God’s Overwhelming Grace

Psalm 117

Smallest psalm – 2 verses, 17 Hebrew words; central chapter according to AV numbering.

“In God’s worship it is not always necessary to be long; few words sometimes say what is sufficient, as this short Psalm gives us to understand. David Dickson

“There are times for short hymns and long hymns, for short prayers and long prayers, for short sermons and long sermons, for short speeches and long speeches. It is better to be too short than too long, as it can more easily be mended. George Rogers

Remember, this psalm a portion of what Jesus sang with disciples after his last Passover. May be short, but packed with truths of enormous significance, especially on Jesus’ lips! Central phrase in psalm: “For His merciful kindness is great toward us.” Same word used in Psalm 103:11: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” Keep that in mind as we consider the overwhelming greatness of God’s grace – its scope, its power, its extent, and our response.

A. its scope v.1

“The psalm itself has universal scope: the Lord’s saving mercy and enduring faithfulness embrace the nations. The Messiah’s call to the Gentiles implicitly rests on this message.” Beale

all people – πάντα τα έθνη

all nations, all Gentiles, all people groups – not what you would expect as part of Passover celebration

does fit context of previous two psalms: Psalm 115 was national and Psalm 116 personal, this one is global

reminder that from beginning God’s redemptive purpose was global – before ever was Jewish people, promise made that offspring of Abram would bless all familiesGen 12:3

even though Jesus’ peers had no use for Gentiles, Jesus did – he knew even though his earthly ministry focused on “house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24), his redemptive mission was to be all-inclusive

God’s saving grace overlooks no people group regardless of how defined: Joshua Project, 16,320 total (more than 1/3 still “unreached”)

must be true given what apostle John saw in vision: Rev. 7:9-10 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

God’s saving grace sufficient to “…ransom people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”(Rev. 5:9-10)

what is amazing: God doesn’t blanket the earth with his grace and sit back to see what happens; God purposely, intentionally directs his grace to ransom people for himself from every tribe, language, people, nation

all directions: praise (vertical), laud (horizontal)

God’s grace calls people from all nations to sing praise to God

frequent calls to worship directed to God’s people; here, call is to all people to praise Yahweh

the kind of praise in view is something unbeliever cannot do; they lack both knowledge and desire to properly praise God

praise something we do because we make that choice, not simply because we feel like it; God is still our God and deserves our praise whatever our immediate circumstances

for nations to praise God with both understanding and desire, something must occur first: those who know and love the Gospel must carry it to those who have not yet heard

and…must result in disciples, not simply converts; converts can do the first line (praise and worship), will not do the second line (brag God up to others)

God’s grace calls people from all nations to brag about God to others

in some church cultures, people encouraged to “give God a hand”; not necessarily comfortable with that, but NET says “Applaud him, all you foreigners!”

we talk about what we love, we brag about what excites us – the one who has experienced God’s grace shouldn’t lack for either love or excitement

if God really is who and what we say about him – good, great, glorious, gracious – his praise should be significant part of all our conversations; should be quicker to brag about him than grandkids!

B. its power v.2a

chêsêd – “merciful kindness” NKJV; “love” NIV, CEV; “faithful love” HCSB; “loyal love” NET; “steadfast love” ESV

let’s go back to Psalm 103:11: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”

majesty, greatness, all-encompassing – words that come to mind when considering this text and relationship between heavens and earth

kind of short-hand version of Ex. 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”

important choice and order of words at beginning of verse 2: “For is great toward us His faithful love”

gâbar – verb before subject for emphasis, and…is strong word on its own; often used in military sense, “mighty men of Israel”

“his steadfast love overwhelms us” Segal

The beginning of verse 2 is particularly picturesque, and “overwhelms” is too often mistranslated as, “great is His steadfast love.” The verb used clearly implies victory and overcoming, which befits the core meaning of “steadfast love” as “grace.” The terminology implies that despite human resistance (of one sort or another), God is gracious. Segal

let’s take Segal’s statement up a notch – God’s grace overcomes human resistance; only because that is true does universal call to worship make sense

if God’s grace did not overwhelm and overcome man’s resistance, he would never answer call to praise Yahweh

is this truth about God and his grace that makes missions worthwhile: we take the message, God graciously overcomes unbeliever’s resistance / opposition, by power of Holy Spirit makes proclamation of the Gospel effectual

is because of God’s overwhelming grace that we are who we are, see need for evangelism, have desire and ability to praise the Lord (vertically and horizontally)

C. its extent v.2b

better rendering: the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever; he will be true to himself and true to his word forever

further guarantee of what has already been stated: as sure as God is God, all the nations will praise the Lord

our faith in God and his promises would have no value if God were not eternally faithful; is especially significant since promises relate to next life as well

if we are to have real hope, must have confidence that God will continue faithful after we get to next life – remember Paul, 1 Cor. 15:19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

our need for grace continues throughout eternity – even full redemption does not make us able to stand before God on our own merit

will always be adopted sons and daughters, never to take place of Beloved or even have equal standing on our own

will still require priestly work of Lord Jesus even in heaven – 4x in Hebrews (5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21) Jesus called “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”

that’s on basis of oath “the Lord has sworn and will not relent”!

God’s grace has no geographical, ethnic or temporal limit; extends to all peoples everywhere throughout all of time and future eternity. It is not simply permissive grace, is powerful grace – able and effectual to accomplish all that is comprehended in God’s purpose. Since we are recipients of God’s grace, or as Paul indicates in Ephesians 1 – trophies of his grace, what should our response be?

D. our response v.2c

praise him and keep his commands – give praise to him, praise him to others, carry Gospel to those who still need to hear

as great and overwhelming as his grace is, will have constantly replenished supply of reasons to worship

besides, God is worthy of our praise because of his nature, his character, who he is; we often praise him for what he does, but that is just the overflow of who he is – is good when we understand and know him

response should be confident – his grace is overwhelming, his faithfulness is eternally enduring, why act like we’re defeated?

exhortation to praise the Lord not qualified – do it if….you get a positive response; it won’t ruffle feathers; it looks like it will accomplish a good end – if we are his people, we are to praise him

can be confident he will do his part and make our part (our obedience) effectual as it fits his purpose

Apostle Paul made a big deal of this passage: turn to Rom. 15:7-13 Uses verse 1 of our text to back up what he was saying: the Gospel to the Gentiles was in view as far back as promises to the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). A necessary piece of fulfillment of the promises was coming of Christ as a servant to his people. In so doing Christ’s purpose was 3-fold: “to show the truthfulness of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy”.

Two things Paul expects to result from understanding significance of this: Christ has welcomed us without regard for our “people group”, we must welcome others in same way (7). God’s grace extends to all peoples, his welcome includes all peoples, ours must as well. Second, we are to abound in hope; not just to have hope, but to abound in it – to have hope / confidence in abundance, overflowing, more than we need. Important note: we don’t manufacture hope, is supplied by God through power of the Holy Spirit. One more thing for which to praise him!

Now…can’t kick back in the recliner, figure we’ve got it made, coast home to glory. Jesus’ final words: ‘And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20) That is our task; by God’s great grace and with his help, we can go in confidence and do his work.


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