Psalm 117 is a part of a sextet of songs, Psalms 113-118, known as the "Egyptian Hallel." Built around the emphasis of Psalm 114, a celebration of the Exodus, these 6 songs were sung as the Hebrews gathered to celebrate the Passover. Psalms 113 and 114 were sung before the memorial meal, and Psalms 115-118 were sung afterwards. Jesus and His disciples would have sung these very psalms on the night they celebrated the Passover, just before His betrayal and arrest. The hymn is indeed short, but then there are times for short hymns and long hymns, short prayers and long prayers, short sermons and long sermons. Here just a few words, 30 in our English text, are sufficient to bring home the point that the loving and faithful God should be praised and glorified by all the people groups of the earth.
There is a rhyme and reason to God's call to magnify Him among the nations. It is not arbitrary, whimsical or misplaced. It is not the "because I said so" of a celestial bully or capricious deity on a cosmic ego trip. No, it is a call rooted in the very nature and character of God that when rightly understood, causes us to rise up and worship Him because we must, because we want to. And what can we say about this God? He is great in His love for us, and He will be faithful to love us forever. Wow! What a God. No wonder we show praise to Him.
There are two distinct reasons to praise God. Firstly, He is a God of love. He loves you. He loves me. He loves the world (John 3:16). But not only is He a God of love, He is a God of faithfulness. His faithfulness is everlasting, eternal, and lasts forever. What God has promised to do for us in Christ is as certain and sure today as on the day He made them. And, it will always be this way, now and forever. God's character cannot change, and His promises cannot be broken.
Psalm 117 starts out with a call or an invitation. It is an imperative statement. An imperative statement is one that issues a command: Do this! Praise the LORD. It's a call to magnify the greatness of God. It's a call to extol His greatness, and to give glory and honor to God. The word for praise in the Hebrew is the word hallel. It means "to shine" or "to boast." We're called to point the spotlight on God, to boast in God. Our lives ought to shine forth God's goodness and grace and mercy and love. This command, this invitation is given to all nations and all people to praise and extol the Lord. This is the Great Commission of the New
Testament tucked into the words of the Old Testament. May this be a reminder to us today. May this be a challenge to us in this unique season of history to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone we know. May we invite family and friends, neighbors and strangers to join us as we "Praise the LORD." Replace your fears with a resounding "Hallelujah!"