Psalm 118:

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

his love endures forever.

2 Let Israel say:

“His love endures forever.”

3 Let the house of Aaron say:

“His love endures forever.”

4 Let those who fear the Lord say:

“His love endures forever.”

5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;

he brought me into a spacious place.

6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.

What can mere mortals do to me?

7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.

I look in triumph on my enemies.

8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord

than to trust in humans.

9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord

than to trust in princes.

10 All the nations surrounded me,

but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.

11 They surrounded me on every side,

but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.

12 They swarmed around me like bees,

but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;

in the name of the Lord I cut them down.

13 I was pushed back and about to fall,

but the Lord helped me.

14 The Lord is my strength and my defense;

he has become my salvation.

15 Shouts of joy and victory

resound in the tents of the righteous:

“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!

16     The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;

the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”

17 I will not die but live,

and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

18 The Lord has chastened me severely,

but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;

I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.

20 This is the gate of the Lord

through which the righteous may enter.

21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;

you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

23 the Lord has done this,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 The Lord has done it this very day;

let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!

Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

From the house of the Lord we bless you.

27 The Lord is God,

and he has made his light shine on us.

With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession

up to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;

you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

his love endures forever.

This psalm is so rich. There’s no way to unpack it all. However, I love to read this psalm from two different perspectives, and I invite you to try it. The first is from a personal perspective. The first part repeats, “God’s love endures forever.” The Hebrew word translated here as “love,” hesed, is deeper and richer than simply “love.” God’s covenant faithfulness never ends. As Paul says, even if we are faithless, God remains faithful (2 Tim 2:13). The repetition invites us to let that truth sink in. The psalmist backs up this claim with personal experience. He uses rich language to say, “I can look back and see that when I cried to the Lord, he delivered me. I can know from experience that he is faithful (to his covenant), and it’s better to take refuge in Him than to trust in anything else.” The psalmist concludes that section with a personal truth that we can also own: the Lord has become my salvation. There’s growth and change implied here that makes this sentence have more significant reality than if we were just to say, “God is my salvation.” So how has God become your salvation? Maybe you’ve walked through dark valleys with the Lord, or maybe you’re in the middle of a dark valley right now. The walking through a dark valley becomes the source of the psalmist’s hope and praise as the psalm concludes. With the psalmist, we can cry out to the Lord for help again and worship him for his faithfulness.

The second perspective through which I read this psalm is the perspective of Jesus as people sang this psalm while laying palm branches and their own shirts on the road before him (Matt 21). This psalm was widely sung in hopes that a descendant of David, God’s promised king, would indeed come. So when Jesus enters the city and the people are shouting this psalm while Jesus rides in on a donkey, you can imagine the uproar. You can imagine the anticipation. Yet what was Jesus thinking and feeling? I think he had on his mind vs. 22, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” It was both marvelous and grim. Jesus knew he was entering the city for the last time, but he also knew he was fulfilling their deepest needs. He was becoming their salvation.

Lord, hesed endures forever, and so we trust you. You’ve done it before, and you will continue to do it. Lord, save us! Save us from our circumstances, from our sin, and from death itself. In you we take refuge. In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.