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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 118

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-4


Psalm 118 is the last psalm of the hallel-psalms (Psalms 113-118). This makes this psalm the last song that, as far as we know, the Savior sang on the night He was being betrayed into the hands of men (Matthew 26:30). He knew that a few hours later the fulfillment would come.

In Psalms 118:27 we recognize one of the feasts of the LORD from Leviticus 23. The Talmud says that this is the Feast of Booths celebrated when the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:14-Job :). The connection with the other psalms also indicates that this is the Feast of Booths, which points prophetically to the blessings of the realm of peace (Zechariah 14:16-Psalms :).

The LORD Is Good

The psalmist in this psalm represents the faithful remnant. In him we hear the remnant speaking. The psalm begins with the exclamation and call that we hear so often: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting (Psalms 118:1; Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1; Psalms 136:1-Ezekiel :). The first time we encounter this expression is in the song of praise recorded of David in 1 Chronicles 16 (1 Chronicles 16:34).

It is the confession that all the people’s victories and their prosperity are due not to their own strength or ability, but to the goodness of the LORD, to His faithfulness to His covenant.

Again and again, we are reminded by this
1. Who the LORD is: “He is good”,
2. What He does: He proves “His lovingkindness”, which is His covenant love,
3. and that this is endlessly so: “everlasting”, for He is the Eternal and never changes.
Again and again when the believer notices this or is reminded of it, he cannot help but give thanks to Him for it. In Psalm 136 we hear this at length in an impressive way. Every action, every evidence of it, elicits this exclamation and call from the believing heart.

After the psalmist’s exclamation, he urges three groups to say the same thing: “His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psalms 118:2-Numbers :). In Psalm 115, these same three groups are called to trust in the LORD (Psalms 115:9-1 Kings :) and are told that the LORD will bless them (Psalms 115:12-2 Chronicles :).

“Israel” (Psalms 118:2) is the whole people, “the house of Aaron” (Psalms 118:3) is the priestly family, and “those who fear the LORD” (Psalms 118:4), are all the individual God-fearers of the people. God’s lovingkindness binds the people together, makes them a priestly people, while each individual believer bears witness to God’s lovingkindness. We can even say that because in Psalm 117 the nations are called to praise the LORD, the call to those who fear the LORD applies not only to the people of Israel, but all individuals who fear the LORD, including among the nations.

Then in the following verses (Psalms 118:5-2 Chronicles :) we see the practice and life of an individual Israelite who fears the LORD. The language of this section is the language of the book of Exodus, the redemption from Egypt. The content is prophetic, namely the redemption of the remnant of Israel in the end times, here the redemption from the hand of the nations (Psalms 118:10).

Verses 5-9

The LORD Is For Me

The psalmist tells why he calls for praise to the LORD for His lovingkindness. He has from his “distress … called upon the LORD” and “the LORD” has “answered” him and set him “in a large place” (Psalms 118:5; cf. Psalms 4:2; Psalms 18:20). He testified that by virtue of the covenant, by virtue of the LORD’s lovingkindness, He heard the psalmist’s cry for help and delivered him. “Set in a large place” means “redeemed”; it is so rendered in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

The psalmist here represents the people, that is, the faithful remnant, who have been in distress and in their distress have cried out to the LORD. The LORD has answered the cry. Out of a narrow place the remnant cried out and the LORD answered with a large place. He has carried out of the distress and set in the space of freedom.

The LORD has not put the remnant, which is His people, in a large space only to leave them to themselves. He is for His people (Psalms 118:6; Hebrews 13:6). The people are aware of this and express it. This gives utter peace to the first so anxious heart. Now there is no more fear. The remnant even says with great boldness: “What can man do to me?” (cf. Psalms 56:11; Romans 8:31).

Trusting the LORD drives out fear, as in trusting the LORD and His word (Psalms 56:10-1 Kings :; cf. 1 John 4:18). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). The wise King Solomon once said: “Fear of man [someone] lays a trap, but those who rely on the LORD are put in a safe fortress” (Proverbs 29:25).

Once again the psalmist says the LORD is for him (Psalms 118:7). There are others for him, for the LORD is “among those who help me”. He is in a similar position with others and has support from the others. However, they could never help him if the LORD were not for them. The LORD is the only, true support. Because He is in the midst of them, victory over his haters is certain. He can look on them with satisfaction because they are all defeated around him (cf. Exodus 14:30-Obadiah :).

The remnant, through the great distress because of the LORD’s disciplining of them by the king of the north, learned to put their trust in the LORD. For this they have always resorted to the help of men, sometimes to Egypt (Isaiah 31:1), sometimes to Assyria (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11). They have experienced the futility of that and in return have experienced the help of the LORD.

Therefore, they twice confess that it is “better to take refuge in the LORD, than to trust in man”, even if they were “princes” (Psalms 118:8-1 Samuel :; cf. Psalms 146:3). Ordinary man (Psalms 118:8) and princes (Psalms 118:9) are similar to “the small” and “the great” in Psalm 115 (Psalms 115:13). The help of men, whether they hold a low or a high position, avails nothing. Only the LORD is able to deliver from need. This is a lesson we must learn again and again.

Verses 10-14

The Enemies Cut off

In the time of distress, the remnant is surrounded by “all nations” (Psalms 118:10; Psalms 83:4-1 Samuel :; Zechariah 12:2-Leviticus :; Zechariah 14:2). In Psalms 118:5-1 Samuel :, the remnant has said that the LORD is for them and is their refuge. Therefore, they can say that they have “cut them off” “in the name of the LORD” (cf. 1 Samuel 17:45; Micah 5:4-Deuteronomy :). They say this three times in Psalms 118:10-2 Kings :.

In Psalms 118:11, they once again pronounce that the nations had surrounded them. They even say it twice, preceding the second time by an empowering “yes”. Being surrounded by their enemies felt to them like a suffocating stranglehold. But they freed themselves from it by invoking “the name of the LORD”, the God Who is for them by virtue of the covenant with them.

The nations had “surrounded” them “like bees” (Psalms 118:12; cf. Deuteronomy 1:44; Isaiah 7:18). A cloud of bees coming at people caused them to flee in panic. In the case of the remnant, the danger of the bees is “extinguished as a fire of thorns”. The remnant has taken refuge “in the name of the LORD”. The fire of His judgment has burned the nations like a fire of thorns, that is, very quickly, as quickly as thorns burn (cf. Isaiah 33:12). As a result, the danger of the nations disappeared.

We are also surrounded by nations, by people who do not know God and do not want to know God. They want to impose their will on us and that we submit to them. We see this in anti-godly legislation. Only the Name of the Lord Jesus, fellowship with Him, can free us from the stranglehold by which we are otherwise stifled in our witnessing for Him. To avoid being strangled, we must put on the armor that God has made available to us (Ephesians 6:10-Job :). In doing so, we must remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood

The psalmist says: “You pushed me violently so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me” (Psalms 118:13). This is about the Assyrian, the discipling rod of God, who do everything possible to wipe out the faithful remnant. He failed, because the remnant fought in the name of the LORD.

They give credit to the LORD for the victory when they say, “The LORD is my strength and my song” (Psalms 118:14). This is what Moses sang after the people were delivered from the pursuing Egyptians who perished in the Red Sea (Exodus 15:2). Here the final deliverance of the people in the end times from the great tribulation is connected to the first deliverance of the people, the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. We also see this connection between the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (Revelation 15:3).

Verses 15-18

The Mighty Works of the LORD

The greater the danger, the greater the deliverance from it. The greater the deliverance, the greater the joy. The joy of the psalmist is no longer personal joy, but is shared by others. The song of joy because of deliverance fills “the tents of the righteous” (Psalms 118:15). In the tents is “the sound of joyful shouting and salvation”.

The content of the song is “the right hand of the LORD” (Psalms 118:15-Nehemiah :; cf. Exodus 15:6; Exodus 15:12). Its threefold repetition indicates the exuberance of joy. Twice it is sung with joy that that hand “does valiantly” and once that that hand “is exalted”. By “the right hand of the LORD” we can think of the Lord Jesus, Who is exalted at God’s right hand (Psalms 110:1). Through Him, God does powerful deeds.

Attached to the joy of the LORD’s powerful deeds, for the psalmist or the remnant, is the assurance that they will “not die, but live” (Psalms 118:17; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:9). At the same time, they also mention what the purpose of their lives is: it is to “tell the works of the LORD”.

Also, they are aware that they have no right to life. They have been “disciplined … severely” by the LORD because of their sins (Psalms 118:18). In doing so, they acknowledge His justice. Discipline, however, is not intended to cause them to perish, but to cleanse them (Hebrews 12:5-1 Kings :). Discipline is not an end goal, but a means. They have understood this. That is why they add with gratitude: “But He has not given me over to death.” Everything speaks of the LORD’s lovingkindness.

Verses 19-21

The Triumphal Entry

And this lovingkindness does not end with their joy about the deliverance. When the remnant is restored to their relationship with God on the basis of the work of His Son, they will boldly ask that “the gates of righteousness” be opened to them (Psalms 118:19). These are the gates that give access to righteousness. They are the gates of Jerusalem, which is now “the city of righteousness”, “a faithful city” (Isaiah 1:26).

The psalmist enters, followed by the righteous (Psalms 118:20) who have first given thanks to the LORD in their tents (Psalms 118:15). Only the righteous may enter (Psalms 24:3-Joshua :). There they will “give thanks to the LORD” for all the benefits He has proven to them.

The gates of righteousness lead to “the gate of the LORD” that is the gate of the temple. That is where the LORD dwells. The gates and the gate are a picture of Christ. The righteous must enter through Him, just as Christ is the door for the sheep in the New Testament (John 10:7-1 Samuel :).

Each of the twelve gates of the city (Ezekiel 48:30-Habakkuk :) leads to Him Who is the center of the city. The name of the city in the realm of peace is therefore “The LORD is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). The remnant – “all your people [will be] righteous” (Isaiah 60:21) – will enter through that gate.

In the city, in the temple, the remnant will give thanks to Him because He has heard them, for He has become their salvation (Psalms 118:21). He has redeemed them from affliction and brought them into the salvation of the realm of peace. For this He deserves all praise and thanks.

Verses 22-26

The Day That the LORD Has Made

The Lord Jesus, the Messiah, is “the stone which the builders rejected” (Psalms 118:22). This is clear from what He Himself says about it to the corrupt “builders”, the religious leaders of God’s people during His life on earth (Matthew 21:33-1 Corinthians :). He was made a cornerstone by God by raising Him from the dead and glorifying Him at His right hand (Acts 4:11). There God made Him the cornerstone of the church (Ephesians 2:20).

But here He is the cornerstone on which restored Israel will be built (Isaiah 28:16). A cornerstone is either a large stone on the foundation that holds two or more rows of stones together, or the last stone of an arch or of a building (Mark 12:10).

Earlier, Israel stumbled over that stone. Christ is the touchstone for every human being. It is accept or fall. Unbelieving Israel stumbled and fell over Him. What is most precious to the believer is most hateful to the unbeliever. Peter points out in his first letter that God’s Word foretold that the unbelieving Jews would stumble over Him (1 Peter 2:7-Ruth :; Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:31-Micah :).

When Christ returns, He will scatter all who have fallen over Him and despised Him (Matthew 21:42-Acts :; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17-Job :; Daniel 2:34-Habakkuk :; Daniel 2:44-Romans :). Then He will set up His kingdom. When the remnant sees it, they will say with admiration: “This is the LORD’s doing”, and then express their amazement at it: “It is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalms 118:23).

They will immediately add that this is the day that “the LORD has made” (Psalms 118:24). It is a new day, the day of the realm of peace, which comes from God’s hand and where everything is in perfect accord with God’s thoughts. His intentions for heaven and earth will have been fulfilled. For His people and all who share in that glorious time of blessing, this is cause for joy and gladness. This will be the case throughout the time of the realm of peace.

Along with this assurance is a prayer to the LORD: “O LORD, do save” and “do send prosperity” (Psalms 118:25). “do save” is the translation of the word “hosanna” (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9-2 Samuel :; Luke 19:38; John 12:13). This prayer shows that the remnant is aware that the continuance and enjoyment of that glorious situation depends entirely and only on the LORD. He has given the blessing, but must also maintain it. This attitude of dependence is characteristic of all who know their blessings and enjoy them in fellowship with God.

When it can be said “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; we have blessed you from the house of the LORD”, the time of the rejection of God’s people and the Christ of God is over (Psalms 118:26). Based on this verse, the Jews give the Messiah the title baruch ha-ba or ‘blessed He Who comes’. We hear this in the question to the Lord Jesus in Matthew 11: “Are You the Expected One?” (Matthew 11:3).

The crowds shouted this when the Lord Jesus went to Jerusalem for the last time during His life on earth before His death and resurrection (Luke 19:38). It was the day of their “visitation”, of His visiting them (Luke 19:44). However, it did not become a day of salvation for them because they did not recognize the Savior.

It will be different at the second coming of the Lord Jesus to earth. The people will have repented and welcome the Messiah, for it is He and no one else Who comes in the Name of the LORD (Matthew 23:39). They are in the house of the LORD to sacrifice to the LORD and wish Him all good. He is worthy, for He has turned everything for the better for them.

Verses 27-29

Voluntary Sacrifices

The remnant confesses wholeheartedly and with their whole heart, “The LORD is God” (Psalms 118:27; cf. 1 Kings 17:39). There is no longer any thought of idols that they used to worship. He has, in accordance with the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:25), “given” them “light”. This is the light of the day He has made, the day in which they rejoice and are glad (Psalms 118:24; cf. Esther 8:16).

The salvation by the LORD and introduction into the realm of peace is cause for great celebration. It is a feast for and with the LORD. That includes sacrifices. They call one another to offer sacrifices, “the festival sacrifice”, to Him (cf. Exodus 10:9; Exodus 12:14). Those sacrifices are to be brought “with cords to the horns of the altar”. The cords indicate the close connection between the sacrifice and the altar. The altar is the place where the slaughtered sacrificial animal was burned as an offering by fire to God. The horns of the altar speak of the power of the sacrifice.

The sacrifices are a picture of Christ. Only through His sacrifice is there blessing for God’s people. In the realm of peace, sacrifices will be offered again. They are then memorial sacrifices in remembrance of Christ’s once accomplished work whose value and power remain forever.

The LORD Who is God (Psalms 118:27) is also the God of each individual, “my God” (Psalms 118:28). Twice this personal relationship with God is mentioned. Experiencing it causes to “give thanks” to Him and to “extol” Him. The remnant as a whole and each individual give thanks to Him and extol Him for Who He is and what He has done.

The psalm concludes with the same call and expression of appreciation to the LORD with which it began (Psalms 118:29; Psalms 118:1). Everything said in between gives an abundance of reasons to give thanks to the LORD. It is a succession of testimonies that He is good and that His lovingkindness is everlasting. That thanksgiving will sound forever.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 118". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-118.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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