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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Psalm 117 - The Lord is Faithful

This psalm is the shortest in the Psalter. David Dickson, the Scottish Covenanting author of a commentary on the Psalms, reminds us that ‘In God’s worship it is not always necessary to be long; few words sometimes say what is sufficient, as this short Psalm giveth us to understand.’

Although the Psalm is so short, it concerns a great subject – the faithfulness of God, and focuses on one aspect of it – the ingathering of the nations into God’s kingdom. Given that the ingathering takes place after the ascension of Jesus, it means that the psalm is describing what takes place today throughout the world. In fact, if we did not know otherwise, we might have assumed that it was composed by a New Testament writer.

Philip Henry, the father of Matthew Henry the commentator, was a famous preacher. It was his custom to sing this psalm every Sunday after the first sermon of the day. He did so because he believed it was the fullest form of thanksgiving.

Why does the writer want the nations to bless God? He tells us in the first clause in verse 2 where he mentions the steadfast love of the Lord. How was that steadfast love shown? It was displayed in all the ways that the Lord had dealt with Israel (Israel is the ‘us’ mentioned in that clause). The fact that he had been faithful to them was proof that he would keep his promise to bless the world.

The apostle Paul quotes this psalm in Romans 15:11, a section in which he explains to the Romans that it was always God’s intention to bring spiritual blessings to all the nations.

The psalmist reminds God’s people that his love is great. It is great in its extent (John 3:16), it is great in its length (from eternity to eternity), it is great in its mercy (sent his Son to pay the penalty for our sins), it is great in its gifts (membership of God’s family), it is great in its consolation (forgiveness when we fall), and it is great in its prospects (the new heavens and new earth). All that, and much more, comes from the great love of God.

The psalmist also reminds us that God’s faithfulness is eternal. Nothing in the future can separate us from the love of God. As Paul says in Romans 8:38-39: ‘For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ We have many reasons for singing this psalm.

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