Yahweh and the Nations
(1) Praise Yahweh, all nations! Extol him, all peoples, (2) for his steadfast love is mighty toward us, and the faithfulness of Yahweh (endures) forever. Hallelujah! (Praise Yahweh!)
This is the shortest of the 150 psalms and the shortest chapter in the entire Bible. “Praise Yahweh” begins and ends the psalm. Three key words are repeated in these two verses. “Praise” and “Yahweh” occur in both verses and “all” is found twice (vs. 1), calling for universal worship.
Two sets of synonyms help us understand the psalm’s message. First, “all nations” and “all peoples” are exhorted to praise Yahweh (vs. 1). The reason for this all-inclusive praise is found in the next verse: Yahweh’s “steadfast love” and “faithfulness” shown toward “us,” that is, toward the people of Israel (vs. 2).
I. Exhortation: calling for all nations to praise Yahweh (1)
II. Explanation: because of Yahweh’s faithful love shown to us (Israel) (2)
The steadfast love of Yahweh shown to Israel should motivate all nations of the earth to praise him.
God has a missionary heart as revealed in 2 Peter: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). In the Old Testament he chose Israel as his covenant nation. His purpose was to bless all peoples of the earth through Abraham’s offspring (Gen. 12:1-3). Had Israel been obedient to him and served him faithfully, they would have seen Psalm 117 fulfilled. All peoples of the earth would have been offering praise to Yahweh because of his steadfast love and faithfulness shown to Abraham’s descendants. We see at least one example of this when the Queen of Sheba journeyed to Jerusalem, drawn by Solomon’s great wisdom and prosperity, to learn about the God of Israel (1 Kings 10).
Sadly, God’s purpose for Israel was never realized. Because of continual disobedience, the covenant people were removed from their homeland and sent into exile. It was only with the first coming of Messiah, the Son of David, that God’s purpose to bring blessing to the nations through his covenant people began to be fulfilled. That is why Jesus, after his death and resurrection, commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, Jews and Gentiles alike (Mt. 28:18-20). Yahweh’s heart has never changed. He has always desired that the entire earth would come to know him and praise his holy name.
When Messiah comes the second time to establish God’s rule over the earth, God’s purpose to bless all nations will finally come to fruition. At that time Paul’s prophecy will be fulfilled: “At the name of Jesus every knee (will) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue (will) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10 & 11). What a glorious day it will be when all peoples everywhere join together to praise Yahweh for his steadfast love and faithfulness to and through his beloved Son, the one in whom the purposes of God for his covenant nation will finally be brought to fulfillment!