- Show on the History Channel where 10 contestants self-document their struggles and survival in the remote wilderness. They attempt to live and last as long as possible with limited amount of equipment. With the exception of periodic medical check-ins, contestants are isolated from all human contact. They may tap out at any time, or be removed due to failing a medical check-in. The contestant who remains the longest wins $500K.
While the intense survival skills are adventurous and entertaining to observe, what is most fascinating is the element of human emotion and psychology. Persons who are alone not only display interesting (and odd) personality, but they come to grips with raw reality that we are made for community.
- My own personality is such that I enjoy being with others more than solitude. My wife is the opposite and it’s one of the ways I try to provide her these opportunities 🙂
In Psalm 118, the psalmist recognizes his individual worship is incomplete without the invitation for many others to join him in public praise and thanksgiving to the LORD. The single worshiper is sufficient but is magnified in power when the community of believers gather to reflect and recite the matchless character and marvelous deeds of the LORD.
EXAMINE 4 Realities about the LORD’s help
Intro to Psalm 118
- Last of Hallel Psalms (113-118), which were sung at almost every Jewish festival. While this psalm primarily reflects upon the rescue of Israel at the exodus event for Passover, it also echoes in the Palm Sunday and Crucifixion Friday events in the Gospels.
- Possibly written by David (cf Ezra 3:10-11).
- One of the most quoted in NT; also quoted in each Gospel.
- Undoubtedly sung by Jesus after the Last Supper, a day before His death.
- Martin Luther’s favorite: “This is my Psalm, my chosen Psalm. I love them all; I love all holy Scripture, which is my consolation and my life. But this Psalm is nearest my heart, and I have a peculiar right to call it mine. It has saved me from many a pressing danger, from which nor emperor, nor kings, nor sages, nor saints, could have saved me. It is my friend; dearer to me than all the honours and power of the earth…”
The LORD’s help is timeless (118:1-4).
The psalmist believes the LORD is faithful and beckons the community of believers to give thanks to the LORD. Once again, we are reminded that our praise, whether personal or public, is directed to God. The basis of the believer’s praise is, “for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” The God who has no beginning or end has inexhaustible goodness an everlasting grace.
The God who has no beginning or end has inexhaustible goodness an everlasting grace.Tweet
- “steadfast love” [hesed] is a word to describe the deep and profound manner God relates toward His people, with loyal love, mercy, grace, compassion, and faithfulness.
The Psalmist invokes three groups of people; possibly indicating three parts in the song.
- Israel: The nation God chose, not for its size or significance but solely out of the sovereign grace of God (cf Deut 7:6-10).
- House of Aaron: The priests are reminded to be faithful in their devotion and duty.
- Side note: Pastors are imperfect. We get things wrong, we don’t have all the answers, we need support, help, patience, and grace just like anyone else. For these and many additional reasons reveals the need for plurality in leadership and to be highly suspicious of exclusive leadership or a an automatic “yes culture” toward the leader.
- Those who fear the Lord: Gentile believers are included in the plan of God, from OT to NT, and onward to every tribe and nation.
Implied is God displaying faithful love toward His people forever, therefore He is deserving of forever praise.
- “Eternity amnesia grips us all… Without forever in the center of our thinking, our picture of life is like a jigsaw puzzle missing a central piece. You will simply not have an accurate view of the picture without the piece of the puzzle entitled ‘forever’… We are forever people who have quit believing in forever… The forever-ism that is hardwired inside you collides with the now-ism that is everywhere around you, resulting in a lot of carnage… Life only works when you live with forever in view.”
- Understanding the eternal nature of God helps us to live in this world not with a destination mentality but a preparation mindset. This present world with all of its joys and sorrows is not our final address. When we treat it as if it is, we try to get from this world what is only promised and can experience in the next.
While God is timeless, He has placed us within a time-zone and set eternity in our heart (cf Eccl 3).
- If you knew you would be entering forever in a matter of weeks, what actions would you need to prepare? Why are you not living like this now?
The psalmist recounts reasons to praise the Lord.
- “Out of my distress, I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free” (118:5).
God hears our prayers and cares for our fears. When we call upon God, His help is immediately available and wisdom in His word is accessible. While nobody enjoys being in distress, we can be assured God’s comfort is most near the burdened and brokenhearted.
- “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (118:6)
This phrase is repeated in multiple Scriptures. While fear can be powerful and paralyzing, we must face our fears. Problems will not often mysteriously disappear but instead will accumulate. Until we face our fears, we will usually stay stuck in the cycle of stress, worry, and fear. In facing our fears, God does not always promise to remove our negative circumstances. God is more concerned with changing us than He is in changing our circumstances. Therefore, this verse is a reminder to view our problems with eyes of faith that God is on our side and working all things for His glory and our good.
- “The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man… than to trust in princes… [Ungodly] nations surround me… on every side… like bees [but] in the name of the LORD, I cut them off. I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me” (118:7-13).
The psalmist is not pridefully glorying in being above others but is humbly asking the Lord to bring about justice. The world is intolerant to the things of God and unreceptive to the Lord’s anointed. Believers can expect hostility when they follow and practice their faith.
These verses also capture what the Lord Jesus faced in unfair trials, unwarranted insults, and undeserving execution. Yet, Jesus would not be destroyed when surrounded by bees; He would not be defeated by the sting of death; nor would he be detained by the grave. The LORD helped with resurrection power and revitalizing hope.
- Side note: Between Psalm 118:8-9 is the middle of all the verses in the Bible; having an even number of verses, there is no exact middle.
- Is prayer to God your first priority or last resort? So many times we go to other persons or resources to solve our problems, but God is on our side awaiting us to seek Him. Like an infant who cries for a bottle or a toddler makes a dozen requests for food, so we should pursue our Heavenly Father to meet the desperate cries of our heart.
“You have not, because you ask not… or because you ask with an adulterous/covetous heart (James 4)
*Prayer alters your life: weekly altar (Hannah) / corporate – school prayer walk (shaken place in Acts)
The LORD’s help is a treasure (118:14-18).
The psalmist turns from petition to praise. His thoughts about God overflow with gratitude.
- “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous.” (118:14-15)
The psalmist affirms the LORD’s single-handed power to fight the battle and share the victory.
- “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly” (118:16)
*As a left-handed person, I imagine this saying God wins battles with his right-hand, and is even more victorious with his left 🙂 Reality is the right-hand was viewed dominant skill and strength.
Like a lover who is swift to speak of their beloved, or a champion is rushes to raise a trophy, the believer is inspired with salvation songs on the tip of their tongue and is ready to offer testimony about God’s working in their life.
The psalmist’s hope and faith is confident in the LORD’s power: “I shall not die, but I shall live.” (115:17) Since God is the giver of every breath, we can act courageously, live boldly, and risk wisely for the glory of God.
*Side note: Martin Luther had this verse on a plaque in his study to stimulate courage & conviction.
Additionally, the psalmist treasures the LORD enough to cherish His correction. He understands that a fool despises discipline, but whoever heeds reproof is wise (cf Prov 15:5). It is to our benefit that God prunes and purifies us from items that prevent God’s spiritual development in our life.
- What’s your heartbeat song – or psalm – or passage?
- Ask a friend for honest feedback for spiritual development in your life.
Prov 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend but profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
The LORD’s help is astonishing (118:19-29).
The psalmist identified the LORD’s sole work to merit entrance through the gates of the heavenly kingdom. He loves the Lord’s house and God’s kingdom so much that he is simply in awe of the gate. He reflects on the gate of righteousness that many believers have entered in the past and all future faithful will pass through its pillars. And if the psalmist can have great rejoicing just at the gate, how much more shall God’s people give praise in the paths and places of heaven in the presence of the Lord and Savior?
- Jesus is the open door and righteous gate for any to enter (cf Jn 10:7; Rev 3:20).
- Jesus is the stone the builders rejected but has become the cornerstone (Ps 118:22). While the religious leaders sought to build their power brick by brick and law by law, God sought to create a new cornerstone that many despised (cf Isa 28:16). The NT leaves no doubt the stone foreshadowed Jesus Christ. God’s marvelous and astonishing vindication of the rejected Christ was the resurrection (cf. Acts 4:10). Thus, a new day and era has commenced – better than God’s promise to Abraham; better than God’s leading of Moses; better than God’s strength with David; better than God’s message to the prophets – God’s very own Son has dwelt among us with the kingdom of God at hand, and the Spirit of God not confined to a building but unleashed upon every believer! “It is marvelous in our eyes” – yes, that we not only can think, pray, hope, and feel God, but that we can see His astonishing work and presence through His church. This is why gathering in worship and going in mission as salt and light is vital to Christianity – so that the world may know and see Jesus.
- You may be the only Bible some read and the only Christian to reflect Jesus.
The psalmist describes the salvation and blessing of God coming in the one who comes in His name – the one who bound with the festal sacrifice up to the horns of the altar. We know and affirm this in the Hosanna name of Jesus Christ (Psalm 118:25).
- Hebrews 9:24-26 “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own… But Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
The psalmist begins with an invitation for all and others to give thanks to the Lord. He closes with his personal declaration: “I will give thanks to my God; I will extol you” (118:28).
A cornerstone is the first stone set in masonry construction to establish the foundation and set every other stone by its reference. If the cornerstone is set properly, then the walls will be straight and the building strong.
- What is the cornerstone of your life?
- Is there anything on the inside or outside of your life that is compromising your cornerstone?
Take some time to establish your perspective and renew posture to the Lord.
 Quoted by Spurgeon as Martin Luther. From his Dedication of his Translation of Psalm 118 to the Abbot Frederick of Nuremberg.
 Paul Tripp, Forever.
 Cf. Deut 31:6; Ps 27:1; 56:11; 118:6; Isa 51:12; Lk 12:4-5; Rom 8:31; Heb 13:6
 Thought from Spurgeon, Treasury of David.
 Matthew 21:42; Romans 9:32-33; Ephesians 2:20-21; Hebrews 13:6-15; 1 Peter 2:4-8.
 Cf also Zechariah 9:9; Mathew 21:9; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13.