“Praise the Lord, all ye nations; praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord” (Psalm 117). The message of the Psalm is brief, but powerful. At least three times in this Psalm the word “praise” is seen, and every time it is directed toward the God. The command being essentially “you praise Jehovah”. The author of the Psalm is not simply suggesting that one praise God, but through the song there is the inspired command that God be praised.
“Praise the Lord, all ye nations…” David was a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and he well knew the history of God’s people and the plan for them. He was aware that through the seed of Abraham all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-4), and David knew that through his own lineage the Messiah would come and be a blessing and Savior of all nations (Psalms 16:8-11, Acts 2:25-28). David was also aware of the situation of the world in which he lived and that the nations, the Gentiles, were not praising God as the one true God, but that they had invented their own deities and in the futility of their efforts were foolishly and ignorantly serving the false gods. This Psalm cries out to the nations “you praise Jehovah, all ye nations, praise him, all ye people.” God was worthy of their praise even though they did not honor him as God. Looking back to the times of David and others Paul wrote “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man…” (Romans 1:22-23). David was proclaiming to the nations “Praise the Lord” and as the church proclaims the message of the gospel there is the command “you praise the Lord”. The nations today can praise the Lord in belief and obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).
David provides some of the reasons why God is worthy of praise from all people and nations. The first is “For his merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endureth forever” (Psalm 117:2). The Psalmist writes that God is worthy of praise because of his “merciful kindness” or essentially the kindness of God toward humanity that is characterized by mercy. The merciful kindness of Jehovah is seen also in the words of Jesus, “For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). The sun and the rain that were created by and belong to God and the order that he has set relates to the physical needs that we as human beings have. However, the provision of the sun and rain for our physical needs does not depend upon our response to God, but simply exist because of the merciful kindness of God. The merciful kindness of God is also seen in the spiritual provision and make known through the words of Jesus. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). God did not have to provide a way of salvation, but because of his merciful kindness and great love he did. The sun, rain, and the Son all express the merciful kindness of God toward humanity. So as David wrote, “For his merciful kindness is great toward us…”
Another reason to praise God is for “the truth of the Lord that endureth forever”. David understood that there was truth and that human beings must come to a knowledge of the truth. The praise of God really takes place after one comes to an understanding of the merciful kindness of God and his truth that endures forever. The nations were not honoring God as the one truth God because they did not understand the truth, and the children of Israel many times did not honor God because they had put aside the truth. Peter in writing to Christians reminds us of this same fact. “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a living hope…the word of the Lord endureth forever” (1 Peter 1:3,25).
God needs to be praised by Christians as we daily seek his merciful kindness through the truth that he has revealed and in doing so offer the light of hope unto the world (Matthew 5:16). The world may seek to praise God, but it can never be truly accomplished apart from the truth that guides all men unto salvation. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior…have all men… come unto the knowledge of truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). “Praise the Lord, all ye nations; praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord” (Psalm 117:1-2).