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)
There was a time in my life when I was able to eat hamburgers. Sadly, that time has passed. But when I was able to have burgers, I went to a local burger place and ate what they called the Burger of the Gods. It was amazing—so amazing that when the server came by to ask how I liked it, I told her that I didn't want to take another bite because the first one was so good, and I was afraid that the next would not be as good as the first.
In so many ways that is how it is for believers after they have experienced the love of Christ. There is no superscription to this Psalm, so we don't really know the context of it, but it is placed in the Psalter between two psalms that carry along the same theme, Psalm 117 stands as a burst of praise expressing in abbreviated form the love the God has for his people.
In its two verses, the theme is clear. When you get a piece of the unadulterated love of God all you can do is burst out with praise. In fact, the phrase "Praise the Lord" starts and ends this Psalm. The first encouragement to praise goes to the nations, the outsiders. Why would the Psalmist tell the nations to Praise the Lord? Notice, it is because God's love for Israel is so attractive. It is kind of like when you see an older married couple holding hands, expressing their love for one another, you are not the object of that love, but you can still be happy for the love they share. And, it can make you want a love like that.
This is what God's intention was, from Genesis 15 (Galatians 3:8f) to the giving of the law, through the prophets to the coming of Christ and the sending out of Paul the good news of the coming Messiah was a message for the nations. God's desire to show his love to the entire world is embedded throughout history. And that is exactly what he is doing. He is making the nations in v. 1 the "us" in v. 2. And he will continue to do that until the end of this age. Revelation 7:9 says, 'After this I looked and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"'
We are the nations! We are the goyim who now instead of having to experience the love of God from a distance, experience it first-hand. Why? Because Jesus has brought us into his Kingdom. Jesus has shown his everlasting love for us by laying down his life for us in order to break down the dividing wall and brought us near. We are the ones who are experiencing God's love and blurting out our praise. We are the ones who have experienced the steadfast love of God bubble over with praise for what he has done for us
In this way, this little Psalm is the praise song sung by all those whom the Lord has called to himself. But it is also Jesus' Psalm. Jesus longs to be united with his people. He longs to have his church be filled with the nations and to be with him. He prays for it in his High Priestly Prayer, "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24) For the life of me I cannot find the quote, but John Calvin said that in some way Jesus considers himself incomplete until he is united with us in paradise. He longs that we experience his faithfulness that endures forever. He longs to prove to us that death has lost its separating power over the Christian. He longs that we experience the faithfulness of God in the unifying power of the gospel here on earth as well as in heaven. And so, we unite together even now in praise because Jesus's love is really that good, and his faithfulness to his people endures forever.
As I have thought about this Psalm, its economy of words, and yet its overabundant praise, it has comforted my heart to think that these are the words we will sing, when we are in heaven. When we, with Christ, experience that completeness we will sing the praise of the Lord whose steadfast love endures forever. Praise the Lord!
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