“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:1, ESV)
Psalm 118 is a messianic psalm—a psalm pointing to the coming Messiah, the Anointed One, the coming King, the Christ—Jesus. While we don’t know the original occasion of the psalm, we do know that it had significance to the people of Israel as they looked forward to their coming Messiah. It was adopted as a song which was sung at the Feast of Tabernacles and at Passover. A portion of it is even recorded as having been recited by the people when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. “And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”” (Matthew 21:9, ESV, see also Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38) And according to Matthew 23:39 it may even be recited when Jesus returns. “For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” (Matthew 23:39, ESV)
But besides this one verse, verse 26, that we see quoted repeatedly in the New Testament, what is it that impacted the people of Israel to adopt this psalm for such important occasions? To put it very simply, it is a psalm about the Lord and His steadfast love for His people. Three times in verses 2-4 we see repeated, “His steadfast love endures forever.” In verse 2 the people of Israel are directed to declare it. In verse 3 the house of Aaron (the priests) are directed to declare it, and then in verse 4 those who fear the Lord are directed to declare it. While I may not fit into the first two groups, I know as an adopted child of God by the blood of Christ that I do fit in the third—declaring that His steadfast love endures forever. Amen!
As we read through the psalm we read that the Lord was the One who set them free, Who was their Protector, and their Helper (verses 5-7). They knew that it was better to take refuge in Him than anyone else (verse 8-9). They remembered the times of being surrounded, and they remembered that it was the Lord who enabled them instead to cut off their enemies. He was their Helper, their strength, their song, and their salvation (verses 10-15). “Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”” (Psalm 118:15–16, ESV) When they thought they were dead they instead rejoiced in their life, for God did not give them over to their enemies (verses 17-18).
Psalm 118 continues, “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:19–24, ESV)
Verse 22 in the middle of this passage is quoted numerous times in the New Testament—“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus quotes this verse in speaking to the chief priests and the scribes and the elders when they came to challenge Him, pointing to them as the ones who were guilty of rejecting that stone (Matthew 11:27-28; 12:10-12; see also mark 12:10-11 and Luke 20:17). The writer of Acts records that Peter, when Peter and John were brought before the council of rulers and scribes and elders, spoke boldly to them and in speaking he told them:
“…let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10–12, ESV)
Scripture goes on to record that those who were judging them were left with nothing to say in response (Acts 4:14), so they decided to let them go but instructed them not to speak of this anymore. “But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”” (Acts 4:19–20, ESV)
And then in 1 Peter 2:4-10 we find Peter quoting these words again, this time contrasting those who hope in Christ and who desire to grow in Him with those who reject Him and are judged.
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:1–10, ESV)
As the people of Israel sang this psalm of praise, we are reminded to lift our praise to our God and our Savior, bowing before our Lord and trusting Him for every aspect of our lives. They could sing this song because they not only knew about Him, but they knew His faithfulness. We can sing this song because we know the same.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, ESV)
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:29, ESV)
Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/7)
In order to hear My voice, you must release all your worries into My care. Entrust to Me everything that concerns you. This clears the way for you to seek My Face unhindered. Let Me free you from fear that is hiding deep inside you. Sit quietly in My Presence, allowing My Light to soak into you and drive out any darkness lodged within you.
Accept each day just as it comes to you, remembering that I am sovereign over your life. Rejoice in this day that I have made, trusting that I am abundantly present in it. Instead of regretting or resenting the way things are, thank Me in all circumstances. Trust Me and don’t be fearful; thank Me and rest in My sovereignty.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7, ESV)
“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV)