of Advent – the period in the church calendar where we spend 4 weeks leading up to Christmas in hope and anticipation of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…and I cannot NOT read this psalm in the light of Advent. I cannot NOT see this psalm as a “doxology” or ending song that proclaims the joy of the people for the work of God. I simply cannot NOT praise God for his great love towards us and his faithfulness in the fact that he sends his Son to earth to redeem all nations who proclaim his name.

Psalm 117 is a psalm of hope, love, mercy, forgiveness, joy, anticipation, and grace. It’s a psalm of God’s enduring love.

So what about that “praise” we are encouraged to do? During Advent what does your praise look like? For me, I’m caught between two different “praise” styles. On one hand I’m moved by the Angels and their pronouncement to the Shepherds in Luke 2:8-20. A praise with light, and sound, and singing. It’s clearly one of pomp and circumstance. I love to praise God in that manner and look forward to spending eternity praise God like that in the company of armies of voices. And yet I’m also moved by the song “Silent Night” and this declaration that “all is calm, all is bright.” And while I think that that night was anything BUT calm and silent (have you ever been to a delivery? Yeah…that ain’t calm) I do feel that the earth and all of creation took a deep breath and sigh of relief for that night brought the Savior of the world. Jesus’ birth was the declaration of God’s faithful and enduring love for all the nations and all of creation. So the “calm” and “silent” would be of a breath of relief for the earth and all of creation had been waiting and yearning for God’s redemption of it. So yeah…my “praise” of God right now is kind of all over the map! And yet it’s the same praise no matter what the style. I praise God for his love, his compassion, his unimaginable faithfulness, his dedication to his people, his covenant that he holds to, for the Holy Spirit and his work still to this day drawing us close to the One who loves us with an unending love, and for my Lord and Savior who came to earth as a baby so that he could take away my sins.

So where is your praise on this day? What does it look like? Silent? Blazingly Glorious? Maybe it’s even “fall-to-my-knees” in tears? All of it is right and true – because all of it is a response to God’s great and faithful love.

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