Hungering for a New Day (Lenten Reflections on Psalm 118)

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.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What range of emotions and circumstances did this Psalmist experience as depicted in the Psalm?
  2. How does the New Testament apply this Psalm to Jesus?
  3. What is your personal testimony about how “wilderness” (discipline or Lent) leads to “renewal” and “thanksgiving”?
  4. Does this Psalm apply to us as well? Can we hear heaven’s applause in this text?


8 Responses to “Hungering for a New Day (Lenten Reflections on Psalm 118)”

  1.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    I am actually teaching on Psalm 118 this coming Sunday. I have been reading through N.T. Wright’s “The New Testament and the People of God” in which he grounds the NT within a Second-Temple Judaism worldview and it got me wondering how Psalm 118 (actually Ps 113-118) would have been heard at the last Passover meal Jesus ate with his disciples. That question won’t be the focus of my class but it quickens the imagination with excitement, contemplation, and praise to think how those disciples were reading “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” and were sitting at the very table with The One who came in the name of the Lord.

    …well there is a communion thought for next Sunday.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  2.   Kendra Says:

    Thank you for your thoughts! and for some questions to ponder. I enjoy listening to your voice via this blog. Thank you!

  3.   rich Says:

    oh john mark,
    eph.1.1-18 yes? maybe 17…
    longest sentence in the king james version.

    the blessings of the father’s loving kindness, passed on to the children,who in the Spirit,see the blessed hope that is set before us in his Son’s love for the father’s purpose. the restoring of what once was,and consumated through the redempshion from the dead by the spirit of of life passed on to those that believe and try to accomplish the son’s example in the body.

    may the peace of God come upon all of us this easter fully knowing that god restores life to righteous faith.
    :-)
    blessings all
    to you and yours also john mark,,,

  4.   Randall Says:

    JMH,
    Above you said:
    “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
    “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.”
    and
    “God transforms, God refines, God redeems, God gives life. And we rejoice it.”

    Amen and amen again. Isn’t that what the Calvinists teach? Don’t we think it was the prodigal’s knowledge of the Father’s love, mercy and forgiveness that turned the prodigal back to the Father? I guess some credit the prodigal, but I have to credit the Father’s steadfast covenant love.

    I think too many will answer “Yes, but …” The problem with that answer is that “but” is a contradiction.

    Hesed,
    Randall

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Indeed, Calvinists do teach that…and so do Arminians. :-)

      •   Randall Says:

        John Mark,
        Perhaps I am confused again. It wouldn’t be the first time, nor even the first time lately. It has been my understanding that non Calvinists teach that God’s steadfast love is certain, *but* only up to a point. I was thinking non Calvinists believe that God’s steadfast love may not be steadfast forever if a person later rejects God and then the person is ultimately condemned and becomes the object of God’s wrath rather than His love.

        I thought this was what the whole disagreement was about. There was a discussion of perseverance on another blog and I may not understand classic Arminianism as well I I should. Please forgive and correct me if this is the case.

        I believe you know appreciate all you share here and I am simply picking at one point.
        Hesed,
        Randall

        • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          I would not say you are confused. It is a matter, it seems to me, of perspective.

          From the standpoint of a believer living in history, Calvinists and Arminians stand in the same relation with God.Both Arminians and Calvinists experience God’s love through faith. It is certain that God’s love never fails and at the same time that hesed is extended to those who fear God (as the Psalms say) or through faith (as Paul says).

          Where there is no faith or “faith” is shipwrecked–to use Paul’s language (I use quotation marks because Calvinist don’t believe that such ever had authentic faith), Arminians and Calvinists agree as well. Without faith, there is no experience of God’s redemptive hesed.

          Calvinists and Arminians can fully embrace each other on this point: the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

        •   rich constant Says:

          THE ROOT IS TO ME gods good.
          good vindicaced.life restord’…. you guys though faithfullnsess to gods good. the tree.sorta kinda untill easter

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