(A short Psalm with a great message that calls on all people from every tribe and nation to praise God because he loves them all and can be relied upon at all times now and forever).

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.


I have just returned from a wonderful cruise to New Zealand in which I had the joy and privilege of being involved in two special activities which were playing trivia with my wife and others and joining with believers from around the world in fellowship and praise each morning at a special bible study run by one of the crew members wives.

The trivia competitions took place twice a day on the ship as a special activity for passengers to enjoy meeting up with others and enjoying trying to answer often obscure questions about all sorts of things in the past and present. Wikipedia defines trivia as,

“Pieces of information of little importance or value”.

My wife and I answered questions like:

How does a snake hear?

And the answer is with its tongue, which is true but who cares and the answer is anyone who gets that question in a trivia completion and answers it correctly.

Here are three bible trivia questions for you which have the same answer:

What is the shortest chapter of the bible?
What is the shortest Psalm?
What lies at the centre of the bible?

The answer is of course Psalm 117 as each Psalm is a chapter of the bible and Psalm 117 has only two verses making it the shortest chapter of the bible and of course the shortest Psalm. Also it has been calculated that there are 1,189 chapters in the bible and Psalm 117 is chapter 595 which means there are exactly 594 chapters in the bible before Psalm 117 and 594 that follow it placing it right in the centre of the bible.

These are trivia facts about Psalm 117 as they are pieces of information with little importance or value but its what Psalm 117 has to say through its short two verses where the real value of it is found. Listen to three commentators summary of the message and value of Psalm 117,

Charles Spurgeon,

“This Psalm, which is very little in its letter, is exceedingly large in its spirit”.

Campbell Morgan,

“This is the shortest song in the whole collection, but there is none greater or grander in its expression of praise”.

Albert Barnes,

“The idea (of this Psalm) is that God has a claim to universal worship, and that all the nations of the earth are under obligation to adore him as the true God”.

But for me I believe this Psalm is at the centre of the bible by design not accident because the reason why God deserves universal praise is because he has universal love or as John 3: 16 says,

“God loves the world”

This is, for me, what lies at the centre of the message of the bible and it is what separates its message from any other religion known to man. The opening words of verse 2 simply state that,

“Great is his (God) love towards us”.

This Psalm also has been called a missionary Psalm and I found these words of John Piper quoted by a man named Danny Akin this way,

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Mission exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate”.

I would like to add that mission is possible because God has given us a message to proclaim that calls men and women back to God through the loving sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection therefore we proclaim the message of John 3: 16 to the world that says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

This Psalm is also part of the “Egyptian Hallel” which are Psalms sung before (Psalms 113 – 115) and Psalms sung after (Psalms 116 – 118) the passover and it is no accident also that the passover was the time that Jesus gave his life in the sacrifice of his blood on the cross as this is when a greater act of God’s love was shown to us. This act of love that Jesus did for us made it possible for the whole world to come into the family of God and therefore Jew and Gentile (non – Jew) can now praise and worship the Lord as this Psalm alludes to.

I said at the start of this introduction that I enjoyed two things on my 14 day cruise of New Zealand, trivia competitions and joining with fellow Christian believers from all round the world in bible study each morning led by a crew members wife. Diane led us through some wonderful studies in God’s word and I even shared one day my insights into Psalm 1 and the book of Psalms but the enjoyment for me came from the wonderful opportunity God made for us on that cruise to meet up with fellow believers from many different nations to fellowship in the Lord and praise him which now I realise was an opportunity of putting into action the message and meaning of Psalm 117stated clearly by its opening words,

“Praise the Lord, all you nations”.

So lets look at this short but grand Psalm that follows a simple praise formula of a call to praise followed by reasons for it followed by a final call to praise. This means my outline for this Psalm is:


1. (vs. 1a) Praise the Lord you Gentiles
2. (vs. 1b) Praise the Lord all tribes of the earth


1. (vs. 2a) He loves us
2. (vs. 2b) He is faithful


1. (vs. 2c) Everyone say Hallelujah
2. Conclusion – God loves the world


1. (vs. 1a) Praise the Lord you Gentiles

This two verses that open this Psalm are a call to worship that on the surface does not tell us much but when we come to terms with who is actually being called to praise in both lines of the first verse of this Psalm we discover some wonderful truths.

The NIV translation reads,

“Praise the Lord, all you nations”.

Translations like the New King James version picks up the literal Hebrew word for Nations as Gentiles and therefore reads,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles”.

Allan Harman points out that the Psalmist is,

“Issuing a call to the Gentile nations to join in the Lords praise”.

We don’t know when this Psalms was actually originally written but we know it was placed in the fifth book of Psalms after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon. This was up to 500 years before the coming of Christ God’s Messiah. Until he came the people of God are only the people of Israel the nation God called into being. Yet this opening line of Psalm 117 looks forward to the coming of the Messiah who other prophecy says will make it possible for Gentiles – non Jews to know the Lord and praise him as Isaiah prophecies in Isaiah 49: 6,

“Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Psalm 117 then calls for the Gentile world or non – Jewish nations to worship the Lord and this is not unique in the book of Psalms for we read of this kind of thing in Psalm 47: 1, 2 / 66 4 / 98: 4 / Psalm 67 / 22: 27 and 86: 9. God’s love and concern for the Gentile world should not have been a shock for Jews before the time of Christ if they understand God’s commission or role for Israel to perform as stated as far back as Exodus 19: 6,

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

The story of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament is a story of a people who at best heard the words that they would be a special people of God but not also a kingdom of priests or a people who would represent God and his word to the world and therefore will take the message of the one true God to the world which is here called the Gentiles or the non – Jewish nations.

Even when Jesus came to the Jews as the Messiah they had become so closed off to the world or the Gentiles that they rejected Jesus because he dared to speak and minister to the social outcasts of their world and even the Gentiles or non -Jews like the Romans as we see in verses like Matthew 9: 9 – 13,

“As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance”.

Matthew might have been a Jew but he was working for the Romans and was also despised because tax collectors extorted Jews asking for more money than the Roams demanded so that they could line there own pockets. Yet Matthew and a man named Levi both came to know the Lord and through that knowledge worship him.

Jesus spoke with and ministered to despised Gentile Samaritans as we see in John 4 and the fact of Jewish exclusiveness is seen in the disciples reaction to Jesus speaking with a women but a despised Samaritan women in John 4: 27,

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a women. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her”.

Even the early church had problems with Jewish exclusiveness as we see that even Peter himself needed a vision from God in Acts 10 to say God does not see the Gentiles as unclean so that he was willing to go to a Gentiles home of Cornelius to minster to him and his family. Cornelius was a Roman centurion and Peter starts his presentation of the Gospel to Cornelius and his family with these words in Acts 10: 34 – 35,

“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Even later the Christian churches council in Jerusalem struggle with the concept of Paul’s ongoing ministry to the Gentiles and how the Jewish laws applied or did not apply to them.

If men like Paul had not fought the battle of the message of the Gospel being for the world and not just the Jewish nation then the Christian faith would have died out in the first or second centenary as just a minor Jewish sect.

Jesus makes it clear in John 10: 16 that he came to call and save people outside of the Nation of Israel when he states,

“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd”.

Finally Jesus states clearly to his disciple that they are to preach the Gospel to all the world or all nations making disciples from every nation in the great commission in Matthew 28: 18 – 20,

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Paul uses this first verse of this Psalm in Romans 15: 11 as one of many verses that declares the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s kingdom or family and he speaks to promptly Jewish Christian believers he was writing to in Rome that they must accept all people who are part of God’s new nation of God because of the work of Christ and the message of the Gospel so he writes in verses 7- 9,

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy”.

Note how Paul sees the ultimate aim or goal of the inclusion of the Gentiles is to bring praise to God as John Piper pointed out in my quote from him in my introduction mission is not the ultimate goal of the church worship is and that is what Psalm 117: 1 is saying,

“Praise the Lord, all you nations”

However Piper goes on to point out that,

“Mission exists because worship doesn’t”.

Therefore the church of Jesus Christ must go into all the world and make disciples of all nations so that they will be able to and want to praise the Lord once they realise what he is like and what he has done for them.

2. (vs. 1b) Praise the Lord all tribes of the earth

The second line of verse 1 also seems very straight forward as the first line did as it simply says in the NIV translation,

“Extol him all you peoples”

However commentators like H.C Leupold point out that,

“Peoples, implies ‘nationalities’ and thinks in terms of the wide density of types found in the national groups”.

Some even suggest that “Peoples” could well mean even tribes which Danny Akin defines as,

“Different ethnic and linguistic groups”.

As I said in my introduction I recently came back from a cruise to New Zealand where my wife and I enjoyed going to a morning bible study with Christians from all over the world. We of course all could speak English but we came from different countries and from different ethnic groups but we all were able to fellowship together with lots of encouragement and praise in the Lord who we all knew as our Saviour and Lord.

United as one loving family through Christ with people from different ethnic and linguistic groups is a privilege only Christians can and do experience through the mighty love of God in Christ. I have also had the opportunity and joy of worshipping and ministering in non – English speaking countries like Myanmar and even their because of our common belief and commitment to Christ and his gospel message I have joined in worship and praise and sweet fellowship with my bothers and sisters in Christ from different ethnic backgrounds.

The second line of this call to praise of the Nations of the world speaks of praise with the word “extol” which when fully understood gives us some wonderful teaching as well. David Guzik translates ‘extol” with the word “Laud” and explains what that means with these words,

“To laud is to say praiseworthy things about a person”.

I have two beautiful grandchildren and I often Laud or say praiseworthy things about them and I do this because I love them dearly. So the writer of Psalm 117 calls all the nations and their tribes or different ethnic groups to laud or say praiseworthy things about the God we will see in the next section loves us so much.

So my final thought here is that God wants and loves our praise which of course he truly deserves and no matter what country or ethnic background or even social status we belong to we all can and do unite in the praise and worship of the great God of heaven and earth. This is what the book of Revelation sees as the ultimate expression of worship and praise of our God of believers and Angels in Revelation 7: 9 – 12,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”


1. (vs. 2a) He loves us

As I said this Psalm follows a familiar pattern in the book of Psalm when it has a call to praise our God then followed by reasons why we should praise the Lord and the writer of Psalm 117 gives us two reasons:

1, He loves us
2. He is faithful to us

In this section I will deal with the fact that God loves us. The writer of Psalm 117 says in the first line of verse 2,

“For great is his love towards us”

Danny Akin picks up on the key Hebrew word here which is ‘hesed” and writes,

“The various ways English translations attempt to capture its meaning is instructive: NKJV: merciful kindness, NASV; lovingkindness, HCSB; faithful love”.

Other writers speak of this love of God in the Old Testament as “Covenantal love” and we see this covenantal love of God way back in the book of Deuteronomy and particularly in the words of 7: 7 – 8a,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you”.

John makes it very clear in his first epistle when he writes, 1 John 4: 19,

“We love because he (God) first loved us”.

God loves because John says in 1 John 4: 8,

“God is love”

And how do we know God actually loves us?

John answers that important question as well with these wonderful words in 1 John 4: 10,

 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.

The new Testaments special word for love is “Grace” which is “Mercy” in the Old Testament and grace basically is love we don’t deserve. Israel did not deserve to be called God’s special people who had God’s love lavished upon them and equally we do not deserve God’s love but as Paul says in Ephesians 2: 8- 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”.

All other religions speak of how we must clean ourselves up or do good works and then God will love us or show mercy to us but Paul makes this remarkable claim in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

Finally the first line of verse 2 in Psalm 117 says that this love is:


Spurgeon writes,

“This mercy has been very great, or powerful. The mighty grace of God has prevailed even as the waters of the flood prevailed over the earth: breaking over all bounds, it has flowed towards all portions of the multiplied race of man. In Christ Jesus, God has shown mercy mixed with kindness, and that to the very highest degree”.

God therefore is great and his love is great so this should cause us to want to speak praise worthy things about God which we learnt in the previous section is to extol or laud this great God of love.

Spurgeon concludes,

“We can all join in this grateful acknowledgment, and in the praise which is therefore due”.

2. (vs. 2b) He is faithful

The second line of verse two gives us a second reason for praising the God of the bible and it reads this way,

“And the faithfulness of the Lord, endures forever”.

I mentioned in my previous comments on the covenant love of God which expressed in Hebrew as “Hesed” that God declared that as far back as his calling of the nation as God’s special people after he saved them out of slavery in Egypt recorded in Deuteronomy 7 and verses 7 – 8 but I stopped giving you the words of that reference after the words of verse 8 says,

“But it was because the Lord loved you”

The verse goes on to speak of the faithfulness of that commitment of love with these words,

“And kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt”.

God is totally faithful and when he makes a promise he always keeps it. This is why many commentators speaking about the second line of verse 2 refer to this commitment of faithfulness as God’s word or God’s truth because the promises of God are found in the word of God and God’s word or promises are faithful or truthful and will endure forever.

Many Psalms and of course the apostle Peter speak of the eternal sure nature of the word of God compared us as us being like grass which is here today but gone tomorrow but God’s word endures or lasts forever, 1 Peter 1: 24,

“ For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

Peter is quoting Isaiah 40: 6 – 8 but similar words are found in Psalm 103: 15 – 18,

“The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16  the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts”.

Just as God is love and loves us we therefore should love him so is it true that because God is faithful to us we should be faithful to him and as Psalm 103 verse 18 says,

“Keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts”.

David Guzik sums it up beautifully when he writes,

“God is to be praised not only for his loyal love, but also for his truth. His ever – enduring truth means that He will not change in His love and goodness to us”.

People today often speak of falling in love with someone but sadly also falling out of love for someone but God’s love is eternal and will never change so he loves us with a everlasting love as he is faithful.


1. (vs. 2c) Everyone say Hallelujah

The structure for praise found in many Psalms continues in this one for it started with a great call for the nations or all people from every tribe, tongue and ethnic group to praise the Lord followed by two great reasons for this praise of the Lord namely his love and faithfulness and now it concludes with a further and final call to praise with that Hebrew word, “Hallelujah”.

We have learnt that Hallelujah is translated “Praise the Lord” but it literally is made up of “Hallelu” which means praise and “Jah” which is the the start of the special covenantal name for God we translate as “Yahweh”. Which means the Psalm ends with Praise Yahweh.

This as we delve a little deeper has wonderful things to teach us. John Piper says this about that special name of God in connection with the word “Hallelujah”,

“You know the name Yahweh best from its shortened form Yah at the end of “Hallelujah,” which means “praise Yahweh.” I love to think about this when I sing. When I sing, “Hallelujah,” I love to really mean, “No! I don’t praise you Bel, or Nebo, or Molech, or Rimmon, or Dagon, or Chemosh. I turn from you with disdain to Yah! I praise Yah. Hallelu Yah!”

In another article on the name “Yahweh” John Piper gives us 10 things that the name “Yahweh” teaches us about God and I want to share his ten things here,

1. “He never had a beginning. Every child asks, “Who made God?” And every wise parent says, “Nobody made God. God simply is. And always was. No beginning.”

2. God will never end. If he did not come into being he cannot go out of being, because he is being.

3. God is absolute reality. There is no reality before him. There is no reality outside of him unless he wills it and makes it. He is all that was eternally. No space, no universe, no emptiness. Only God.

4. God is utterly independent. He depends on nothing to bring him into being or support him or counsel him or make him what he is.

5. Everything that is not God depends totally on God. The entire universe is utterly secondary. It came into being by God and stays in being moment by moment on God’s decision to keep it in being.

6. All the universe is by comparison to God as nothing. Contingent, dependent reality is to absolute, independent reality as a shadow to substance. As an echo to a thunderclap. All that we are amazed by in the world and in the galaxies, is, compared to God, as nothing.

7. God is constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He cannot be improved. He is not becoming anything. He is who he is.

8. God is the absolute standard of truth and goodness and beauty. There is no law-book to which he looks to know what is right. No almanac to establish facts. No guild to determine what is excellent or beautiful. He himself is the standard of what is right, what is true, what is beautiful.

9. God does whatever he pleases and it is always right and always beautiful and always in accord with truth. All reality that is outside of him he created and designed and governs as the absolute reality. So he is utterly free from any constraints that don’t originate from the counsel of his own will.

10. God is the most important and most valuable reality and person in the universe. He is more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all other realities, including the entire universe”.

So when Psalm 117 or any other part of the bible calls us to say “Hallelujah” or praise the Lord we are not just praising a god but the eternal God who has always existed, who made heaven and earth and as we have seen in the previous section loves us.

Danny Akin who is the President of the Southheaston Baptist Seminary says this about praising Yahweh,

“God’s character cannot change and his promises cannot be broken. Call on Him and you will be saved. But, to call on Him, you must know Him, This is God’s heart. This is our mission. Praise! Hallelujah!”

Finally the last book of the bible the book of Revelation has some of the most glorious passages of praise in the bible and those passages of praise often feature the word “Hallelujah” and here is a fine example of that in chapter 19 verses 1 – 8,

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was
seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” 5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” 6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

2. Conclusion – God loves the world

I started my Psalm talk on this amazing short but powerful and helpful Psalm 117 with some bible trivia that included the trivia fact that Psalm 117 is the middle chapter of the bible and therefore lies at the centre of the bible as we know it today. This, I believe is not a random useless piece of trivia as, I believe God has purposely placed this Psalm at the centre of his word to us for this Psalm also contains in its brief but comprehensive two verses the central message of the bible namely that,

“God loves the world”

This message comes from the fact that this Psalm calls all Nations, including those outside of Israel God’s special chosen nation to Praise him because of his great love towards us all and because of his faithfulness which is his word to us that endures forever.

The message that God loves the world is found so beautifully in what I call the verse of the New Testament that contains God’s central message to all mankind, John 3: 16 that says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

This is not trivia, a piece of information of little importance or value but a vital life changing fact that should cause us always to praise the Lord and lift up his name all the days of our lives.

I close my Psalm talk as usual with a original poem and a prayer,

(Based on Psalm 117 and John 3: 16)

Praise the Lord now all you people
Praise his great and mighty name
For he is the God who calls us
To serve him and proclaim
That he is a God of love
Who sent his Son to die
And if we but believe in him
In death he will raise us high.


Praise the God the God of love
Who came down from heaven above
To sacrifice his life for us
So praise the God the God of love.

Extol the name of God today
For his done so much for us
He is a faithful loving God
Who longs for us to trust
And his word can be relied upon
It tells us he loves us
So turn from sin and follow him
For he died for you on the cross.


Praise the God the God of love
Who came down from heaven above
To sacrifice his life for us
So praise the God the God of love.

By: Jim Wenman


Father in heaven I praise and thank you for your love and faithfulness to me which I principally see in the sending of your Son to die for my sins on the cross. I praise you for your word which reveals your love to me and which I can rely upon every day of my life. Help me Lord to praise you not only with my lips but with my life and help me to join with people from every nation in praise and worship of your wonderful love for us. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


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