Tom Lowe


Psalm 117: Extol Him, All You Peoples!

1 O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

2 For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD!



There isn’t much to say about this psalm, simply because the psalmist doesn’t say much. Having only two verses, it is both the shortest psalm and the shortest chapter in scripture, and it is located in the center of the Bible, and yet, small as it is, it is full of a worldwide spirit, reaching out to all nations; but it contains the essentials of a hymn―a summons to praise and a basis for praise. It includes a Passover invitation from Israel to the Gentiles, to come and join them in their Passover. We heartily thank them for this their Passover invitation.  And we hasten to join them―only we will join them not on the ground of a foretelling Passover but of a fulfilled Passover.

Then, too, this is a millennial psalm. It looks forward to the day Jesus will reign, when Israel, regathered to the Promised Land and dwelling in peace and security as head of the nations―will invite all peoples to come to Jerusalem and Join in their annual feasts of thanksgiving.

Israel belongs to the nations. It was never God’s plan that the Hebrew people should exclusively and selfishly hug their blessings to themselves, snapping and snarling at other nations with a dog-in-the-manger attitude. Even in their punishment and dispersal among the nations, they are a universal reminder to all that God is sovereign in human affairs: That Jewish dispersal gave wings to the gospel.

 Finally, this is a missionary psalm. God loves Gentiles just as much as He loves Jews. That is the missionary message of this psalm.

The first verse exhorts everyone to praise the Lord―not only all people but also all nations.  This psalm is another reminder that God’s great love extends far beyond the Jewish states of Israel and Judah. The apostle Paul quotes this verse among a list of scripture references to make that very point in Romans 15:11 {1], which foretells the call of the Gentiles. In this Psalm, as in Isaiah 11:10 {2], and elsewhere, the spirit of Judaism forgets its natural exclusiveness and reaches out its hands to the world.

In verse 2 the psalmist associates God’s great love with His enduring faithfulness, which is a common pairing in the psalms. And he concludes with the phrase so frequently repeated in this section of Psalms: Praise the Lord (or Hallelujah).


Commentary: Psalms 117:1-2 (KJV)

  1. O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

O praise the LORD, all ye nations! The word for “praise” is hallel from which we get our transliterated  “Hallelujah!”  It means “to shine” or “to glorify or, more commonly, simply “to praise.” The invitation is given to the millions of mankind, red and yellow, black and white, oriental and occidental, from pole to pole, from sea to sea, to come and praise the Lord. “The Lord” is literally Jehovah Himself. Nobody else.  Jehovah Himself―Jesus Himself.

Before we can appropriate these words, we must have learned to exercise the spirit of praise for ourselves. We must have come to see that the Lord Jesus is infinitely deserving of the love and homage of all mankind. And we must have received into our hearts the spirit of His own great love, which yearns for all men to be saved. Men will never be truly happy till they adore and praise Him whom we call Master and Savior (Phil. 2:10) {3].

“All . . . nations” (the same word is translated “Gentiles” in many passages) are to “praise Him” and “all . . . people” are to laud or extol Him; Praise And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people” (Rom. 15:11). “Laud Him” means to “sing aloud.” It conveys the idea that God should be praised with a voice loud enough for everyone to hear.

There is always the temptation to overlook this little fellow. This little fellow, however, has a mighty voice; he packs a powerful punch; he is not about to be ignored. Nor is he about to be overshadowed by Psalm 119. We have a pygmy and a giant among the psalms―almost next-door neighbors. Let us Gentiles remember that this little fellow puts in a powerful voice for us. Without him, we might have found ourselves second-class citizens in the kingdom of God, poor brothers and sisters in the family of faith.

This little psalm refuses to let us be overlooked. It brings us in as joint-heirs with Christ to join our voices with those who praise His Name.

 2. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endurethfor ever. Praise ye the LORD.

For his merciful kindness is great toward us.The greatness of His love and the permanence of His word. Here are subjects that are definitely for praise. Do we think enough of them? And are we as prepared to praise in dark and sad days as in bright and happy ones― because God is the same, and the same to us, though our lot may not be quite what it was in other and more joyous moments? The theme of Psalm 117 is PRAISE―the basis for it―is the elements in God’s character which flow out toward Israel in abundant streams. The theme is always the chief part of a hymn. This word, “merciful kindness,” expresses His innermost essence. “Toward us” means toward the congregation of the Lord’s worshippers, of whom the psalmist is one. At first, it strikes us as strange that the psalmist calls upon the nations to praise God on account of what He has done on behalf of Israel. The spirit of the congregation is so moved with wonder at the grace of God to Israel that the whole world is called upon to Praise Him.

The second element in God’s character which calls forth praise to Him is His never-ending faithfulness―His trustworthiness ―which the psalmist does not limit to Israel.

His merciful kindness is “steadfast love” (RSV), loving-kindness or grace. “The truth” (faithfulness and fidelity”) of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD is “Hallelujah.”

This psalm is generally thought to be a song of the Jews who had returned from the Babylonian exile. God’s mercy to them had just been written large on the page of history. For centuries the Jews had defied Him, turned their backs on Him, and plunged into the grossest idolatry in which prostitution and child murder were common religious practices. They had filled the land with their abominations, injustice, pornography, and perversion. They had persecuted and killed the prophets.

At last, God has uprooted them, allowed their temple to be burned to the ground, and plowed Jerusalem like a farmer’s field. Now He had forgiven them, regathered them, given them a second chance. No wonder they sang, “His merciful kindness is great toward us.” We, too, the heirs to the spiritual promises made to Abraham, should sing this song.

Jesus went to Calvary to die for us, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. He took our guilt that we might take His goodness, took our sinfulness that we might take His sinlessness, took our ruin that we might take His righteousness. That was God’s way of bringing mercy and truth together in an everlasting embrace. That is our cause for praise.

We would be clods if we did not want to sing and shout His praise. We would advertise to the universe that we have no comprehension of Him at all, no real understanding of the greatness and the cost of our salvation.

“Praise ye the Lord!”

This was almost certainly part of the hymn sung by Jesus and His disciples at the Passover meal, after the closing prayer and after the drinking of the third cup, just before they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:30). However, from its general nature and its brevity we may assume that it was sung upon many types of occasion when the assembled congregation praised God for what He is and does.


Special notes and Scripture

[1} (Rom. 15:11) “And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.”

[2} (Isa. 11:10) “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.”

[3} (Phil. 2:10) “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;”