Tuesday, January 22, 2013

EJ100 #20 Psalm 118:1-29

Today's reading: Psalm 118:1-29.

Another psalm from the fifth book of psalms, this is a psalm of public praise and personal confidence in the LORD's salvation.

One factoid I have read about Psalm 118 is that it is the middle chapter of the entire Bible; the chapter before it is the shortest psalm and the chapter after it is the longest psalm. I only found that out in one of those bulk email pps files, so don't sue me if I'm wrong, but it gives me a good reason to delve a little deeper into understanding the literary centre of the Bible.

Let Israel (all God's people) say: "His love endures forever." [118:2]
Let the house of Aaron (all God's pastors, bishops, elders, deacons) say: "His love endures forever." [118:3]
Let those who fear the LORD (all Christians) say: "His love endures forever." [118:4]

The following list [Psalm 118:5-14] gives us confidence to acknowledge with the psalmist, "The LORD's love endures forever.":
  • When I felt shut in, I cried out to the LORD and he brought me to open spaces.
  • The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid of mere mortals.
  • The LORD is with me; he is my helper and grants me triumph over my enemies.
  • It is better to look for safety with the LORD than to trust in people to save you.
  • It is better to look for safety with the LORD than to trust in princes to save you.
  • People from all nations approached me, but in the LORD's name I defeated them.
  • They swarmed around me, but they were consumed in the name of the LORD.
  • I was pushed back and nearly fell but the LORD helped me.
  • The LORD is my strength, my defense, my salvation.
Psalm 118:22 says,
"The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone."
Jesus and Peter both quoted this verse, describing Jesus as the stone the builders rejected [Jesus: Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Peter, in speech and in writing: Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7]. The "builders" who rejected Jesus were those, such as many of the Pharisees, who thought they were building God's people (at that time, the Jews), but who were rejecting God's right hand working salvation, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 118:26 is familiar from the New Testament quotations also. It reads:
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD."
These words were what the people cried aloud as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a day Christians now celebrate as Palm Sunday, an event recorded in all four gospels [Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13]. This fits with the following verses of Psalm 118, which mention people coming to "join in the festal procession" "with boughs in hand" [118:27].

On a less cheerful note, this verse was also quoted by Jesus to condemn the Pharisees and teachers of the law and the people of Jerusalem who rejected him [Matthew 23:39; Luke 13:35]. As Luke recorded Jesus' words:
"Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' "
One of the less obvious connections between this psalm and the gospel of Jesus Christ is found in the words of 118:19-20:
"Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD
through which the righteous may enter."
Jesus taught his disciples that it was very difficult for "the rich" to enter the kingdom of God. Impossible, actually! As absurd as a ponderous camel fitting through the tiny hole for thread on a needle. His disciples wondered therefore who it was who could possibly be saved.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible," Jesus reminded his disciples [Matthew 19:26; see also Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27]. It is God who opens the gates of the kingdom of God to those who are made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. No merit of our own may win us entrance, but with God's blessing, it is possible to enter God's kingdom.

The opening and closing lines of this psalm bring to mind the song "Forever" by Chris Tomlin. This is why I shall "sing praise", as Tomlin puts it [118:5-14]:
  • When I felt shut in in the city, I cried out to the LORD and he brought me to the open space of Cranbrook.
  • The LORD is with Samuel and through prayer he is learning not to be afraid of the dark.
  • The LORD is with us, helping us to triumph over the wiles of the devil who would rather stifle our ministry.
  • The LORD has given me refuge; it is better to trust in Jesus than to trust in gurus or life coaches.
  • The LORD has given me safety; it is better to trust in Jesus than to trust in celebrities or politicians.
  • People from all directions pester and provoke me, but in the LORD's name I contend with their false accusations.
  • They ridiculed and mocked me, but they will face God's judgement, not mine.
  • I felt overcome like I had no strength left to stand against their persecution, but the LORD helped me stand firm in my faith.
  • The LORD gives me strength, he defends me, he saves me.
Lots of reasons to praise God today!

> Which of the verses of Psalm 118 illuminate how God is working in your life?

Why do I love and worship Jesus?
Jesus has opened the gate of the righteous to me so that I may enter into his kingdom.

Thank you Jesus
for all you have done for me
especially all the precious blessings you have granted to me
in the last week when I have felt so troubled.

Tomorrow's reading: Genesis 12:1-9.

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