Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love towards us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever.
Praise the Lord.(Ps. 117:1-2 NIV)
This shortest Psalm could be thought of as a missionary Psalm. The Psalm appears to answer three questions.
- Who do we declare the message of the Gospel to? Who do we preach to?
- What is the content of that message that we proclaim? What is in the message?
- What is the purpose of the proclamation of that Gospel message? Why do we proclaim the message?
- Who do we declare the message of the Gospel to?
This Psalm is quoted in Romans chapter 15 and it shows that the Old Testament and New Testament are united in their scope of the declaration of the Gospel. The parish for the spread of the Gospel is the whole world. This has always been the case. In every age there is a message of salvation that all people should hear. The Gospel message that you find in the book of Romans, you will also find in the book of Deuteronomy. Therefore, in this age as in every age it should be the mission of the church to work to that end so that every man and woman, boy and girl should hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Old Testament times the church lost a great deal of their missionary zeal. Yes, there were a few outsiders who came into the covenant community because they appreciated the greatness of Israel’s God. But the missionary focus of all the nations was not purposely carried out through a plan or programme. The Jews did not expand their faith to the nations. They became so inward-looking that many could not even expand its faith to include the acceptance of their own Messiah. The natural heirs of the promise were put out of their inheritance and outsiders were called into salvation to take their place in the everlasting kingdom of Christ. God has a claim to universal worship, and all nations and all peoples are under an obligation to worship God. It is a sin not to worship God. The nations who do not worship are under judgement because of their failure to worship the God of heaven and earth and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Our first question is who do we declare the message of the Gospel to? The Scriptures OT and NT are united in their reply, to all the nations and all peoples. So, the challenge to us as a church is that our interests in the declaration of the Gospel ought to be local, national and international. So with the world as our parish –
- What is the content of that message that we proclaim?
The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message that we must proclaim to all. There is a vague notion of spirituality often pursued by people who say they’re interested in religion. But the content of the message to be proclaimed is focused on One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism and One Father over all. There is a wideness in God’s mercy but there is a narrowness in the message of salvation.
Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”NIV Acts 4:12
Let’s look at what verse 2 says about the content of the message.
For great is his love towards us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever. Praise the LORD.NIV Psalm 117:2
“Great is His love towards us”. A great love in the English sense of the word is a love that is large, remarkable, distinguished or superior. The love of God is large, it comes from a generous heart. There is no love as large as God’s love.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.NIV 1 John 4:10
The love of God is remarkable. If we were not to remark about the love of God, surely the very rocks and stones would cry out. The love of God is a love that is distinguished from all others.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.NIV John 3:16
Here is a love that is superior to all others. God is love.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.NIV 1 John 3:16
Now while the English definition of the word “great” reveals to us much truth concerning the love of God, there is a richer meaning behind this word that is translated “great”. The word translated “great” has the sense of someone or something having prevailed over something else because of his or its superior qualities. The word is used of the stronger side in battles.
As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.NIV Exodus 17:11
When the word is used here in Ps.117 of the love of God, it has the thought that God’s love prevails over any obstacle or enemy. The love of God prevailed towards us. The love of God prevailed over my rebellion, conquered by love divine, a slave to the love of God. Overwhelmed by love, captured by God’s love, made willing to bow in the day of God’s power. Martin Luther describes this overwhelming love in a most beautiful way.
“Although sin makes itself felt, death bares its teeth, and the devil frightens us, still there is far more grace to prevail over all sin, far more life to prevail over death, and far more God to prevail over all devils. In this kingdom sin, death and the devil are nothing more than the black clouds of the material heaven. For a time, they may well conceal heaven, but they cannot prevail. They must stay beneath the heavens and suffer it to remain, prevail, and rule over them; and at last they must pass away. Therefore, although sin bites us, death frightens us, and the devil throws his weight around with temptation, these are still only clouds. The heaven of grace prevails and rules; in the end they must remain below and surrender”.
Great is his love towards us. Every barrier, every sin, every obstacle that stands between you and God is dismantled by the love of God. The love of God is freely demonstrated in the cross of Christ.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.NIV Romans 5:8
One of the old Puritan writers said in explanation of this Psalm: “No man needs more grace than the Gospel offers.” There is no hidden teaching that you need to discover, no secret that needs to be revealed. God has disclosed everything that you need to know in the Gospel. You can be made right with God, because the love of God has prevailed over our sin. The Gospel proclaims the might and mercy of God, the lovingkindness that proves itself mighty over us, over our sin. The love of God to me in Christ is intense, it is full, it has been expressed in a superabundance covering over and blotting out my record of sin. Where sin has abounded, grace has much more abounded. We must preach the whole law of God in the Gospel. The ungodly must be persuaded through the Gospel of the abundance of their sin. We must lay out clearly how sin debilitates, corrupts and destroys. Sin runs rampant in our lives, bringing a misery, a kind of hell on earth, but beyond this life in the afterlife there is a hell to avoid. But the content of the message must also tell of the love of God that is great and prevails over all that we are and all that we have done. No matter how complicated life has become because of the mistakes that we have made, no matter how horrible the sin, the love of God has prevailed over that sin. And that prevailing love is towards us. This is a love that reaches out to us in our sins. A love that agrees to lift us out of the gutter. A love that will embrace the sinner and take away the sin. When you are really convinced of how guilty sin is, then forgiveness can be a blessing that is sweet. A love that goes further, not only taking away the sin but giving the righteousness of Christ. “Great is His love towards us”. But salvation is not a once-off act or decision, it is a life lived in the power and energy of the Holy Spirit. It is a life of constantly experiencing the salvation of Jesus Christ. So in the Gospel we must proclaim that the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. This word translated faithfulness is like our word Amen. God is the Amen of all things. When we say the congregational Amen we express our agreement with what has been said or prayed. There is a link here between the faithfulness of God that endures and the love that prevails and our expression of Amen. To say Amen is to say yes, I know what you mean that God loves prevails, I know what you really mean when you speak of God’s faithfulness enduring, because I have experienced the love of God in Christ. That’s what we aim to see in our declaration of the Gospel that men and women would take the truth about the love of God into their hearts and rely upon the death of Jesus Christ, that they might be ready for heaven. In a significant sense and with meaning that they might say Amen for themselves. If we preach to all peoples and nations and we preach the all-prevailing love of God in Christ, why do we proclaim such a message?
- What is the purpose of the proclamation of that Gospel message?
The answer comes in the response of the last three words of the Psalm. Praise the Lord. We proclaim the message of the Gospel not so that we might be encouraged when God blesses, not that we might feel good about our church, but that the Lord might be praised. God will be glorified in the preaching of the Gospel. God has ordained the preaching of the Gospel as the means for the declaration of the message. We must make the grand motive for all our preaching the honour and glory of God. This missionary Psalm sends us to all, to preach, to persuade, to offer Christ in the Gospel to all. We tell in the Gospel that the love of God in Christ prevails towards the sinner, and we labour and toil and sacrifice and endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ in the battle to preach that message because we are motivated by the supremacy of the honour of God and would that all men everywhere would turn to bring him praise.
Heavenly Father we thank You that we have a message to proclaim to others, but we also thank You that this is a message we heard for ourselves. Help us to tell others about the Gospel, so that they too will come to Praise the Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.