Muggsy Bogues is the shortest professional basketball player of all time. Standing only 5’3, Bogues played Division 1 basketball at Wake Forest, won the Francis Pomeroy Naismith award, was first-team all ACC in his senior season, and eventually had his number 14 retired. Bogues also went on to a 14-year NBA career, and became a fan favorite along the way. His lack of size didn’t prevent him from being a valuable (and unique) member of every team he played for; at times, it even gave him advantages that bigger players didn’t have.
You might say that Psalm 117 is the Muggsy Bogues of the Bible. It’s the shortest psalm (technically, it’s the shortest single chapter in all of Scripture). It consists of only two measly verses; it’s so short that I can easily include the entire psalm here:
“Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!”
Meanwhile, just two chapters later, we see the longest psalm, stretching 176 verses. Psalm 119 takes the form of an “acrostic”, meaning that each of its 22 sections corresponds with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. For the sake of comparison, ALL of Psalm 117 is about one quarter of just one of Psalm 119’s 22 sections.
But while the long and winding Psalm 119 receives far more attention than the short and sweet Psalm 117, don’t overlook it. You may think Psalm 117 can’t hold a candle to the vast literary achievement that comes just two chapters later. If Psalm 119 is a titan of a text, that makes Psalm 117 a relative pipsqueak. Putting Psalm 117 so close to Psalm 119 is like standing Muggsy Bogues next to Shaquille O’Neal.
However, I’m going to vouch for the little guy. What makes the tiny Psalm 117 valuable and unique?
First, as we read in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God”. Every word of the Bible is there for a reason – from the distribution of territory of the Promised Land near the end of Joshua, to the heavy metal prophecies of Ezekiel, to the parables of Jesus in the Gospels, to the Apostle Paul’s request for his cloak in 2 Timothy 4:13. There are no useless words in the Bible – and that includes the 28 words of Psalm 117.
Second, Psalm 117 is valuable and unique because it can be so easily memorized. It’s short and sweet – and that may be one of its greatest strengths. Admittedly, Scripture memorization is not my wheelhouse. I don’t think I’m the only one; it seems to be a lost art within most Christian circles these days. However, Scripture memorization is a discipline worth recovering. It’s genuinely helpful to be able to rattle off a portion of God’s Word on the fly. Psalm 117 would be a great place to start.
Finally, Psalm 117 – while short and sweet – is anything but “simple”. Look at it this way: while it may be only 28 words, consider the gravity and weight of these words! It contains a challenge to ALL nations and ALL peoples to praise the LORD! That alone gives us PLENTY to chew on. Why should literally every human being worship God? Because his glory is utterly beyond compare. Because every one of us is made in his image. Because he deserves it! Add in the words about God’s steadfast love and faithfulness for his people, and you’ve got enough material to ponder for a lifetime.
So even though it rests in the towering shadow of the massive Psalm 119, don’t overlook Psalm 117. It’s short and sweet, but valuable and unique. It’s breathed out by God, easily memorized, and – when you really consider the weight of its content – captivating.
While Psalm 119 may be the favorite, don’t forget about the little guy a few chapters back. Read it, know it, and love it – and learn something about the God who loves you along the way.