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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Psalms 117

Verses 1-2

EXPOSITION

IT has been doubted whether this exceedingly short psalm can ever have been in tended for a separate composition, and was not rather written as a conclusion to Psalms 116:1-19. or an introduction to Psalms 118:1-29. In Hebrew manuscripts it is often attached to one or other of these two psalms; but in the versions and in the best manuscripts it is always separate. The writer calls upon all the nations of the earth to laud and praise Jehovah, on the ground of his great mercy and faithfulness to Israel. The solidarity of the rest of mankind with Israel is assumed (comp. Psalms 47:1; Psalms 66:1, Psalms 66:8; Psalms 98:4; Psalms 100:1, etc.).

Psalms 117:1

O praise the Lord, all ye nations; or, "all ye Gentiles," as in Romans 15:11. The goim are especially the heathen nations of the earth (comp. Psalms 2:1, Psalms 2:8; Psalms 9:5, Psalms 9:15, Psalms 9:19, Psalms 9:20, etc.). Praise him; rather, laud him (Revised Version). The verbs in the two clauses are different. All ye people; rather, all ye peoples.

Psalms 117:2

For his merciful kindness (or, his mercy) is great towards us; literally, has been great over us. The appeal is to history, and the mercy intended is that shown in God's continual protection of Israel. And the truth of the Lord endureth forever. God's "truth" is here, as so often, his faithfulness to his promises, the promises being especially those made to Abraham and David. His mercy and truth" to Israel were an indication of what the Gentiles might expect of him in his dealings with them (comp. Romans 15:8, Romans 15:9).

HOMILETICS

Psalms 117:1, Psalms 117:2

The kingdom of God.

The psalmist, consciously or unconsciously, anticipates the glories of the kingdom of God, as that is now being established under the reign of Christ. We have—

I. ITS STRONG FOUNDATION. It is founded on mercy and truth. Not on irresistible power, not on unchangeable law, but on Divine mercy and truth.

1. God's mercy to mankind, secured by the redeeming work, and promised by the unchanging word, of Jesus Christ, is one stone of that foundation.

2. The other is the whole body of truth spoken by him or by his apostles under his inspiration. Those who go everywhere preaching "the gospel of the kingdom" are charged to make known God's abounding grace to all men, from the best to the worst, from those "near" to those that are "afar off." They are also charged to declare the will of God in the righteousness, the truthfulness, the purity, the charity, the peacefulness, of those who give themselves to his service. These two great principles may never be disjoined. With the message of mercy carried to the worst of the children of men must be closely and inextricably associated all that utterance of God's mind and purpose which requires holiness, wisdom, love.

II. ITS BOUNDLESS RANGE. "Praise the Lord, all ye nations," etc. (Psalms 117:1). It is difficult to understand how a Jew, under the Law, could expect all the heathen to be worshippers of God. The psalmist's must have been a pious wish rather than a serious expectation. Not such is the Christian's hope; he looks forward to the time when God will be honored under every sky, and his praises sung in every language. He sees islands, communities, nations, that were once barbarous and idolatrous now con-vetted to the truth; he sees the hoary systems of antiquity honey-combed with doubt and distrust; he sees groups and companies of men and women, as well as individuals, inquiring at the feet of Jesus Christ. He sees the Churches of Christ "putting on their beautiful garments" of faith and zeal, and sending out their messengers to the ends of the earth. He sees the truth and mercy of God printed in every known language on the globe; he sees the prophecies of the Old Testament and the New in the very act of fulfillment; he has reason to say, with a heart full of hope and joy, "Praise the Lord, all ye nations."

III. ITS PERPETUITY. "To all generations;" or, "forever." At least seventy generations have come and gone since this psalm was written, and eighteen centuries have passed since Jesus Christ brought "grace and truth" to the world in his own Person. And this Divine wisdom shows no other signs of age than those of maturity and advancement. There is no fear as to its future; for it comes from God, and it meets the deep needs of man. It brings pardon for his sin, peace to his burdened heart, comfort in his sorrow, sanctity to his joy, steadfastness for the time of temptation, nobility to his life, hope in the solemn hour of death. With whatever humanity can dispense, it cannot do without the mercy and the truth of God as these are revealed and secured by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY

Psalms 117:1, Psalms 117:2

The doxology.

This is the shortest psalm, but it is long enough to show—

I. THAT THERE IS ONE SUPREME OBJECT OF WORSHIP FOR ALL MEN. It is Jehovah, the Lord. He and he alone. Three times in this short psalm is this affirmed.

1. The atheism by whatever name it is called—of the day denies this, saying, either God does not exist, or, if he does, we cannot know it.

2. False ideas of the Trinity practically deny this. Many Christians are tri-theists, though unconsciously. But such error is not the less harmful on that account.

3. The doctrine of God as given in the whole Bible never teaches other than the unity of God. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." The human race is one in its moral condition—sin; in its need—a Savior; in its consciousness of both these facts. One God, one Savior, should be worshipped by all.

II. THAT THERE IS ONE DUTY INCUMBENT ON ALLTHE PRAISE OF THE LORD. It is not in many things that all can unite; but they can, and one day will, in this. And we should seek to begin this now. It is due to God; he deserves as well as desires and demands it. It is full of blessing to ourselves. Prayer is good, but praise is better still. And it blesses others. The spirit of praise is winsome, for "praise is comely." In the walls of the city of God its gates are praise (Isaiah 60:18). We go in that way, and draw others to go in with us.

III. THAT THERE IS ONE ARGUMENT AND MOTIVE WHICH WILL CONVINCE ALLWHAT OUR GOD IS. He has not merely kindness, but merciful kindness. And it is great; no insignificant and occasional thing. And it is "toward us;" not a mere abstraction, but a positive reality. And he is ever faithful and true; his righteousness endureth forever. Not mercy without truth, nor truth without mercy. Alone, neither would have saved us. But together they constitute the salvation of God. They who know will praise the Lord.—S.C.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

Psalms 117:1

God in national life.

"Laud him, all ye people" (Revised Version). This psalm was called by the Puritans the "Dunbar Psalm," because Cromwell, the lord-general, when at the foot of Doon Hill, after the battle of Dunbar, made a halt, and sang this psalm, "till the horse could gather for the chase." It is agreed that it is a kind of doxology, and was used either at the beginning or at the close of a liturgical service; somewhat as we use, "Glory be to the Father," etc. It was the one most distinctive characteristic of the Jews that they were keen to recognize the presence and working of God in their national life. The tendency of nations is to distinguish between politics and religion. The tendency of sentimental religion is to keep aloof from politics. The true idea is exhibited in the Jewish national life at its best. The freest scope for all individual statesmanship and patriotism, combined with the ever-cherished conviction that God was in all, using all, inspiring all, and overruling all. Jewish politics and religion were one thing. Moses' revelation from God was as truly national as religious. So far as the Jews had a universal mission, a witness to make to "all peoples," it was of the one and only God in their national life, who ought to be recognized as the God of every national life. We can trace God in the history that is past; we may find him in the history that is now in the making. To that recognition of God in the present this psalm calls men. "The God of the whole earth shall he be called." Monotheism involves

(1) the universal claim of God to be every nation's God;

(2) the determined opposition to every form in which the notion of deity is localized. The one God is all men's God. The psalm declares that this should be the occasion of universal rejoicing; because, being what he is, this one God meets every conceivable need of all men.

I. Men need AN INFALLIBLE DIRECTOR OF CONDUCT. This one God is the Ruler of all guiding all "with his eye."

II. Men need A VINDICATOR OF RIGHTEOUSNESS in whom they may have absolute confidence. This one God is the Judge of all, the holy Avenger of all the wronged.

III. Men need A RESCUER AND DELIVERER to whom in every sense of sin and peril they may flee. This one God is the Savior of all. These are universal human peculiarities found in every nation. So every nation wants the one God.—R.T.

Psalms 117:2

God's merciful dealings with nations.

The psalmist, no doubt, refers to the character of God's dealings with Israel, but he implies that they do but present a model of God's dealings with all nations; and he calls upon those nations to examine and. see what God's dealings had been with them, so that they might find cause for praise. The early Jews realized monotheism as a special possession of their nation. The later prophets and psalmists realized monotheism as a trust, concerning which the Jews were to make witness to all nations around them. What we still do is what the psalmist here calls upon us to do. We study the records of God's dealings with his ancient people, in order that, seeing his mercy, loving-kindness, and truth to them, we may come to know him better, understand his ways with us more perfectly, and praise him with the praise that comes of perfect trust.

I. It is quite true that we can learn God's faithfulness and considerateness (merciful kindness) in nature, which, if it be a system of law, is a system of varying and opposing laws, whose relative working must be in some restraint and presidency. And in providence, which is the adjustment of nature-workings to meet the needs of individuals, and implies a Divine Director, who knows the individuals, and has power over every thing, and, with infinite kindness can fit the two together.

II. But the term "merciful kindness" suggests something better and deeper than this. True, the people of Israel were men, even as we are men. And what God did for them as men illustrates what God can do for us as men, and even assures us what he is doing. But we must never lose sight of this point—God dealt with Israel as sinful men; and the merciful kindness is so impressive because it was pitiful and com passionate dealing with sinful men. But that is precisely what we are, and therefore God's merciful kindness to Israel is so interesting to us. It reveals him who is also our God. When the idea is once in our mind, we can read our lives, individual and national, aright, and speak of his merciful kindness to us also.—R.T.

Psalms 117:2

Truth regarded as reliability.

"The truth of the Lord endureth for ever." The term "truth" is constantly employed without a well-defined and precise meaning. Truth sometimes only means that which seems true to a particular individual at a particular time. Sometimes it only means "veracity," or the correspondence between a proposition and a man's belief. Truth is the correspondence of the proposition with fact. There is a standard truth. It is close kin with eternal righteousness. The love of truth is the love of realities; the determination to rest upon facts and not upon semblances. But when the psalmist spoke of the "truth of God," no such abstract or critical ideas were in his mind. He thought of the truth or righteousness of God as seen in his faithfulness to the promises on which he has ever made his people to hope. To him the truth of God was not his verity, but his reliability. His truthfulness, his dependableness, regarded as a basis of trust. His reliability has never failed his people; we may be absolutely confident that it endureth, and will endure forever. A man's truth is the basis of our trust in him. God's truth is the basis of our reliance on him.

I. TRUTH, AS A FEATURE OF CHARACTER, IS A SIGN OF STABILITY. When we speak of a man as a man of truth, we know that we describe a firm, steadfast man; a man who can make up his mind, and stand to his mind when it is made up. There is no wavering, no "shilly-shallying," about the man. He is a prop fixed firmly into the ground, and can bear a good strain. To some men there seems to be no such thing as truth, only varying opinion, nothing worth suffering for, worth living and dying for. Such men easily bend this way or that, swayed by every passing wind.

II. TRUTH, AS A FEATURE OF CHARACTER, IS A SIGN OF CONSISTENCY. Consistency is keeping strictly to a line of conduct which we have marked as right. But only a man of truth will ever look on a line of conduct as right, for only such a man has an absolute moral standard. And only the man of truth will have any anxiety about deviations from the line.

III. TRUTH, AS A FEATURE OF CHARACTER, IS A SIGN OF PERMANENCE. No disintegrating forces can ever destroy it. By the necessity of things the truthful character endures; nothing can end it. These things may be applied in their sublimest forms to God, in whose image man is made. Because he is truth, and his truth endures, we may trust in the Lord forever.—R.T.

Psalms 117:2

Praise.

"Praise ye the Lord." It may be interesting to inquire what "praise" is; and what are the proper forms and features of human praise as offered to God. What praise does God reasonably demand? And what praise is man, at his best, able to offer? But those considerations may lead us into somewhat familiar lines. There may be some freshness in considering what the response to this call, what the offering of this praise, is to men. It is a glorifying of God; but it is also a benediction of men. We may not offer our praise for the sake of getting the benediction; we may only offer the praise for the glorifying of God. But we may keep the comforting assurance in our hearts, that God does make it return upon us in benedictions.

I. PRAISE AS BOASTING. Boasting is a part of the human character. It is the natural expression of the energetic, confident, and hopeful disposition. Boasting is a good thing as well as a bad. He is but a poor soul who does not beast, or cannot. The question is—Does the boasting concern self, or some one else? Boasting about self is offensive; boasting about some one else may be most noble. And praise is that noble and ennobling thing—boasting about God. That lifts us wholly away from self.

II. PRAISE AS MINISTRY. A man never offers praise to God without morally and spiritually helping some one beside him. That praise declares his faith in God; his sense of the claims of God; and his experience of the mercies of God. So praising is not our duty, it is part of our service. This is too often lost sight of, and then public praise is easily neglected.

III. PRAISE AS RELAXATION. The religious life is no continuous strain of wearisome duties that must be done. It is full of relief-times. And the praise-times of religious life are precisely similar to those resting and refreshing times which we all value so much as relief from business strain. Therefore the praise-feature of all religious services should have the most careful attention, that full efficiency may be secured.

IV. PRAISE AS CULTURE. By "culture" we mean the complete and harmonious development of all a man's bodily and mental powers. When used in relation to religion, it means the complete and harmonious development of all a man's spiritual powers. There is a praise-side to every man's religious nature, and that can only be cultured by fitting and continuous exercise. So man is blessed, and God is glorified, by the offering of praise.—R.T.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 117". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/psalms-117.html. 1897.