Shortly after Jesus rose from the dead He said to the disciples,
These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets,and in the psalms,concerning me (Luke 24:44).
Psalm 118 is one of those psalms that is a prophecy of Christ’s first and second advents and it begins with
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever (Psalm 118:1,29).
Psalm 118 is a Messianic psalm and it gives us an incredible outline of future events involving Christ’s first and second coming and of the kingdom of Christ that follows. The entire psalm calls upon us to give thanks because God is good as demonstrated by His mercy that endures for ever.
The psalm starts and finishes with the same verse thus indicating that all that lies between is the reason that we should give thanks: He is good because His mercy endures for ever!
The Living God is Good
In contrast with the gods of the heathen, the Living God is good. The grotesque images of heathen gods indicates their character and they are certainly not good.
Heathen temples display large images of deities that would scare anyone but the Living God is intrinsically good. The Philistine god Dagon was a fish man; the Egyptian gods were many and had heads of beasts or birds. Buddha images are obese and ugly and the religion of Islam has no images but gives no certainty of heaven; only an expectation that their deeds will be weighed to determine whether they go to heaven or hell.
The God of the Bible however is the God of mercy who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Only the God of the Bible has sent His beloved Son to bear the burden of our sin in His own body on the tree so that we can enjoy the mercy of God in heaven for all eternity.
All other gods are false and in fact are Satanic deceptions.
The Hebrew word translated “good” has an extremely wide meaning and is translated about 30 different ways in the Bible. It can mean beautiful, gracious, bountiful, kind, loving, precious and much more. The reason for this goodness is “because His mercy endureth for ever” . It is the mercy of God that establishes the fact that He is good. If God were not merciful for ever He could not be good. If He pardoned for just a few years He would not be good. His goodness is everlasting and His mercy endures for ever.
God’s Mercy is Available to All
Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endureth for ever (Psalm 118:2-4).
God’s mercy extends to all who fear the Lord. God’s mercy is not just for the nation of Israel, or for the priests of the Lord but to every last soul on the face of the earth who fears the Lord; all who place their trust in Him.
The psalmist wrote from personal experience. He had called on the Lord when in distress and the Lord answered him; in mercy he had been delivered from those who hated him and therefore God was living, real and good.
Prophetic Character of Psalm 118
The Lord Jesus Christ was the perfect Son of God; perfect man and perfect God. As the perfect man He meditated in God’s law day and night (Psalm 1:2) and this psalm is part of that law. Just as Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 in the three hours of darkness on the cross so He would have been fully aware of all those psalms that foretold His own life on earth. Psalm 118 describes the Lord’s experience as He was rejected, went to the cross, rose from the dead, returned to glory and one day will occupy His rightful place as the chief cornerstone and head of the Church in heaven.
When Christ returns, Israel will be a redeemed people and will rejoice and bring their supplications to their King in a new Temple to be built in Jerusalem where the light of the glory of God will be seen and where they will offer sacrifices in memorial of Christ the Lamb of God who suffered for our sins.
For all of this, during the millennial kingdom, Israel will praise the Lord and give thanks because it is the evidence that “his mercy endureth for ever ”. All of this is spelt out in Psalm 118.
Firstly we know that this psalm is prophetic of Christ because Peter quotes the psalm in reference to Christ. He states:
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture,Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect,precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient,the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,: (1 Peter 2:6-7).
Peter remembered the Lord’s words after he had confessed that Jesus was “the Christ the son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus said, “Upon this rock (the Deity of Christ) I will build my church.”
Jesus came to Israel but was rejected. “He came to His own and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). But the day will come when He will be exalted and made the headstone; the “ head of the corner”.
Dark Gethsemane – vs 5-7
This psalm traces the path that the Lord trod to become the “headstone”. In verses 5 to 7 we see the Lord in dark Gethsemane where He could say,
I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD heard me and set me in a large place.
The epistle to the Hebrews described the Lord as
a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard n that he feared (Hebrew 6-7).
“Father, if thou be willing, removethis cup from me: neverthelessnot my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
An angel strengthened Jesus at that moment and He was reassured that He would be victorious and that death could not hold Him in the grave. He would be brought forth into “a large place” – far larger than what He experienced for about 30 years while accepting the limitations of humanity. Resurrection lay before Him and for all who would follow Him.
When Jesus went to the cross He not only contended with evil men but also with all the powers of hell. The demons of hell would have confined Christ to the grave and would thus have frustrated the work of redemption which He had come to complete. A war was waged in the unseen realm.
When the chief priests came to Gethsemane to take the Lord, Jesus said:
When I was daily with you in thetemple, ye stretched forth no handsagainst me: butthis is your hour,and the power of darkness (Luke 22:42).
These religious leaders were the emissaries of Satan and they had contrived with Judas to put Jesus to death. Scripture records that, “after the sop Satan entered into him” (John 13:27) and Jesus told Peter,
Satanhath desired to have you,that he may sift you as wheat (Luke 22:31).
Satan had tempted the Lord at the beginning of His ministry but he came again as the cross drew near and Jesus said,
theprince of thisworld cometh, andhath nothing in me (John 14:30).
Christ is assured that Satan and evil men would be defeated and that the Father would give Him the victory. He could say,
The LORD taketh my part withthem that help me:therefore shallI see my desire upon them that hate me(Psalm 118:7).
We should remind ourselves that though Jesus was God the Son, He became man and suffered as our substitute; as a perfect man. He won the victory over sin, and death, and hell on the cross so that we can be delivered to dwell with Him eternally.
All who oppose and hate Christ are judged. Judas hanged himself and the Jews perished in the great slaughter of AD66 to AD70 as the Romans burned the city and took them captive into all the world. All His enemies will perish.
Jesus on Trial – vs 8-12
Jesus knew that
It is better to trust in the LORDthan to put confidence in man. It isbetter to trust in the LORD than toput confidence in princes. All nationscompassed me about: but in the nameof the LORD will I destroy them.They compassed me about; yea, theycompassed me about: but in the nameof the LORD I will destroy them.They compassed me about likebees:they are quenched as the fire ofthorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them(Psalm 118:8-12).
In these verses we see Jesus taken from Gethsemane to the palace of the high priest and tried before the court of the Jews while it was still dark. Very early He was taken to Pilate’s judgment hall to be tried by the Roman powers but Pilate wanted to release Jesus. Pilate even sent him to Herod hoping that Herod would pass judgment but Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate and then washed his hands in a basin of water and handed Jesus over to the Jews to be put to death.
Any other innocent person would have pleaded their case and established their innocence but Jesus “answered him nothing ” and Pilate said to Jesus,
Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee (Mark 15:4).
Jesus did not put His trust in princes to set Him free because He had a mission to fulfill. It was the Father’s will that He die as the substitute for all mankind.
During His trial Jesus could say, “they compassed me about like bees”. He was falsely accused, spat upon and scourged. Men put a crown of thorns on His brow and plucked the hair from His face. They placed a royal robe upon Him and mocked Him. All nations, Gentiles in Herod’s palace and in Pilate’s judgment hall, compassed Him about like a swarm of bees! But He put His trust in the Lord.
The Will of God – v13
Thouhast thrust sore at me thatI might fall: but the LORD helped me(Psalm 118:13).
Amidst all the vile treatment from men and Satan we have a reminder that there was a greater plan being enacted that day. Isaiah prophesied of Christ’s death:
Yet it pleasedtheLORD to bruisehim;he hath put himto grief:when thoushalt make his soulan offering for sin,he shall see his seed, heshall prolong his days,and the pleasure of theLORD shall prosper in his hand(Isaiah 53:10).
Jesus could have called “more than twelve legions of angels? ” (Matthew 26:53). They were just one prayer away but He submitted to the death of the cross.
The great mystery of the cross was that the innocent was to die for the guilty and in fact Jesus was taking upon Himself the sin of the world from all time. He was being
punished for all human sin as the perfect substitute. That was the wonder of the cross of Christ and so in the three hours of darkness that descended over the earth from noon till 3pm, Jesus cried,
“My God, my God, why hast thouforsaken Me?”(Psalm 22:1).
Martin Luther once said,
God forsaken of God, Who can understand it?
But when the darkness had passed Jesus shouted,
It is finished!
The work that He came to do was finally complete and so He could say, “the Lord helped me” (Psalm 118:13).
Resurrection Victory – vs 14-18
The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous:the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.The right hand of the LORD is exalted:the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly. I shall not die, but live,and declare the works of the LORD.The LORD hath chastened me sore:but he hath not given me over unto death.Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD
These verses are verses of triumph and rejoicing and indicate that death could not hold the Lord in the grave. He had been “ chastened sore” on the cross but now He has risen from the dead. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. “ The right hand of the Lord” is one of His titles. The angel could declare at the empty tomb, “He is not here, He is risen!”
When the Lord ascended victoriously after 40 days He took the resurrected Old Testament saints with Him and He entered the gates of heaven “into which the righteous shall enter” (Psalm 118:20). Heaven rejoiced as Christ triumphantly entered heaven.
The Crowning Day – vs 21-24
“I will praise thee: forthou hast heard me,and art become my
salvation.The stonewhich the buildersrefused is become the head stoneof the corner. This is the LORD’sdoing; it is marvellous in our eyes.This is the daywhich the LORDhath made; we will rejoice and beglad in it” (Psalm 118:21-24).
Hidden in this Old Testament passage is a mention of the Rapture of the Christians at the end of this Church age. It speaks of “the day” when the stone which was disallowed by Israel will be made the headstone and given His rightful place.
Peter tells us that the Christians are “living stones”, “built up into a holy temple” (1 Peter 2:5). When this Church age is complete the headstone will be lifted high into its place. Christ will be exalted as the Bridegroom of the Church, as the Head of the Body and as the Headstone of the Temple
Israel Will Worship in the Kingdom – vs 27-28
God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee (Psalm 118:27-28).
Not only will Christ be exalted as head of the Church but He will also be crowned King of kings at His coming to reign. Israel will be greatly blessed in the Kingdom of Christ.
After Christ returns to the earth Israel will build a glorious Temple at Jerusalem to the specifications given to Ezekiel in chapters 40 to 43 of his prophecy. The glory of God will return and just as the pillar of fire and cloud appeared over the Tabernacle for 40 years in the wilderness, so the glory of God will be seen at Jerusalem and people will go to Jerusalem to see the glory of God.
God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light (Psalm 118:27).
Arise, shine; for thy light is come,and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising (Isaiah 60:1-3).
So bright will the light of God’s presence be at Jerusalem that there will be no need for the sun or moon to light the city.
The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory (Isaiah 60:19).
All the riches of the Gentiles will flow into Israel:
Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity (Psalms 118:25).
Isaiah described the wealth of Israel in Christ’s kingdom:
For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness (Isaiah 60:17).
Israel will proclaim:
Blessed be he that cometh in thename of the LORD: we have blessedyou out of the house of the LORD (Psalm 118:26).
These were the very words uttered on Palm Sunday by the multitude at Jerusalem but the stone was disallowed by those builders who ruled the nation at that time.
Israel will however welcome Christ at His second advent for they will be prepared during the Tribulation when they will seek the Lord and will worship in a new Temple built to the specifications given in Ezekiel chapters 40 to 43.
The sacrifices offered in the Temple in Christ’s kingdom will be in memorial of His atoning death at Calvary and so they will
bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.
The psalmist concludes with the message he began with:
O give thanks unto the LORD; forhe is good: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 118:29).
This wonderful psalm gives us a prophetic overview written hundreds of years before Christ came. His first advent, His trial and suffering for our sins is foretold. It reveals the mystery of God’s plan to build His Church and one day complete it as a holy Temple with Christ as the headstone.
Finally, Israel will welcome Messiah at His second advent and be incredibly blessed. Israel will worship and sacrifice in the millennial Temple.
All of this is evidence that God is good and we too can give thanks to the Lord for His mercy endureth for ever!