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Psalm 118: Let Those Who Fear the Lord Say Print E-mail
Sunday, 28 December 2014

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Psalm 118 is a celebration of Godís Ďsteadfast loveí (hesed).  The psalmist is calling for Godís people to rejoice in Godís great love for them.  Look at what he says in the introduction in verses 1-4.  The psalmist calls on Israel to speak of Godís steadfast love.  He calls on the priests, the house of Aaron, to do the same.  And he calls on us, those who fear the Lord, to join in the chorus as well.  We are all to rejoice in Godís great love.  Yet, if we are honest, we might be tempted to think: ĎWhy should I join in?  What evidence of Godís love have I experienced in my life?í  The psalmist will go on to give testimony of how Godís steadfast love has been evidenced in his own life and in the life of Israel.  I want us to consider the evidence he provides and then come back and see how he encourages us to respond.

What is the evidence of Godís steadfast love?

The overall answer to this question is Godís deliverance of His people in a time of crisis.  It is hard to know the exact background to this psalm (it could be a reference to the exodus or the return from exile or another incident of deliverance), but we know that the psalmist is recounting Godís salvation of himself and of the people.  He describes this in several different ways, which all point to Godís steadfast love.  What does he say?

First, he declares that God is on his side.  Look at verses 5-9.  The psalmist knows that God loves him because he knows that God is on his side.  The Lord will not give him over to his enemies.  Men may come against him.  Rulers and leaders and kings may come against him.  But none of that matters because God is on his side. 

Second, God gives him victory over his enemies.  Look at verses 10-13.  Again, the main idea of this psalm is Godís deliverance of his people.  The psalmist describes here the trial that he faced.  He was surrounded by his enemies.  To emphasize this, he states it three times: All nations surrounded meÖthey surrounded me on every sideÖthey surrounded me like bees.  Yet, even so, he cut them off in the name of the Lord.  He uses the imagery of burning thorns which burn big at first, but do not last.  Our enemies may taunt us.  They may appear big and strong.  But their fire will not last.  God loves us by giving us victory over all our enemies.

Third, the psalmist calls God my strength and my song and my salvation.  Look at verses 14-16.  The words here echo Mosesí song of deliverance after God destroyed Pharaohís army in the Red Sea.  Moses sang: The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my fatherís God, and I will exalt him (Exodus 15:2).  God evidences His love for His people by being their strength and their song and their salvation. 

Fourth, Godís love is on display through His discipline.  Look at verses 17-18.  Such a statement is out of place in our culture.  Discipline is normally viewed as unloving.  But not the biblical writers.  They know that a loving Father will discipline his children for their good.  And that is what God has done.  Even though His discipline has been severe (perhaps a reference to the Exile), God has not given them over to death. 

Finally, the psalmist speaks of God saving the rejected as evidence of His love.  Look at verses 19-25.  The psalmist is simply praising God for the salvation that He has provided.  He is going up to the temple to praise God.  In the middle of this, he uses the particular analogy of the cornerstone.  In those days of building with stones, the builders would often reject certain stones because they were not suitable for a particular purpose.  Yet, later they might repurpose that stone.  In this instance, the psalmist speaks of a rejected stone being repurposed as the cornerstone, which would have been a place of importance.  The New Testament writers apply this imagery to Jesus.  He was rejected and despised by men, but He became the Cornerstone for our salvation.  Just as God saved Israel after her rejection, so God has saved us through the rejection of Christ, our Cornerstone. 

All of this evidences the steadfast love of God.  His love is not just some abstract idea or sappy sentiment.  The love of God is put on display in His deliverance of His people from all of their enemies.  He saved Israel from Egypt and the Canaanites and all their other enemies.  Through Christ and His death on the cross, He has saved us from sin, Satan, and death.  He has delivered us through His rejection.  The greatest evidence of the steadfast love of God is the crucifixion of Jesus in our place.  The stone the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone.

How should we respond to Godís steadfast love?

If God has loved us with such love, if He has truly delivered us from all of our enemies, then how should we respond to His love?  The psalmist helps us by telling us how he responded.  So what does he say?  How did he respond to Godís love?

First, he did not fear men.  Look again at verses 5-7.  Because God is on our side, because He has crushed all our enemies at the cross, we should never fear men.  What can man do to us?  If God is for us, then who can be against us (Romans 8:31ff)?  So do not fear.  May the perfect, steadfast love of the Lord cast out all fear (1 John 4:18-19). 

Second, the psalmist put His trust in the Lord and not in man.  Look again at verses 8-9.  The kings and kingdoms of men may seem secure.  They may seem like a safe place to put our trust.  But they are not.  They are a brush fire, which burns up bright but does not last.  Do not put your trust in them.  Do not put your security in men or the things of men.  Rather, put your trust in the Lord.

Third, in response to Godís steadfast love, the psalmist sang glad songs.  Look at verses 14-16.  There is a great image here of Israelís armies singing Godís praises in their tents after His victory in battle.  The battle was over.  God had won.  And the camp was full of glad songs of praise.  Oh Church, what a great picture for us!  Christ has come in the flesh, lived a perfect life, and defeated all our enemies at the cross.  Yes, the battle continues, but the victory is decided.  God has promised victory over sin, Satan, and death to all who turn from their sins and put their faith in Jesus.  So then, let the camp be full of glad songs of praise.  The Lord and His steadfast love is something to sing about.  So raise your voices and sing!

Fourth, the psalmist recounted the great deeds of the Lord.  Look at verse 17.  He will not keep silent about Godís deliverance.  How can we be quiet about what God has done for us in Christ?  How could we not tell of that great deed?  Bearing witness to Godís salvation did not begin in the book of Acts.  Godís people had long been telling others of what He has done.  And it did not end in the book of Acts either.  Even now, we get the great privilege of recounting the great deeds of the Lord. 

Finally, the psalmist goes to the house of the Lord to offer praise and thanks.  Listen to verses 19-25 and notice the references to thanksgiving and praise.  The psalmist is gathering with others who fear the Lord to give thanks to God for the salvation that He has provided.  Look at verses 26-27.  If you remember, it is verse 26 that the people quote when Jesus came to Jerusalem on the back of donkey (Matthew 21:9).  Just as the people used Psalm 118 to bless the kings of Israel, so the crowds use it to bless the King.  Verse 27 describes their preparation of the sacrifice.  Jesus would be the fulfillment of this verse as well.  They offered bulls and goats, but He offered Himself once for all.  They covered their sins with the blood of spotless lambs, we cover ours with the blood of the perfect Lamb of God.  They gathered in the temple to worship the God of steadfast love.  They came together to sing and praise and offer sacrifices to His Name.  Each week as we gather as the Body of Christ, we come to do the same.  Our corporate worship is a response to His steadfast love for us.

The psalmist concludes by bringing us back to the beginning.  Look at verses 28-29.  We should give thanks to God because His steadfast love endures forever.  He has evidenced this love for us by delivering us from all our enemies through Christ.  His love is anything but cheap.  Our salvation cost Him His own Son, whom He sent to take on flesh and die on a cross for us.  He paid the awful debt that our sin incurred.  The righteous wrath of God that should have fallen on us was laid upon Him.  This is not shallow, sappy love.  This is the deep love of God.  Even after a million years in glory we shall still be plumbing its depth. 

And until we reach those golden shores, may we respond to His steadfast love like the psalmist.  May we not fear men but trust in the Lord.  May we sing glad songs of praise.  May we tell the world of all that He has done in Christ.  May we not just tell them that God loves them, but may we tell them the whole story so that they can begin to see the depths of His great love.  And may we enter His house with thanksgiving and praise.  May we come together week after week, year after year, rejoicing in the salvation that God has won for us in Christ.  May we say to each other constantly: Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.  Amen. 

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 05 January 2015 )

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