Psalm 117 is the shortest of the Psalms with only 16 words in the Hebrew that are organized to form one sentence in Hebrew.
All the nations of the world are called to praise the Lord and extol him because of his covenant love (hesed) and faithfulness to Israel will endure forever. This single sentence of praise captures and sums up why Israel has been chosen and why they can count on God loving them with covenant faithfulness for all time. The Gentiles are told to praise the Lord because in his faithfulness to Israel the way of salvation has been preserved and made known to the Gentiles through Israel’s history, their scripture and their Messiah.
From Genesis 12:3 through this Psalm 117 into the ministry of Jesus in Matthew 15:21-28; 16:13-20; 28:18-20 and on to Paul’s ministry which is summoned up in Romans 11:11-15 until the Old Testament prophecies quoted in Romans 15:8-12 are fulfilled. The salvation of the Gentiles is the reason for Israel and the basis for the Lord’s covenant faithfulness to his chosen people.
- Genesis 12:3, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
- Matthew 28:18-19, “The Jesus came to them and said, ‘…go and make disciples of all nations…’ ”
- Romans 11:11-15, “Again I ask: Did they (Israel) stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
- Isaiah 11:10 (Romans 15:12), “Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.’ ”
Psalm 117 is the sixth of the seven Hallel Psalms (Psalms 113-118) sung at the major feasts of Israel. True Israel was always focused on reaching the Gentile world with the message of their Lord. This short Psalm is as quick to sum up Israel’s purpose as was the Lord’s original purpose statement spoken to Abraham in 2000 BC, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:3)