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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Psa 118; A Song for the King’s Coronation

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Portraits of Christ in the Psalms

“A Song for the King’s Coronation” – Psalm 118

If stones could speak, they would have incredible stories to tell us about history’s greatest events.

  • Many years ago I stood before the walls of Jerusalem, at the Eastern Gate.
  • I looked at the huge stones in the wall and wondered about the events that took place there.
  • This Gate, sometimes called “the Golden Gate,” served as the entrance into the Temple Mount area.
  • It was through this gate that King David came dancing before the Ark in celebration of its arrival to Jerusalem.
  • Even though this gate has been sealed up for centuries, two arches are still visible.
  • One arch is called “Repentance” and the other is “Mercy.”
  • All who passed through this gate were reminded that man must repent of his sin if he desired to enjoy His Presence and His bountiful mercy.
  • Over the centuries, legends have surrounded this significant landmark.
  • Tradition says that it was through these gates that the Divine Presence of God departed from the Temple and by this same gate He will return.
  • Arab folklore believes, in the end of days, the Jewish Messiah and Elijah the prophet will enter through these arches to usher in a golden era of prosperity.
  • Even today, in front of the sealed Golden Arches of the Eastern Gate, graves have been purposely dug by Arabs to prevent Messiah from entering.
  • They claim He would not enter through the graveyard for fear of defiling Himself.
  • As early as the 4th century, Jewish pilgrims stood before these gates offering prayers.
  • One such prayer reads, “O Thou, the only Lord, toward this house, the light of the world; Toward Thou, O my God, I set myself awaiting Thy righteousness and hoping for salvation through Thee.”

Since the Scriptures were intended to speak to us rather than stones, let us go back in time to early spring in the year 29 AD.

  • It was a beautiful Sunday.
  • Multitudes gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover week celebration.
  • The city was a buzz with excitement.
  • News from Bethany spread amongst the people like wildfire.
  • Jesus of Nazareth had raised a man from the dead by the name of Lazarus.
  • It was rumored that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem for Passover.
  • Some in the crowd believed that if He could raise the dead, He could liberate Israel from Roman Imperialism.
  • They were prepared to make Him their king.
  • Others, like the Pharisees, were burning inside with bitter jealousy.
  • This mixed multitude ran out the city gates in anticipation of His arrival.
  • A festive processional from Bethany was approaching Mount Olivet.
  • The people converged around the figure of a man seated atop a donkey.
  • Hope and excitement filled the air.
  • Young and old, began to spontaneously shout the great “Hillel” or Psalm 118.
  • “Hosanah to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
  • This parade resembled a hastily unorganized coronation.
  • The Pharisees, however, protested the implications of the mob’s praise.
  • In disgust they said, “Look the world’s gone after this man!”
  • Hearing their complaints, Jesus responded, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 20:40)
  • Which stones was Jesus referring to?
  • It was the stones in the walls of Jerusalem.
  • They had witnessed so much of Israel’s history.
  • On this day they remained silent, while the people rejoiced.
  • These same people, caught up in crowd hysteria, would later that week cry out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
  • He came to His own and His own did not receive Him.

Psalm 118 provides a valuable link to understanding the events that took place on the day we call Palm Sunday.

  • Psalm 118 has had a special place for Christian martyrs and leaders.
  • Martin Luther said, “This is my own beloved psalm. When emperors and kings, the wise and the learned, and even the saints could not aid me, this psalm proved a friend and helped me out of many great troubles.”
  • Perhaps it will become a place of refuge and comfort to others going through painful rejection and difficulty.

Psalms 113 through Psalm 118 comprise what is called the “Great Hallel.”

  • This means “Great Songs of Praise.”
  • They each contain historical recollections of God’s deliverance.
  • There are allusions and quotes taken from Moses, David, Jeremiah, and Ezra.
  • These six songs were sung at various festive occasions, but especially at Passover.
  • Psalm 118 was intended to be sung in a processional, as worshippers journeyed towards Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices and praises to God.
  • It has personal application to David’s life as well as to Christ.

God’s people were first exhorted to give thanks to the Lord, as they journeyed to Jerusalem! (Psalm 118:1)

  1. Psalm 118:1 begins by ascribing to the Lord the attributes of goodness and mercy.
    • He is by nature eternally good and merciful.
    • His goodness and mercy will never cease because He is immutable.
    • Every divine thought and every decree is motivated by these attributes.
    • This should provide ample reason to keep God’s people continually thankful.
  2. In Psalm 118:2-4 we are told that God’s holy attributes are eternal.
    • He has chosen to bestow His goodness and mercy on sinners.
    • Israel should have been grateful. They sinned against the Lord greatly, yet He loved them with everlasting goodness and mercy.
    • Aaron’s priesthood had reason to be grateful.
    • They were permitted to come into His presence, but only on the basis of His goodness and Mercy.
    • And all those who fear the Lord should forever be grateful that He removed our guilt and imputed His righteousness to our account.
    • All earthly pleasures and treasures quickly dissipate.
    • But His goodness and mercy await the righteous as their eternal inheritance.
  3. David next recalled a time when he called upon the Lord and was delivered.
    • Even though David did not identify a specific crisis, there were many in his life.
    • The same could be said for Jesus, the Son of David.
  4. David tells us in verse five that the Lord answered his prayer.
    • David had been trapped in a tight, narrow predicament.
    • As the pressure bore down upon him, he prayed for a wide place to breathe.
    • And the Lord answered his prayer by setting him in a broad place.
  5. Why did the Lord answer his prayer? The reason is given in Psalm 118:6.
    • In adversity it doesn’t always feel like God is good or merciful. (Psalm 4:1)
    • But David had learned that in his overwhelming circumstances, God was with him.
    • In other words, the Lord is particularly predisposed to favor His Chosen People.
    • He is for them not against them.
    • He never works against them for evil, but only works for their good.
    • That is why David says he will not fear.
    • What is there to fear if God is for him? (Isaiah 51:9-12)
    • What harm can man really do to him if God is on his side?
    • The answer is: Only what God permits for His good and ours.
    • The author of Hebrews specifically applied this promise to those in financial need.
    • In Hebrews 13:5-6, it exhorts believers to let their conduct be without covetousness.
    • They must learn to be content with such things as they have, rather than being discontent for what they don’t have.
    • Then it quotes Psalm 118:6, “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
    • In lean financial times, fear can enslave even the righteous.
    • But in these tight places, we are called upon to trust the Lord because His goodness and mercy endures forever.
    • The Lord is on the side of the righteous to be their help in time of need.
  6. Psalm 118:8-14 explains why it is better to trust God than man.
    • Psalm 118:8-9 have special significance for those who count Bible verses.
    • There are 31,102 verses in the King James Bible.
    • Psalm 118 is the center of the Bible.
    • Psalm 118:8-9 are the middle verses in the Bible.
    • Of all things they could have said, they tell us it is preferable to trust the Lord.
  7. Psalm 118:8-13 gives us the first reason why it is better to trust the Lord.
    • He is always true to His holy name, for His goodness and mercy endure forever.
    • If a man places his confidence in man, he will inevitably be disappointed.
    • If a man thinks he can trust a president or a government, he is self-deceived.
    • If a man has his confidence in his own endeavors or in his market portfolios, he may end up with empty pockets.
    • David learned to be confident in the Lord, even when his adversaries swarmed around him like angry killer bees.
    • Eventually, they would be destroyed like bees that lose their sting and die.
    • The Lord would bring destruction upon them like a firestorm amongst dry thorns.
    • They may have caused him pain, but their demise was sure.
    • They may have attempted to make him fall into temptation, but the Lord helped him.
    • As Jesus came to the city, He would be surrounded by those who sought to inflict Him with the sting of death.
  8. Psalm 118:14 gives the second reason why we should trust in the Lord.
    • The Lord is the strength, the song and the salvation of His people in crisis.
    • He is the only reliable power source to prevail over difficult times.
    • He gives reason to sing because He is their salvation in this life and the next.
    • It is in distress that God’s children often learn best how to trust Him rather than self.
    • This may take only days, but usually months or even years.
    • Sometimes these trials continue until we’ve learned to give thanks for God’s goodness and mercy.

The next section is filled with the sound of the righteous, rejoicing in their salvation. (Psalm 118:15-16)

  1. Their salvation and righteousness came from the right hand of the Lord.
    • This description is more than a personification for God’s power.
    • It is a title or name representing one with privileged position and sovereign authority.
    • The right hand of God represents unrivaled privilege and unchallenged authority.
    • This was a title used in both the Old and the New Testaments. (Exodus 15:1, 5-6, 12-13)
    • Moses included it in the song he wrote after Israel was delivered from Egypt.
    • “I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider he has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; he is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces. You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; you have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation.”
    • The Psalm especially focus on the right hand of God.
    • The right hand of God is associated with the Holy One, Who sits at the right hand of God where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:10-11)
    • It is also said that it is by the right hand of God that He shields and holds up those tempted to fall. (Psalm 18:35)
    • It is by His right hand that earthly possessions are given to the righteous. (Psalm 44:3-4)
    • David equated the right hand of God with the Most High. (Psalm 77:10)
    • His right hand is described as holy. (Psalm 98:1; 110:4-5)
    • It is at the right hand of the Lord that one intercedes as a high priest for sinners.
    • Perhaps the clearest personal reference in the Psalms to Christ is Psalm 110:1.
    • It says, “The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
    • This verse is used in the New Testament to refer specifically to Christ Jesus.
    • In Acts 2:25, it says David foresaw the One at the Lord’s right hand, “For David says concerning Him (Jesus Christ): “I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.”
    • In Ephesians 1:20-21, Paul tells us that the Lord raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand.
    • So who does the right hand of the Lord refer to?
    • It is Jesus Christ, our Prophet, Priest and King.
    • He is the One Who valiantly fought for Israel.
    • He is the One Who is exalted in our salvation.
  2. In Psalm 118:17-18 David admits he was chastened by the Lord, yet He did not let death prevail over him.
    • This is also true of Jesus, the Son of David.
    • He was wounded and chastened by the hands of evil men, yet Isaiah tells us that it was the Lord who bruised Him for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:3)
    • The Apostle Paul was also chastened by men and circumstances, but he also saw this as part of the Lord’s providential hand. (2 Corinthians 6:9-10)
    • Here is the point—the Lord punishes the wicked, but chastens the righteous.
    • He chastens those He loves.
    • Why? Because He desires that all may hear that His goodness and mercy endure forever.
    • In John 11:25-26, Jesus promised life to those who trust in Him. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
  3. Psalm 118:19-21 expresses the gratitude and expectation of One preparing to enter through the Eastern Gate or the Gate of Righteousness. (John 12:23)
    • Jesus entered these gates to glorify His Father and accomplish His divine purpose.
    • He not only passed through the gates of righteousness, but was Himself the gate of righteousness.
    • Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 14:6; John 10:9)
    • It was for our sakes that He became a reproach so that many sons and daughters might be brought to glory. (Psalm 69:7-9 and Hebrews 2:10)

Psalm 118:22-24 directly apply to Jesus Christ in the New Testament

He was the stone rejected by the builders of Israel.

  1. Even as David was rejected by Israel as their king, so Christ was rejected.
    • The builders of God’s household cast them both aside like worthless stones.
    • Christ however became the Chief Cornerstone of the Church.
    • He is the One identified by Jacob as the Shepherd and Stone of Israel. (Genesis 49:24)
  2. The Lord called Him the “tried and precious Cornerstone.” (Isaiah 28:16)
    • Daniel referred to Him as the stone cut without hands. (Daniel 2:34)
    • In Matthew 21:42-45, Jesus identified Himself as the rejected stone.
    • “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder. Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.”
    • That the Lord would tolerate His Son to be cast aside like an unwanted stone is unfathomable.
    • Yet it underscores the marvelous ways and works of God. (Acts 2:23-24)
  3. The Apostles quoted these verses when questioned by Israel’s religious leaders.
    • In Acts 4:10-12 they replied, “Let it be known to you all, 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 stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
    • Israel stumbled over the Stone of Righteous because they sought a righteousness apart from faith, by glorying in their works of the Law. (Romans 9:31-33)
  4. Christ is the stone that fits us all together to make a holy temple for Him to dwell in. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
  5. 1 Peter 2:6-8 identified Christ as the “Stone” referred to in the Scriptures.
    • “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame. Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.”
    • Christ is a precious stone to those who believe He is the exalted One seated at the right hand of God in heaven.

Those who longed for salvation sang “Hosanna” to the One who would come in the name of the Lord. (Psalm 118:25-29)

  • “Hosanna” means “Come save us now!” (Matthew 21:8-9; 1 Corinthians 5:7)
  • They were saying this is the time, this Passover we need your saving grace.
  • The New Testament tells us that Christ is our Passover.
  • He is the glory of God in the highest. (Luke 2:14)

The Lord’s Chosen was the Light of the world and the sacrifice bound to the altar.

  • John’s Gospel says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
  • He was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. (John 1:9)
  • He was foreseen in Abraham’s sacrifice of His only son, Isaac.
  • Abraham bound his son and laid him on the altar.
  • The Angel of the Lord interrupted this incredible act of obedience by promising that He would provide Himself a lamb. (Genesis 22:9)
  • It was on this same site that Christ, the Lamb of God, was bound by His Father and placed upon the altar of the Cross.
  • How can this be explained? For God is good and His mercy endures forever.
  • If the stones in the wall of Jerusalem could speak, they would tell of the marvelous things God has done.
  • But we are His living stones, redeemed to proclaim His goodness and mercy.
  • What would be a fitting conclusion to the wonder of this Psalm?
  • Perhaps we could use David’s doxology in verses Psalm 118:27-28.
  • Would these words express the song in your heart?
  • “You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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