Since Psalm 119 is very long, the longest in the entire book, I want to save it for tomorrow and focus on that one psalm for the day. Then the day after, we can begin the psalms of ascent with 120.
Psalm 117, by contrast to 119, is one of the shortest psalms, if not the shortest. It is another invitation to join the psalmist in praise. In fact, this invitation goes out to all nations and all peoples. Thus, there is the clear suggestion, that not just Israel, but all nations, all peoples, can praise the Lord.
However, it gets even better than this. After inviting all the nations, all people, to join him in praising the Lord, the psalmist gives us all a reason to praise God. “For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.”
What an inclusive vision! God loves everyone! Clearly, the “us” in verse 2 refers to all the nations, to all peoples. God loves everyone…no exceptions. This means that God loves people of every creed, of every nation, of every race, of every color, of every sexual orientation, of every gender, tall, short, fat, skinny, God loves every type of person, every person you can think of, every person who has ever existed, is living now, or will live in the future. This is just as sweeping a statement of the love of God for all people as what we have in John 3:16.
As if that was not good enough, the writer of Psalm 118 makes the statement even more expansive. “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!” God’s love is not only for everyone, it is also for all time; God’s love for us is never ending! There is nothing we can do that will make God love us any less and there is nothing we can do that will make God love us any more because God’s love for us is already perfect.
Furthermore, just in case we did not get the message the first time, the psalmist repeats it four more times: God’s steadfast love endures forever. The Psalmist invites Israel to make this confession of faith. He invites the house of Aaron, the priests and Levites, to make this confession. Furthermore, he invites all who fear the Lord to make this confession.
The things we voice with our own mouths often have greater power for us than the platitudes voiced by others. Therefore, I invite you today to voice these words throughout the day until they get ingrained in your mind, in your heart, in your soul: God’s steadfast love for me endures forever.
Sometimes we have a hard time believing this. It is often easier for some of us to believe that God loves everyone else but us. Perhaps this is the case because every one of us experiences rejection at some time in our lives. Therefore, we assume that God, if he really knew us, would reject us too.
When we are feeling rejected, I think it is good to remember that Jesus also experienced rejection. Psalm 118:22 was picked up by the first Christians and applied to Jesus: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” If you want to see how much rejection Jesus experienced, just read the Gospels. He experienced it from the beginning of his life (no room for him in the inn) all the way through to a bloody end on the cross.
However, as we know, that was not the end of the story. If the accounts in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament are true, God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus experienced rejection so that we would never have to know the rejection of God. He was raised to new life so that we might know a life of love that will never end.
The bottom line is: God loves us, you and me. God loves us in our excellence and in our imperfections. God loves us in our joys and in our sorrows. God loves us in our true-blueness and our quirkiness. God loves us in our moments of wholeness, however few, and in the long stretches of our fractured living where we choose less than the best for ourselves. God loves you and me right now, regardless of what we are getting right or wrong, and his love will see us through forever.
I hope you will accept this truth for yourself today and every day. Embrace it. Revel in it. Steep yourself in the love of God. God’s love changes everything, maybe not all at once, but over a lifetime.
And even if you don’t accept God’s love for you today, or even believe in his existence, that does not change the fact that God does exist, and that God does love you, now and always.
If you want to learn more about the love of God, I have a whole book on the topic. You can read more about that here: http://willvaus.com/god_s_love_letter.