My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

14 September 2005


Psalm 117

(117A in the Crown and Covenant Psalter is our Psalm of the quarter)

Theme The promise of the gospel is worldwide conquest. The power of the gospel is the greatness and mercy of our God.

Notes This shortest of the Psalter's songs, which first strikes us as a simple call to worship, might be one of the best expressions of the hope and joy of the gospel anywhere in Scripture.

Both phrases of the first verse are indeed a call to worship – but not the call to worship one might expect. Here the psalmist calls every nation, every people to praise the great Lord. While this may seem fairly average to us, it would have been, for the Hebrews, an amazing statement of God's mercy to more than just Israel. The apostle Paul used this verse in Romans 15:11 to prove that God's plan all along was “that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” (Rom. 15:9) Paul's quotation means this psalm was originally intended for all those of us who aren't direct descendants of Abraham.

Such a universal call to worship assumes the work of a great Savior, a reconciler between man and God. For only the work of Christ was great enough to extend to every people and nation. Furthermore, this verse is a sure thing, a promise of what Christ plans to accomplish with His kingdom – see how it's reflected in Revelation 5:9-10.

The second verse answers the “why” and “what” of verse 1. Why should we praise God? We are given two attributes of God and two descriptions of those adjectives. First, we praise because God's steadfast love (lovingkindness, mercy) is great – “great” as in “strong and mighty to achieve His purpose.” Second, we praise God because His faithfulness knows no end. Faithfulness is something we look for in friends, in husbands and wives, in employees...but we look so hard for it precisely because it is so rare. And nowhere is lasting, unbroken faithfulness found, other than God, whose very history with His people proves that faithfulness.

These two reasons, God's mercy and faithfulness, ought to be the heart of our song to Him. And, while the Israelites certainly knew His mercy and faithfulness, the church of the new covenant has them embodied and lived powerfully in our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Application The very shortness of this Psalm is itself a call from God to meditate deeply on the Father's mercy and faithfulness through Christ. Remember again all that God has done for you. Parents, encourage your kids to see Scripture in light of God's mercy and faithfulness to His people; tell them your testimony, lead them in family worship to rejoicing in God’s great works for His glory and His people. And, for the mercy and faithfulness of Jesus, let us praise the Lord!

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