Psalm 118 (1) Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (2) Let Israel say: "His love endures forever." (3) Let the house of Aaron say: "His love endures forever." (4) Let those who fear the LORD say: "His love endures forever." (5) When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place. (6) The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (7) The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. (8) It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans. (9) It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. (10) All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down. (11) They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down. (12) They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them down. (13) I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. (14) The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. (15) Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things! (16) "The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!" (17) I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. (18) The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. (19) Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. (20) This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. (21) I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. (22) The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; (23) the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. (24) The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. (25) LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! (26) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. (27) The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. (28) You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. (29) Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Psalm 118 is the last of what Bible scholars call the Egyptian Hallel Psalms (Psalms 113-118). Hallel is the Hebrew word for praise. These six psalms were sung during the Passover meal to remember God’s deliverance from Egypt as recorded in the Old Testament book of Exodus. Psalms 113-114 were sung before eating the Passover meal, and Psalms 115-118 were sung after the meal.
Our Lord Jesus would have sung these songs on the night He was betrayed. The night He washed His disciple’s feet, taught them the Sacraments, and shared the Passover meal, He too was singing these songs in remembrance of the power of God the Father. Can you imagine the conversation that night between the Father and the Son? How did the Father strengthen and empower the Son to face what was to come? What message did He give Him? Were the words of the Egyptian Hallel Psalms a reminder to Jesus of the Father’s redemption plan? Of His love and faithfulness throughout time? Did they fill Jesus with hope?
Psalm 118 is titled His Steadfast Love Endures Forever (ESV), Praise to God for His Everlasting Mercy (NKJV), Thanksgiving for Victory (ICB), among others. Pastor David Guzik, in his blog (www.enduringword.com), titles this psalm, The Chief Cornerstone.
There are reasons to believe that King David wrote this psalm, although it is not signed by him. At the dedication of the second temple in Jerusalem, the people also sang portions of this song,
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving, they sang to the LORD: "He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever." Ezra 3:10-11 NIV
As the people attributed the song to David in ancient Israel, we can assume him to be the original author of Psalm 118.
However, Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone. It is beautiful and reassuring and awe-inspiring when we study the psalms and see that Jesus is in every one of them. Praise the Lord.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Let all Israel repeat: "His faithful love endures forever." Let Aaron's descendants, the priests, repeat: "His faithful love endures forever." Let all who fear the LORD repeat: "His faithful love endures forever." Psalm 118:1-4 NLT
For he is good. This is reason enough for giving him thanks; goodness is his essence and nature, and therefore he is always to be praised whether we are receiving anything from him or not.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Psalm 118 opens with a call to praise, and you can almost hear the trumpets resound in a call to worship. Some translations even begin with an exclamation:
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (NKJV) Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (ESV)
Give thanks to the Lord. Why? Because His love endures forever. David calls upon God’s covenant hesed love for His people Israel. Hesed is translated as lovingkindness, steadfast love, mercy, faithful love, and seeks to encompass God’s commitment and faithfulness to His people throughout time. It’s a big word and one that Bible scholars have tried to explain and cannot do it justice. Some things about God are impossible to explain in human words. But in these verses, the people are reminded to give thanks to God, not for something particular at that time, but because He is who He says He is, and because He has always been faithful. Hesed.
So in those days when times are good, and we are filled with joy and hope for life we must give thanks to the Lord.
And in those days when hope teeters on fear and joy is filled with pain, we also must thank the Lord. Why? Because throughout time He has been faithful. He was faithful. He will be faithful.
These words sound like David, but I am reminded again that Jesus sung these words the night He was betrayed.
I called on the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:5-6 NKJV
Our Lord Jesus knew what was to come, and He also knew that the Father was on His side, and that was more important than what man could do to Him. These verses don’t mean that God will free us from pain and evil, maybe He will, maybe He won’t. What these words do mean is that the presence of God in our lives is more important than anything else. With God by our side, we have all we need.
David sings of God as his Savior. Here are these two verses from the New Living Translation of the Bible:
In my distress I prayed to the LORD, and the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Psalm 118:5-6 NLT
In our distress who do we call out to? David may be speaking of a time when God intervened and gave him victory over his enemies. God did that often for David. But these two verses mean more than that to me. In our distress we can cry out to the Lord, and He will be there for us. He will set us free. But free from what?
Fear. Loneliness. Worry.
David said that God answered him and set him free. If we have the Lord on our side, we are never alone. God is for us. Nothing in this world is bigger or stronger than our God. And nothing can separate us from the love of God.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NIV
But we must call out to God first. He is there. Waiting. But we must call to Him. And when we became a child of God, there is now nothing in heaven or on earth or below the earth that can remove His love and His presence from our lives.
I will not fear. He does not say that he should not suffer, but that he would not fear: the favour of God infinitely outweighed the hatred of men, therefore setting the one against the other he felt that he had no reason to be afraid.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Hebrew poetry uses repetition to make a point as it does in this psalm. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in people.” (NLT) And David tells of a time or a summary of times when he was surrounded and attacked, but God rescued him. God gave David the “authority of the Lord” or “with the name of the Lord” or “in the power of the Lord” an ability to persevere and triumph.
The LORD is my strength and my song; and He has become my salvation. Psalm 118:14 NKJV
The psalmist says that the Lord is his strength and song and salvation, not that He became the author’s strength or that He gave the author strength. The Lord is our strength. He is all we need. The Lord doesn’t just give strength and victory to His children, He is our strength and victory.
He is our strength when we feel weak. He is our song when we need joy and hope. He is our salvation and will rescue and deliver us. He will never leave us.
The Israelites sang these words just after the Red Sea closed behind them and covered their enemies, and they walked across dry land to freedom:
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will exalt him! The LORD is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!
Exodus 15:4-5 NLT
The psalmist continues to celebrate his deliverance from death and his victory in the Lord.
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. Psalm 118:17 NKJV
As our Lord Jesus sang this song on the night He was betrayed and would give His life for all, He knew the suffering to come. He knew the Father would turn away. But He also knew that the story did not end there. Jesus knew He would conquer death. “I shall not die, but live, and I will tell of the works of the Lord.”
Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD, through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. Psalm 118:19-21 NKJV
In the song Jesus sang, He proclaimed His entrance into the ultimate reality of heaven, of which Jerusalem was only a representation. After His completed work on the cross, after His deliverance from death in the resurrection, He would be received in glory at the ascension.Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
Through times of pain and suffering on this earth, we can hold onto this promise that someday the gates of righteousness will be opened to us, and we will walk through them and praise the Lord together forever. This is the promise. This is all we need.
The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD's doing, and it is wonderful to see. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:22-24 NLT
Then Jesus asked them, "Didn't you ever read this in the Scriptures? 'The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD's doing, and it is wonderful to see.' Matthew 21:42 NLT So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. Ephesians 2:19-20 NLT
This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Jesus is the cornerstone. He is our Rock and our Redeemer.
You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 118:27-29 NLT
Jesus Himself believed in and received this unending mercy and proclaimed it in song with His disciples in the upper room. The same mercy, that loyal love, covenant love, and lovingkindness that never ended for Him, is also given to His people.Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
Father in heaven, thank you for covenant love and mercy, for your lovingkindness and steadfast love throughout time. Thank you for your faithfulness then and even now. We are humbled at your provision and your great love for us even when we do not deserve it. Thank you for Jesus and His sacrifice so that we may know you and walk with you. We love you and we give you today. Amen.