A Tiny Psalm with Enormous Reach
Not all invitations are created equal. Some invitations are just not that enticing—“Hey, you wanna help me move my kids’ ginormous swing set?” See what I mean? (And yes, that’s an actual invitation I have extended.)
Then there are invitations you are so desperately excited to accept you have to fake hesitancy. You get offered an extra seat at game seven of the World Series. Somebody calls to say, “I have fifty yard-line tickets… do you want to go to the game (a Broncos game of course)?” or “I’ve got an extra backstage pass for the concert, and I wondered if you could come.” That’s fun. It’s fun to be invited.
But sometimes you aren’t even asked. You wanted an invitation so badly, but it never came. You desperately wanted to be at that party, but you didn’t make the guest list. You knew your friends were going, but they didn’t call you.
One of the things I love most about Psalm 117 is that it’s invitation. And not just any invitation, it’s the best invitation.
Psalm 117 (ESV) — 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!
Admittedly, the 28 words of this Psalm might not strike you as an invitation, but that is exactly what they comprise.
It’s an invitation with global reach and global effect.
Commenting on these lines Derek Kidner writes, “This is a tiny psalm of great faith, and its reach is enormous.”
It’s an invitation not for the few but for the many. It’s an invitation that gathers people from every corner of the globe not just theoretically but actually.
Now a few things to notice about the psalmist says here…
Who is the “Us”?
The psalmist says, “great is his steadfast love toward us…”
The Hebrew word translated “great” here expresses a vigorous, formidable word, used of the stronger side in battle, the prevailing army. You could also think of the picture of floodwaters overtaking dry land. Now, notice that the psalmist says that this is the nature of God’s love toward us. The word “us” is a bit surprising, because a Jew presumably wrote this Psalm to the Jewish people for Jewish worship. But, who is the “us”? That pronoun doesn’t just refer to the Jews; it refers “all nations” to “all people.” That means it refers to you and me. God’s prevailing love, his conquering love is so expansive that it extends to the nations yet personal enough that meets you and me.
The psalmist also says, “the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.” Kidner says, “the emphasis of the second line can summed up by saying that God’s plans and promises are as fresh and intact now as on the day they were made; and they will remain so.”
I like that: God’s plans and promises are fresh.
God’s promises do no expire.
They are lasting.
They are enduring.
They are as intact today as they day they were made.
It’s almost as if in reflecting on those two lines the psalmist is overcome by the weight of it all and exclaims, “Praise the LORD!” This is the way we should respond as well.
Taking this Psalm seriously doesn’t just mean praising God for his great, prevailing steadfast love; it doesn’t simply mean us regularly gathering together to acknowledge the overwhelming scope of God’s enduring faithfulness. Taking this psalm seriously happens as you and I go back to the very opening lines of this tiny chapter and two words,
This psalm is an invitation. But its not an invitation specifically addressed to us. Oh, we are included, but it doesn’t end there.
Taking This Psalm Seriously
Taking seriously the declaration of Psalm 117 is to recognize that as we praise, as we extol God for his steadfast love and faithfulness, we are compelled to invited all creation to do the same.
This is an invitation to all; nobody gets left out; nobody is left off the guest list. So, if we really take this psalm seriously it means that you and I will not simply gather to sing songs and pray prayers and hear preaching… we will invite, and we will bring.
We will extend the invitation.