“Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD!” Psalm 117, the shortest in the psalter, is part of the so-called Egyptian Hallel. It is sung at the Jewish Passover in remembrance of Israel’s salvation and deliverance from Egypt. Of course, Passover points to Christ. “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7).
Rooted in deliverance and pointing to Christ, the Psalm calls “all nations” and “all people” to offer praise and worship to the Lord of glory. Specifically, all gentile nations and peoples ought to “praise the Lord.” The clear implication is that all nations, Jew and Gentile, will be gathered together in one body to worship and serve Jesus Christ. Calvin, in his comments on the psalm, says, “It would therefore serve no purpose for the prophet to address the heathen nations, unless they were to be gathered together in the unity of the faith with the children of Abraham.”
Matthew Henry says this psalm is full of the gospel. He adds, “[T]he gospel of Christ is ordered to be preached to all nations, and by him the partition-wall is taken down, and those that were afar off are made nigh. This was the mystery which was hidden in prophecy for many ages, but was at length revealed in the accomplishment, That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, Eph. iii. 3, 6.”
Yes, this psalm, among others, sets forth “the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit (Eph. 3:4-5, italics added). Note the comparison that Paul makes. The mystery was revealed in the Old Testament but has now been more fully revealed. What is this mystery? “That the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).
There are those who vociferously protest, “[T]he psalms did not reveal this mystery” (Kerux, Dec. 2008, 20). “No Old Testament revelation (including the Psalter) revealed this mystery” (Ibid., 34). “The wisdom of Christ…is God’s mystery, a mystery that was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets, including the Psalmists (Ibid., 36). Why this protest? If the Psalms, as alleged, do not reveal this mystery, they are not sufficient for New Testament worship. In fact, “it follows that the church is required to sing more than the Psalter in public worship” (Ibid., 49, italics added). “Thus, to restrict the church’s song to Old Testament revelation in the Psalter is at odds with the Regulative Principle of worship” (Ibid., 49).
These protestations are ill founded. Psalm 117 calls the Gentiles to join in the worship of the Lord of glory. This call is rooted in the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The seed is Christ (Gal. 3:16). The promise is the gospel. “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU’” (Gal. 3:8). The Father’s eternal promise to the Son stands behind all of this. “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance” (Psa. 2:8).
The psalms are full of the gospel of Christ. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ. Sing the Psalms.