Psalm 118

These notes are based on the NASB text.

What is the background of Psalm 118?
The writer of the Psalm is not named. Most scholars consider this to be a post-exilic psalm. Psalm 118 was the favorite psalm of Martin Luther. He wrote, “This psalm has been of special service to me. It has helped me out of many great troubles, when neither emperor nor kings nor wise men nor saints could help.”

Interesting information about Psalm 118
• Psalm 118 is the middle chapter of the entire Bible.
• Psalm 117, before Psalm 118 is the shortest chapter in the Bible.
• Psalm 119, after Psalm 118 is the longest chapter in the Bible.
• The Bible has 594 chapters before Psalm 118 and 594 chapters after Psalm 118.
• If you add up all the chapters except Psalm 118, you get a total of 1188 chapters.
• 1188 or Psalm 118 verse 8 is the middle verse of the entire Bible. Should the central verse not have an important message? “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”

118:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
118:2 Oh let Israel say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
118:3 Oh let the house of Aaron say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
118:4 Oh let those who fear the Lord say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

The theme of these verses is the everlasting nature of God’s lovingkindness or mercy. Four times the psalmist repeated the phrase, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” In a day of built-in obsolescence and disposable items, it is good to know that God’s mercy endures forever. We see three kinds of praise in these verses. First, we see public praise: “Oh let Israel say” (verse 2). Second, we see priestly praise: “Oh let the house of Aaron say” (verse 3). Third, we see personal praise: “On let those who fear the Lord say” (verse 4). The best praise is that which freely flows from the heart of an individual, not that which derives from national position or religious duty. These verses were probably sung antiphonally with “His lovingkindness is everlasting” as the response from the various worship participants.

Practical Consideration: We should recognize and acknowledge the mercy of God.
The psalmist called upon the nation, the priests, and the people to recognize and acknowledge the mercy of God. Nations have a tendency to attribute their blessings to their political doings or to their military strength. Ministers can fall into the trap of attributing the blessings of God upon their learning or eloquence. People often attribute the blessings of God to circumstances or the help of human agencies. The psalmist however, reminds us to recognize that God is the source of mercy and goodness. We have an obligation to express the gratitude in our hearts in joyful praise to God.

118:5 From my distress I called upon the Lord;
The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.
118:6 The Lord is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?
118:7 The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I shall look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in man.
118:9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in princes.

In these verses the worship leader (probably the king) proclaimed praise for a past deliverance. The nature of the trouble from which he was delivered is not specified (although it is safe to assume that it was known to the king and the worshipers). The word “distress” in verse 5 stands in contrast to “a large place” at the end of the verse. When the psalmist found himself in a tight spot he called upon the Lord who answered and set him “in a large place.” This deliverance led the psalmist to some irrefutable conclusions. First, men need not fear if the Lord is for them. Second, it is better to trust in the Lord than in man or government. People and governments fail. God never fails.

Note: Spurgeon comments, “The mightiest man is a puny thing when he stands in opposition to God, yea, he shrinks into utter nothingness.”

Note: Verse 8 is the middle verse of the Bible. It is the 15,587th out of 31,174 verses.

Practical Consideration: Prayer is the road leading away from distress.
When the psalmist was in distress he called upon the Lord. People who do not pray will stay in the grip of distress. We cannot depend on our own resources when in distress. They are too easily and quickly expended. We cannot depend on others. Often they are unwilling or unable to help. We can however, turn to the Lord who always stands ready to help and has resources and strength that cannot be exhausted.

Practical Consideration: The Lord is the source of courage.
The psalmist’s courage did not spring from self-reliance or from military alliances, but rather from his trust in the Lord. The psalmist was fearless not because of any great strength in himself, but because he trusted the Lord. His courage enabled him to be confident in the face of opposition.

118:10 All nations surrounded me;
In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
118:11 They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me;
In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
118:12 They surrounded me like bees;
They were extinguished as a fire of thorns;
In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
118:13 You pushed me violently so that I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
118:14 The Lord is my strength and song,
And he has become my salvation.
118:15 The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
118:16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
118:17 I shall not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the Lord.
118:18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
But he has not given me over to death.

When the psalmist completely found himself surrounded by his foes, he trusted in the Lord (see also Psalm 3:6). He did not despair. Instead he trusted in the Lord and looked to Him for strength and deliverance. He faced his foes “in the name of the Lord.” The Lord is the source of salvation and victory. The reference to “the right hand of the Lord” is to the king himself (see also Psalm 80:17). Verse 18 indicates that the king’s troubles were a result of his own actions.

Note: One historian notes that Luther had verse 17 written on the wall of his study. Luther said of this verse, “It has come to my aid again and again, and supported me in heavy trials, when Kaiser, king, philosopher, and saint could do naught.”

Practical Consideration: The Lord’s help makes the difference.
When the psalmist found himself surrounded by hostile foes, he confronted them in the name of the Lord. When they pushed him violently to the point of falling, the Lord helped him. There are certain antagonists we can never cope with. We must look to the Lord for help.

118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord.
118:20 This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
118:21 I shall give thanks to Thee, for Thou hast answered me;
And Thou hast become my salvation.

After praising God for deliverance from danger, the psalmist (king) asked that the gates of the Temple be opened to him (verse 19). The response from the gatekeepers reminded him that only those who were righteous (who sought to follow the Lord) could enter through the gates. The psalmist then uttered again his gratitude in praise to the Lord.

118:22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
118:23 This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.

While we do not know the circumstances which occasioned the writing of this verse, the New Testament writers applied this figure to Christ who was rejected by many, but became the cornerstone of the Church (see Ephesians 2:20).

118:24 This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
118:25 O Lord, do save, we beseech Thee;
O Lord, we beseech Thee, do send prosperity!

Some see the day referred to here as the day of victory against impossible odds. Others see it as a day in which one of the festivals, probably the Feast of Tabernacles, was celebrated. The psalmist and worshipers rejoiced and were glad in it and prayed for prosperity.

118:26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
118:27 The Lord is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
118:28 Thou art my God, and I give thanks to Thee;
Thou art my God, I extol Thee.
118:29 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

The priests speak in verse 26, proclaiming the blessing of God upon those who have entered through the gates of the Temple to worship. The psalmist then expressed his gratitude to God once again.

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