Midweek Message 20 March 2024

Thank you to John for this message.

This wonderful psalm is at the very centre of the Bible. (It happens to lie between the shortest chapter of the Bible and the longest.) It is a song of thanksgiving for a great victory, salvation,  deliverance. And it’s not merely a private thanksgiving, but one for a king and his people: many voices are heard.
This is a psalm that looks back and looks forward.

A Psalm that Looks Back
Ps.118 is the last of 6 psalms called “The Egyptian Hallel” (Pss.113-118), used by the Israelites at their Passover celebration. (Psalms 113-114 were sung before the meal, 115-118 after it.) It commemorates God’s great deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt – “the Exodus”. V14 is an exact quote from Exodus 15:2, the victory song at the Red Sea.  And references to “the Lord’s right hand” (vv15-16) echo the words in Exodus 15:6.
Mentions of the capstone (chief cornerstone) in v22 are similar to the words of Isaiah 28:16. “The builders” are the people of power in the nation.
Verses 24-27 portray a festival; presumably one of the 3 great Jewish annual festivals – Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Two companies of people are involved: one group is already in the Temple court, and greets the other group which arrives with the king, the one “who comes in the name of the Lord”.
So this psalm is grounded in the history of Israel. But it is also

A Psalm that Looks Forward
The gospels tell us that, after Jesus had celebrated Passover with his disciples at the Last Supper, “when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14:26). So it seems likely that Psalm 118 was the last psalm that our Lord sang before his passion. And the events and words of Palm Sunday and Passion Week are a striking fulfilment of this psalm.
The Exodus events, echoed in the psalm, also foreshadow God’s acts of redemption through history. And in particular they point to the wonderful work of the Lord Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection, which is described in Luke’s gospel as his “exodus” (departure) (Luke 9:31).
The words of vv22-23 were quoted by Jesus himself (Mark 12:10-11). The apostle Peter, speaking to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem a few weeks after Jesus’ departure, affirmed that the crucified and risen Christ was indeed that “capstone” (Acts 4:10-11).
This coming Sunday, Palm Sunday, we shall hear the shouts of the crowd as Jesus entered Jerusalem “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, quoting vv25-26.
Commenting on this psalm, Derek Kidner writes “In that week when God’s realities broke through his symbols and shadows, the “horns of the altar” (v27) became the arms of the cross, and the “festival” itself found fulfilment in “Christ our passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7)”. 

A Psalm for Us
Psalm 118 begins and ends with exhortation to give thanks to the Lord. In the light of the momentous fulfilment of this psalm, we have even greater reason for thanksgiving. So we pray:
“Almighty God, may our hearts be genuinely thankful, and may we show our thanks not only with our lips but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”