Text: Psalm 118 (see this post also)
The resounding refrain of this Psalm—the climactic confession of Israel—is worth repeating…over and over and over, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 118 beings and ends with this confession. It invites Israel and all those who fear Yahweh to praise the enduring love of God.
It rings true throughout the whole history of Israel. From the calling of Abraham to the Exodus to return for Babylonian exile, “the steadfast love of Yahweh endures forever.” This is the stability of Israel’s faith; it is the one thing we can count on. God loves, he loves faithfully and he loves unchangingly.
Psalm 118 is the testimony of one believer’s experience which anticipates Jesus’ own experience. Indeed, it is our experience as well.
This Psalmist, as he comes to the temple, recalls the harrowing experience of the recent past. He was distressed and troubled; surrounded and almost defeated. Yahweh disciplined him severely and the Psalmist remembered his trouble.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is forever. Yahweh helped, delivered and rescued. Yahweh provided strength and courage in the crisis. Yahweh gave life when death surrounded him.
And now the Psalmist comes to the temple to offer a thanksgiving sacrifice. Open the gates! Let the triumphant one enter! The Lord has saved him; let us give thanks to the Lord.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“The stone that the builders have rejected has become the chief cornerstone!”
“This is the day Yahweh has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it!”
This is a victory celebration. Once defeated, but now victor. Rejected, but now welcomed. A day of lament and mourning has been changed into a day of rejoicing.
This movement within the Psalmist’s life is also the experience of Israel from Egyptian bondage to the land of Canaan, from Babylonian exile to restoration in the land of Judah.
It is also the experience of Jesus. The New Testament uses the language of Psalm 118 to describe the victory of Jesus and to introduce us to a new day (see Matthew 21:42-44; Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7; Luke 13:35; Mark 11:9; Matthew 21:9; 23:39).
It is also our experience. When we move from lament to praise, from sorrow to joy, from discipline to transformation, we experience the newness, hospitality (welcome!) and excitement of this Psalm.
Lent is a season of discipline. Through spiritual practices we are formed by God, drawn deeper into God’s life, and are refined by the fiery trial.
Lent gives birth to Easter. The journey in the wilderness leads us to refreshing waters. The discipline brings us to a new day. It is a day that God makes—God transforms, God refines, God redeems, God gives life. And we rejoice in it.
On this last week before Easter, we anticipate the announcement of a new day, a new beginning, a renewed life. On Easter we may walk through the gates and celebrate the joy of a new day.
We will hear the angels say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
We will hear the call of the congregation, “Let us rejoice in the day the Lord has made!”
We will hear Yahweh say, “Though you were once rejected by many, you are precious in my sight and a jewel in my crown!”
On Easter we will hear the applause of heaven as Psalm 118 celebrates the recurring work of God in the lives of his people…in Israel…in us…and, ultimately, in Jesus.
- What range of emotions and circumstances did this Psalmist experience as depicted in the Psalm?
- How does the New Testament apply this Psalm to Jesus?
- What is your personal testimony about how “wilderness” (discipline or Lent) leads to “renewal” and “thanksgiving”?
- Does this Psalm apply to us as well? Can we hear heaven’s applause in this text?