Psalms 115-118 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone

From Psalms 115-118

19 Psalms Fragment

Today’s Psalm draws us into an interaction between a king of Israel and his people. It begins however with the Psalmist encouraging the people.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

118 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever!

2 Let Israel say,

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

3 Let the house of Aaron say,

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

4 Let those who fear the LORD say,

“His steadfast love endures forever.” (Ps 118:1–4)

Again we see the prominent theme of the LORD’s covenant love in this Psalm. The people are called to remember the LORD’s love and give thanks for his savings acts and his faithfulness to his promises. First Israel is exhorted, then the house of Aaron (the Priesthood) and then his people in general. Commentators at this point recognise there is  change in speaker. The King begins to speak (Allen, L. C. (2002). Psalms 101–150 (Revised) (Vol. 21, p. 166). Dallas: Word, Incorporated).

5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD;

the LORD answered me and set me free.

6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.

What can man do to me?

7 The LORD is on my side as my helper;

I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. (Ps 118:5-7)

The King recalls a time when he was in distress, he cried out to the LORD and the LORD saved him. Since this time the King rejoices in the LORD and is confident he will win over his enemies.

8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD

than to trust in man.

9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD

than to trust in princes. (Ps 118.8-9)

So the king calls out to the people to trust in the LORD as well, to take refuge in him. Because he delivers his people from trouble. He knows this because the LORD has delivered him.

10 All nations surrounded me;

in the name of the LORD I cut them off!

11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;

in the name of the LORD I cut them off!

12 They surrounded me like bees;

they went out like a fire among thorns;

in the name of the LORD I cut them off!

13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,

but the LORD helped me. (Ps 118:10-13)

He then goes on to tell the people of his own salvation. He was surrounded by his enemies. But in the name of the LORD (repeated over and over again) he won victory over them. The LORD helped him.

14 The LORD is my strength and my song;

he has become my salvation.

15 Glad songs of salvation

are in the tents of the righteous:

“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,

16 the right hand of the LORD exalts,

the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!” (Ps 118:14-16)

He may be skilled as a warrior and strong. But this king recognises his true strength is from the LORD. The LORD is his strength, his battle cry and his song of victory. He knows he is not the only one, the righteous (victorious army, people in covenant relation) also sing to the LORD. The right hand is the hand of action. The one that swings the sword. The LORD’s right hand is what brings him victory over his enemies and saves his people.

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,

and recount the deeds of the LORD.

18 The LORD has disciplined me severely,

but he has not given me over to death. (Ps 118.17-18)

The king knows he shall continue to live because the LORD is with him. He will tell others about the deeds of the LORD. A common theme through the Psalms is those who have been saved by the LORD are keen to praise him to the people around him. We need to recapture this. The LORD’s disciplines those he loves and has not given him over to death. The king is stronger for it.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,

that I may enter through them

and give thanks to the LORD.

20 This is the gate of the LORD;

the righteous shall enter through it.

21 I thank you that you have answered me

and have become my salvation.

22 The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

23 This is the LORD’s doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 This is the day that the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps 118:19-24)

The gates of righteousness signify entry into the temple court. He wants to enter and give thanks to the LORD. “At v 22 the lay commoners join in the praise, reacting rather like the chorus in a Greek play to the king’s spiritual interpretation of his escape from crisis and brush with death (vv 5, 17). To aid their praise they evidently cite a proverb that expresses transition from humiliation to honor, in which a generally discarded stone became the foundation stone stabilizing two adjacent walls (cf. Job 38:6; Isa 28:16; Jer 51:26).” (ibid, p. 166).

In verses 23 and 24 the Psalmist transitions from rejoicing in his own salvation to including others in it. As king, he sums up all his people in himself. His experience of salvation is therefore theirs. So they can rejoice as well.

25 Save us, we pray, O LORD!

O LORD, we pray, give us success! (Ps 118:25)

This is the most important part of the Psalm. On behalf of the nation, the king petitions the LORD to give him and his nation (‘us’) victory in battle on the basis of his prior experience of salvation.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!

We bless you from the house of the LORD.

27 The LORD is God,

and he has made his light to shine upon us.

Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,

up to the horns of the altar! (Ps 118:26-27)

Following their victory the king praises God and blesses those who come in his name. In the temple he offers sacrifices of praise in thanksgiving for what the LORD has done for them. Here he focusses on the congregation.

28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;

you are my God; I will extol you.

29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever! (Ps 118:28-29)

Now he focusses on his own prayer to the LORD. He utters his own thanks and devotion. He then finishes where he started, praising the LORD for his steadfast love, his covenant care to his people. The main themes of this Psalm are; Covenant, Kingship, Salvation, and the relationship between the King and God’s people.

Story of Jesus

When Jesus entered Jerusalem nearing the end of his first appearance the people praised him and quoted Psalm 118 (Not the first quote, the second).

21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5  “Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest!” (cf. Ps 118.25-26)

10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Mt 21.1-11)

Note; The word hosanna is derived from Aramaic and means ‘save’ and ‘rescue’. It could also be applied to someone as saviour. King Jesus enters Jerusalem and people are crying out to him as saviour. How will be be received?

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard sand put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes’? (cf. Ps 118.22-23)

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. (Mt 21.33-45)

Jesus knows he is the king and the Psalm is speaking about himself. He also realises that he is also the rejected cornerstone. The son who will be killed by the tenants of the vineyard. Like the cornerstone in the Psalm he too will experience a transition from humiliation to honor. He will be humiliated when he suffers and dies on the cross. He will he honoured when on the third day, God raises him from the dead and exalts his as Christ and Lord.

Remember again the Psalm expresses the themes of Covenant, Kingship, Salvation, and the relationship between the King and God’s people. God through Jesus is being faithful to his covenant promises and expressing his covenant love. Jesus is the King, the promised Christ. It is in his humiliation on the cross and honouring in his resurrection he brings about salvation. Those he saves are his people who believe he is Christ and Lord. He saves his people because they participate in his death and resurrection. His salvation is theirs.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.