The Shortest Chapter
Temple Terrace, Florida
There is an appropriate time for long hymns and for short hymns, for long prayers and for short prayers, for long sermons and for short sermons, for long admonitions and for short admonitions, for long compositions and for short compositions. Interestingly, the longest and shortest chapters in the Bible are in the same book and separated by only one other chapter. The longest chapter is Psa. 119, having 176 verses; the shortest is Psa. 117, having two verses.
Let us give some thought to the Bible's shortest chapter.
O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.
God Is To Be Praised
This thought is the beginning and the end of the psalm. Three times in this exceptionally short chapter the psalmist exhorts that praise be offered to God. To praise God means to give honor, adoration, and glory to Him. It means to laud, magnify, or extol. It includes thanksgiving, homage, and expressions of acclaim.
The Bible is filled with examples of men offering praise to false gods. The ancient Philistines worshiped a god called Dagon. When they captured Samson, they sacrificed to Dagon, and "they praised their god" (Judg. 16:24). In the days when Belshazzar was king of Babylon, the sacred vessels taken from the house of God at Jerusalem were used in a drunken feast. "They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone" (Dan. 5:4). Daniel said to Belshazzar, "But thou hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified" (Dan. 5:23).
Only the true God is to be praised. The New Testament teaches that by Christ we are to "offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name" (Heb. 13:15).
Who Is To Praise God
The Israelites were taught through the law to praise God. The little psalm we are studying looks beyond the narrow limits of Israel living under the law to the gospel age. It takes on a Messianic character by admonishing, "O praise the Lord, all ye nations; praise him, all ye people." This infers the calling of the Gentiles. It looks to the Messiah's kingdom in which Jews and Gentiles would be united and all would join in glorifying Jehovah.
In Rom. 15, Paul showed that with one mind and one mouth we are to glorify God. We are to receive one another, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, just as Christ has received both Jews and Gentiles to the glory of God. Paul quoted some Old Testament passages pointing to the calling of the Gentiles. In verse I1 he quoted from Psa. 117:1, "Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, with his people." This quotation makes it certain that the psalmist was not speaking exclusively of Israel in his admonitions to praise the Lord.
Why God Is To Be Praised
Obviously, God is to be praised because He is our Creator. In Him we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). But the writer of the shortest chapter in the Bible does not discuss this point. He calls upon us to think on two additional reasons for offering praise to God.
First, "God's merciful kindness is great toward us." The Israelites should have realized vividly how merciful and kind Jehovah was. He set His affection on them. He brought them out of Egypt. He gave them the promised land. Time and again He passed over their iniquities. He was longsuffering. He was willing to take them back after they had committed spiritual whoredom. We, too, should be aware of His merciful kindness. He is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4). Think of His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7). By His grace, mercy, and kindness He sent Jesus to die for us and to provide the way of salvation.
Second, "the truth of the Lord endureth for ever." God is reliable, truthful, dependable. His promises never fail. His revelation of divine truth will stand when the grass has withered, the flower has fallen, and the earth has melted with fervent heat (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
The shortest chapter in the Bible is not short on value. It teaches important lessons that mankind needs to learn. Some folks are long on praising themselves but short on praising God. The first-century disciples were "praising God" when daily additions were being made to the church (Acts 2:47). Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God at midnight in the lonely Philippian prison (Acts 16:25). The beloved John heard a voice out of the throne of heaven saying, "Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great" (Rev. 19:5). The shortest chapter goes to the heart of man's privilege and duty to praise his God.
Truth Magazine XXII: 32, p. 518