Pastor Dennis Smith
The shortest chapter in the Bible, having just two verses, is Psalm 117:
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."
As short as this psalm is, it is rich in truth and wisdom. The Jewish psalmist (there is no superscription or header with this psalm to indicate who wrote it) speaks to all people with the exhortation to praise the Lord. We are given two reasons for praising God — His merciful kindness toward us and His abiding truth.
Think about what the psalmist means by the Lord’s merciful kindness. This phrase, merciful kindness, translates a single word in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament. It occurs hundreds of times in the Hebrew scriptures, largely in Psalms. The term is usually translated as mercy, lovingkindness, or goodness, and in meaning, it covers both the New Testament notions of mercy and grace. We can think of mercy as the withholding of deserved punishment, or as an act of pity towards someone who is disadvantaged, afflicted, or suffering in some way through no fault of his own. And then the biblical concept of grace involves kindness and the free giving of benefits or help that is not necessarily due. The translation of the word in this psalm as merciful kindness covers both concepts.
Sometimes unpleasant circumstances, such as we are all currently experiencing, skew our thinking and deflect our attention from God’s goodness. We are daily bombarded with bad news and dire statistics. From one day to the next things can seem to be getting worse and not better. At such times, if we want to heed the psalmist’s admonition to praise the Lord, we might need to consciously remind ourselves of the mercy the Lord has shown us and the kindnesses He has already bestowed upon us, all in Christ.
This week I would encourage you to reflect on God’s mercy and grace and praise Him for it all. He has forgiven our transgressions, cleansed us from all unrighteousness, redeemed us for Himself, and sanctified us. He has removed the dead heart of stone from us and given us a heart of flesh that makes us tender to the things of God (Ezekiel 36:26). He has given us the Scriptures, His very Word, to instruct and guide us. He has condescended to reveal Himself fully to us in the person of His Son.
He didn’t have to do any of that. But He did it all for you personally, and for me. It’s all mercy and grace: our praise and thanks to Him should flow freely in light of that.