Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

Psalm Saturday #1 – Psalm 117 – a hymn of praise to our LORD 

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Psalm Saturday #1 – Psalm 117 – a hymn of praise to our LORD 

Psalm 117:1 (ESV) Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! 2 For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

To kick of a series that I plan to publish on a Saturday called “Psalm Saturdays” I chose  the shortest Psalm to begin with, I plan to go through and cherry pick Psalms and give a small devotional type look at the passage. I pray that it is a blessing.

A hymn of praise

In the King James version of the text we see this Psalm is titled “Praise for God’s  steadfast love” and in the New American Standard Version it has the title “A Psalm of praise” so we can see quite clearly that the author is using this verse to praise the LORD.

This Psalm also begins with the words “Praise the LORD” and as Christianese (I have a page to explain what Christianese means if you are so inclined) as this sounds it is completely true. We need to keep focused on praising God through the valleys and mountain top experiences in our lives.

This Psalm starts wonderfully in that it starts with the words in verse one.

V1 “Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!”

We are all called to praise God, God created us for his pleasure and gives us the opportunity to praise him, to choose to live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to him or we have the alternative option which of course is to live in rebellion against God. Many of us have already made that choice and are living in a day to day walk with our messiah and we are doing as it states in this passage and being part of these nations that the Psalmist speaks about, but what I wish to focus on is those who are not, Jesus repeated this in Matthew 28 when he said

Matthew 28:17 (ESV) And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Introduction to Jesus

In order to get them Praising God we have to introduce them to their messiah Jesus Christ. 

We read in the book of Jude that not everyone will be saved in the same manner…

Jude 1:20 (ESV) But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Not everyone will be the same

Some will require love and mercy and some will require being pulled from the fire, in my personal conversion I required a little of both, I was attracted to the faith by those who were genuine with their love, mercy and understanding but I also needed correction in my fledgling faith and needed to learn, to be snatched from situations that in my non-Christian life I saw as harmless but would torch my faith as a baby Christian.

Once they are in the faith they will begin to praise God! The Psalmist advises that “all nations” are to praise God. How very John 3:16-17! In the song “If we are the body” sung by 

_____ we hear the following lyrics…

“Jesus paid much too high a price, for us to pick and choose who should come, and we are the body of Christ”

That is the truth dear Christian, as Christians we are the messengers of the truth of God’s mercy and love and his great sacrifice to send Jesus on the cross. Those of you who have children will understand what a sacrifice it would be to send your boy, your firstborn, literally perfect in every way to be the price for the whole world, some may take you up on your offer of alvation but he did it knowing that many will reject him. Wow! What love is this?

God knows who will choose to follow him and who will not, however we do not! God will give us opportunities to impact people’s lives because he chooses to use us. He does not need to use us but again as a parent I know that despite the fact that the job will take three times longer to complete if I involve my kid, there is just something sweet about that time connected between the father and an adoring child who awaits every instruction as if it was a nugget of gold. (That is how it should be with us and God) Yes, my kid gets it wrong more often than gets it right, but the way I handle it is everything and I am sure you can see where I am going here, just replace “kid” with your name and parent with “God” and I am sure you see why God uses us to help complete what he gives us to complete.

Should we all be evangelists?

If that is your calling and you are convinced, assured based on what you are being told by God that it is then yes! Go be an evangelist, do it with all of your heart and all of your strength and be in constant communication with God to ensure you are always where he intends you to be, lean not on your own understanding and lean fully on God.

But in all actuality many of us are not called to that, I know that I am called to be a father and husband first and foremost and beyond that I am called to teach a bible study and if I have any spare time after that then I write something on here! We can be evangelists without being evangelists though, it comes back to living your life in a way that would encourage people to investigate Christ by being that different then you cause people to question your life. (In a good way) Some of the most effective evangelists are the ones who only evangelize 2-3 at a time and follow a simple but effective pattern I wish all churches followed…

1) Reach
2) Teach
3) Send

Then repeat the cycle ad finum! This will not be popular in todays “Mega church” lets launch with 5000 bodies in multi cities branded churches that are popular today, there are some fine ones but it is easy to be hurt, be anonymous and not get the nurture, sweet koinonia and discipleship that you need from your local church body.

The verse finishes with the words…

“V1b Extol him, all peoples!”

The word “extol” is capitalized and we see the importance of this word in the sentence when we look at the root word which is “shabach” (pronounced – “sha-vakh”) which means:

1) To laud, praise, commend or congratulate
2) To boast

We are not to be silent of the gospel that saved us dear Christian! I love hearing folks state that they prefer another Christian to me because that person is not as “in your face” about Jesus that I am, this verse is a verse I cling to that is telling me that I am supposed to laud, be loud, be praising and be boastful about the one who saved us.

We have an enemy who wants to shut us up dear friend! Satan would be happier with a church that preaches a “sanitized, non-biblical, pro world” gospel that really will be ineffective in people’s lives because it won’t actually change anything. To Satan and those who oppose the faith, that would be a real boon and a course of celebration.

You only have to look at websites like VOTM (Voice of the Martyrs) to understand what happens to Pastors when the truth of God’s word is not the message of the government of where they are placed by God. What happens is simple, the ruling authorities place sanctions on the churches making it more difficult and dangerous to meet and once they think the churches are weak enough they then ban worship. Pray daily for those who are persecuted for the LORD’s sake! God is love and God is faithful we read that in verse two. 

V2 For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

The great thing about God is that he is the same, he is faithful, he is forever and he is love, do I understand his love? Not all the time and in many cases I understand it not, however I trust in it because I know that he is there for me and he cares for me with his steadfast love.

Does this mean I am rich? Do I have the desires of my heart? Do I have everything I want? The answers are simple! Materially no, no and no! I am glad also because my heart is deceitful, it is wicked and it will lead me down a merry path to destruction if I let it. Are my ways higher than Gods ways? Again I have to say no, his ways have always been and will always be above my ways.

Where we go wrong as Christians (and in greater numbers as humans ourselves) is that we look at our surroundings, we look at success and blessings as the cubic feet of our property, the number of bedrooms/bathrooms and the temporary toys that we have adorning our home, we look at our vehicles with either pride or disgust, we look at the amount of dollars in our bank accounts as if that in some way defined us.

This leaves us susceptible to false religion, to health/wealth and prosperity teachings that lay a guilt trip on its members if they are not getting rich because they are not tapping into God’s blessings for them, that their poverty is in somewhat in relation to their faith in God and that is utter nonsense and a lie from the devil. Look at what Jesus said about a woman who had her heart right with God but was dirt poor…

Mark 12:44 (ESV) And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

She had her heart correct because her faith was much bigger than her bank account, she quite literally gave all she could have, yes if the temple did a spreadsheet or league table of that months best tithers she would not appear on any of the front pages in our eyes that are focused on the numbers. Jesus (who has the same heart as God) sees it differently, she put in based on what she had, there was a purity in her offering that all the others did not have because she had faith that God was going to look after her, she had no idea how he was going to do it but she had that faith. I pray regularly for that type of faith and I have much more than two small brown coins of the lowest denomination.

Do the Heath, wealth & prosperity guys ever teach on these verses? They do and I have even heard these charlatans preach on this to their own ends! They use the widow’s heart to pull on peoples heart strings to increase their offerings advising that “Well the widow put in all you can and had that faith that God would look after her, you should do likewise!” My only advice in situations like that is simple; you should give as the LORD leads, give with the purest of hearts and do so as the Holy Spirit convicts you too.

Which leads to why you should give and we should always be giving with the purest of hearts, not out of a ritual or an obligation God does not want an empty religious, tick the box offering if your heart is far from him. If you are giving through obedience and love for the father, giving what you can afford and on the understanding that the gift you are giving is not a payment for future blessings but it is merely you being a good steward of the money that God has blessed you with.

As the verse states it is God who is faithful and not us. We are the ones who wander from God and we are also the ones who are responsible when our faith goes flat or when we find it hard due to the hardness of our own hearts but thankfully we have a God who is forgiving and is in the business of giving second chances to prodigals, for that I am grateful.

Does this Psalm not make you want to praise the LORD? It does for me

I pray this article was a blessing and please feel free to like, comment and share as the LORD leads you too
SDG
TGBTG
TTE

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