Psalm 117. Stuck in the Middle with You.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Psalm 117. (MsgB)

Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people!
His love has taken over our lives; God’s faithful ways are eternal.
Hallelujah!


Here’s a couple of interesting statistics about Psalm 117. With just two verses and sixteen words in Hebrew, it is the shortest of all 150 psalms. And with most of our English-speaking Bibles containing a total of 1,189 chapters (New and Old Testament), Psalm 117 (the 595th chapter) sits directly in the middle of our Bibles!

Now. Enough with the statistics. Let’s ponder this short but sweet psalm for a moment.

One of the most unique aspects of Psalm 117, besides its shortness, is the fact that as a song written by a Hebrew worshipper, the lyrics actually have amazing worldwide appeal. Yup. It kinda reminds me of another little ditty, written by a yet another Jewish songwriter in more recent times, that went global: Irving Berlin’s I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.

But back to Psalm 117.

Keep in mind that until the time of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish nation believed that their God belonged to Israel exclusively. Oh yes, the Old Testament does contain many references indicating to those who have eyes to see that God had planned all along to extend His loving mercy to every tribe, nation, and tongue. But quite honestly, most good, God-fearing Jews believed that their unique religious system was designed exclusively for them. Forever and ever. Amen.

It’s obvious that even after the death and resurrection of Christ, the early Christian church in Jerusalem had a very difficult time adjusting to the concept that Yahweh, the Creator of the Universe, had eyes for any other people group other than the Jews. Much of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles in the first century was met with great resistance, and a careful read of the Book of Acts shows us that Paul’s death in Rome was instigated primarily by those who couldn’t embrace this amazing message that Jesus, the Jew, had died on the cross for all men and women, world-wide.

In truth, this keeping our personalized God to ourselves is still a major problem in the world today. As I see it, there are way too many westernized Christians who still believe that Jesus was really blonde, blue-eyed and looked a lot like a typical American from Minnesota. No Swedish accent, of course.

In truth, the westernized Jesus of our imaginations has been draped with the American Flag, perceived as a conservative Republican, and is still believed to be sitting alongside the Founding Fathers when they signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776!

Now don’t get me wrong. I love America and much of what our nation stands for, but please, my fellow Americans, let’s let Jesus up from the red-white-and-blue mat, and allow Him be the international Jesus He’s always wanted to be. Psalm 117 says it very clearly.

Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people!

In truth, just as our Jewish brothers and sisters had to release their grasp on a personalized God who only loved the Jews, we too, in our generation need to let go of our Americanized Jesus and allow Him to be the Christ to the entire world. Just imagine. A Jesus who speaks Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. A Jesus who has Asian eyes or a Jesus with a very brown complexion. Or how about this? A Jesus who works to unite both the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael! Too extreme? I think not.

A world-wide Christ. Not aligned with any one nation but a Messiah to the whole world. A Rescuing King that draws people to Himself from every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. Sounds kinda like a picture I remember reading about in a chapter at the end of the Bible.

Hmm.

I guess this universal God we serve sees the whole world as being in His hands, from the beginning (Genesis 1), to the middle (Psalm 117), to the very end (Revelation 22)!

My prayer: Father, forgive me when I overlook the fact that You are interested in saving the entire world, not just my own specific people group. I love my American Jesus, but help me, Holy Spirit, to let the Master be all He is meant to be. A Savior to the entire world who loves and appreciates cultures vastly different than my own. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how have I painted God into a cultural corner? How am I limiting Jesus’ universal love by making Him behave according to my cultural limitations? What might it look like for me to stretch outside my comfort zones, and begin loving and appreciating folks vastly different from those like me?

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?


Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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