Theme: Recalling God’s Grace
In this week’s lessons, we learn that God’s grace has been shown to all, supremely in the Lord Jesus Christ, who out of his rejection became the capstone for all who come to him in faith.
Scripture: Psalm 118:1-26
This is a long psalm, consisting of ten stanzas plus an opening theme verse and two closing ones (according to the New International Version). It begins with a summons to Israel to praise God, picking up the second line of verse 1: “His love endures forever” (vv. 2-4). Next it describes the anguish of one who was enslaved (“In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free,” v. 5) and the danger he faced from the nearby hostile nations (“All the nations surrounded me,” v. 10; “I was pushed back and about to fall,” v. 13). This is followed by remembrance of victories given to Israel by God (“Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous,” v. 15). There is a call for opening the temple gates for the righteous to enter (“Open for me the gates of righteousness,” v. 19); a grateful recognition that those who had been rejected have been heard and delivered from their foreign oppression (“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” v. 22); and then a final festive progression up to the very horns of God’s altar in the temple courts:
With boughs in hand, join in the festalprocession up to the horns of the altar (v. 27).
When we trace this progression we understand why this is the last and climactic psalm in the Egyptian Hallel. It is because its parts aptly suggest the passage of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the security and joy of Mount Zion. This understanding is enhanced even more when we study the psalm carefully, for parts of it echo the Exodus narrative. For example, verse 14 is a direct quote of Exodus 15:2, from Moses’ victory song after the deliverance of the people from Pharaoh and his armies at the Red Sea:
The LORD is my strength and my song;he has become my salvation.
We can appreciate how the Jews used this psalm to remember their deliverance from bondage and their birth as a nation.
But it is not only Jews who can use this psalm to recall God’s grace to them. Christians can use it (and have used it) to remember the work of Jesus Christ, who has delivered us from sin. In fact, the thing that strikes us most about this psalm are the verses that are picked up in the gospel accounts of Palm Sunday and Passion Week with application to Jesus Christ. Is the psalm Messianic? Not strictly. It is about God’s deliverance of Israel. Even “the stone the builders rejected” is about Israel primarily. Still key verses are used in the New Testament about Jesus, and in this sense the psalm is Messianic. It is the last of such Messianic psalms.
Hallel: hymns of praise sung at the three great feasts; the Egyptian Hallel begins with the Exodus from Egypt.
What is the progression of events in Psalm 118? How does the tone change?
In what way does this psalm fit into the Egyptian Hallel?
How does the Christian’s use of this psalm parallel the Jew’s use of it?
Read Exodus 12:13—15:2. How does this help you understand how the Jews used this psalm?
Prayer: Thank God for the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on your behalf.