Psalm 117: Shortest Chapter, Longest Message

We recently had the great, and eye-opening opportunity to study the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. Its subject was the Word of God. Come to think of it, it still makes sense that, in the Bible, the written Word of God, the longest chapter is devoted to the authority, power, and relationship of the Word to man. How important the Word, His Word, is to us … and, to God.

It just seemed natural to, then, look at the shortest chapter in the entire Bible, which is only “2 chapters back” of the longest chapter. Bringing us to Psalm, chapter 117.

Only 2, yes 2, verses. But, I discover in studying this chapter, that, perhaps, I should sub-title this writing with something like, “Fewest Verses, Longest Vision.”
Man, talk about looking at the big picture!
Yes, the chapter is, perhaps, “set apart” by being the shortest, but it is also set apart for another reason: It is the only Psalm which is strictly addressed to the Gentile world. It clearly sees the same vision other Old Testament writers saw … that the Gospel … that Salvation … would be sent …would be offered … would be available … not only to the Jewish nation and its people … but, to “all of us.” As we’ll see, this was a message many Jewish believers did not want to hear, and was still an issue in Paul’s day. More on that later.

First, let’s consider that, Scripturally, there are only 2 races of people: The Jews and Gentiles. Period. All of us are in one of these 2 categories. Yes, that means just that. It would be fair to say that this message, the message and fact that all nations, all peoples of the “heathen” nations, would have salvation made available to them, was the hottest, most debated topic of the very, very early church. Things haven’t changed much, have they? How God can offer the same salvation, the same eternal life, the same spiritual gifts, etc., to “everyone,” even those we consider to be “unsavable.” How, in God’s eyes, we are all, really the same … all are lost without Jesus, regardless of culture, class, or whatever else may “divide” us. And, that God offers the same salvation to everyone … regardless of where they live … and … I know this hurts some folks … but, the same salvation is offered to everyone, regardless of what they have done … what lifestyle they are now living … regardless of … regardless of … they are offered the same salvation which … which … which … we were offered …

Wow! This is supposed to be about the shortest chapter … I think the fact that its content has even led to this conversation proves the power of the message contained in these 2 verses. And, not only that, but the verses aren’t even that long to begin with!

It occurs to me that, already, there’s about a hundred lessons just in what we’ve covered so far!

OK, I must say it: Sometimes, the hardest thing for us to understand, to “get,” is that God may not approve of someone’s lifestyle, just like He didn’t approve of ours, but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love them. It doesn’t mean that the same saving grace which saved us … can’t save them. Jew and Gentile. Really, still, even within these two groups (yes, they are different groups!), it still all boils down to only 2 groups of people in the world today: Saved and Lost. That’s it. Period. Those who are lost need to be saved. Those who are saved need to reach out to those who are lost. Regardless of who, or where, they are. Have things changed since Paul’s time? How difficult is it for us to reach our hands-and hearts-out to people who are different from us? I mean … surely the Gospel message is not meant for them, too???

All this from Psalm 117? Only 2 verses???

How Great God is! If we could just catch hold of His vision! I’ll say this again: God knows what He is doing. Even if we don’t know what He’s doing … even when it seems that what He is doing goes “against the grain.” I’ll even write this: It’s a good thing He’s in charge, and not me. I think one of the greatest “against the grain” things that God ever did happened right there at the “beginning” of the Church. Think about this, as we ponder the “differences” between Jew and Gentile. Think about how big a deal this was in the early days of the Church. Peter was, perhaps, (please keep this in context) the most “Gentile” of all the Disciples. What did God do? Put him in charge of the Church in Jerusalem. Paul was, perhaps, (please keep this in context) the most “Jewish” man who ever lived. What did God do? Put him in charge of taking the Gospel message to the Gentile world … Indeed, revealing to him “the mystery of the Gospel …”

Taking the Gospel to the Gentile world. Whose idea was that? It was God’s idea all along. Yes, Jesus came first to the Jewish nation … but, when they rejected Him … the door opened for “everyone else” to have the opportunity … the same opportunity … While, yes, there is still the “Jewish Nation/Family,” we are just as important a part of that family … by adoption into that family … A “hidden” message, sprinkled throughout the Old Testament …

I think I see another hundred lessons …

Back to Psalm 117: There have been some scholars who didn’t think that this Psalm “stood alone;” that it should have been a part of Psalm 116. However, Psalm 117 has the basic 3 elements of a “Psalm,” or “hymn of praise”: It clearly has a call to praise, “O Praise the Lord, all ye nations (Gentiles); praise him, all ye people.” It has a reason for this praise, “For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.” Then, it finishes with a conclusion, “Praise ye the Lord.” By the way, for those who thought this chapter should have been just added to finish Psalm 116, that Psalm already has a clear conclusion of … “Praise ye the Lord.”

With its call to praise, addressed to the Gentile nations, and the word “people” meaning “all ye peoples,” there is no question that the Psalmist is clearly focusing on God’s interest and desire to save the “Gentile Peoples,” resulting in their praise for, and to, Him.

Is Psalm 117 the exact center of the Bible? Well … I must ask you to independently search for this answer. When you do, you will find that some say it is chapter 118, and some say it is chapter 117. I say that both are really great chapters … and, you should read and study both.
Again, I ask you to search for this. Here’s a sample of what I found:

For those who favor Psalm 118:
Fact: There are 594 chapters before Psalms 118
Fact: There are 594 chapters after Psalms 118
Add these numbers up and you get 1188
Q: What is the center verse in the Bible?
A: Psalms 118:8
Q: Does this verse say something significant about God’s perfect will for our lives?

The next time someone says they would like to find God’s perfect will for their lives and that they want to be in the center of His will, just send them to the center of His Word!

Psalms 118:8
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”
Now isn’t that odd how this worked out (or was God in the center of it)?

(I just wanted you to read that!)

Then, for those who believe Psalm 117 is the center of the Bible, I found this:
“According to independent research, the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible contains 1189 chapters; Psalm 117 is the 595th; there are 594 chapters before Psalm 117, and 594 after it. Thus, it is 117, not 118, that is the center chapter of the Bible.

Here is what Charles Spurgeon wrote, in his “The Treasury of David”:
“This Psalm, which is very little in its letter, is exceedingly large in its spirit; for, bursting beyond all bounds of race or nationality, it calls upon all mankind to praise the name of the Lord. It is both short and sweet. It may be worth noting that this is at once the shortest chapter of the Scriptures and the central portion of the whole Bible.”

We spoke of the Apostle Paul earlier. The verses of Psalm 117 are one of 4 passages of Old Testament Scripture which Paul used, in Romans, chapter 15, to prove that God’s plan is to save Gentiles. Again, this was perhaps the most hotly debated topic during the days of the early Church, to which Paul would repeatedly write that, in God’s eyes, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, bondman or free, etc. Paul wrote, “that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written …” Then, Paul would quote from Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah. In so doing, to prove his point, Paul quoted from the Psalms, the Law, and the Prophets.

So, in closing, “O Praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye peoples. For his merciful kindness (loving-kindness) is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.
Praise ye the Lord.”

Richard. Vincent. Rose.

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