Let’s play an association game. I will mention an occasion, and you quickly think about what song/hymn immediately comes to mind. First – Christmas Eve. Secondly – Easter Sunday. Third – Thanksgiving Day.
The first is the easiest. I will bet that almost all of you answered “Silent Night.” For Easter Sunday there are maybe a couple tunes, though I would think that “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” would be a most common answer. For Thanksgiving it might be “Come, Ye Thankful People Come,” or possibly “We Gather Together.”
We immediately associate certain songs with specific events. And Psalm 118 was like that for the Jewish people. It is the final of the Hallel Psalms – those from 113-118. These were Psalms sung at the great annual festivals in Israel – Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. During the Passover celebration, Psalms 113-114 would be sung before the meal, with 115-118 after it. You may recall how Jesus and the Disciples sang a hymn at the last supper in the upper room before going out, and it was probably this Psalm 118.
As a musician, I would really like to have heard what the melody sounded like. There are a variety of themes and cadences of style in the Psalm. It would seem to me that it would have required quite a variety to make the words, themes, and moods work out.
The opening verses have a repetition and theme on the steadfast love of God, that returns at the end. There are sections that speak of God’s victory for the nation over all the nations – quoting even from the Exodus. And there are passages that are familiar to us from our knowledge of the New Testament. Verse 26 – “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” was of course being sung by the throngs of people upon the occasion of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem.
But let me single out one other phrase that is quoted in all four gospels as well as in Acts. And that is from verse 22 – “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus is recorded in each gospel account as asking, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” Matthew 21:42
The illustration is of the construction of a stone building. The stone masons likely have a wide variety of raw materials around them to choose from, particularly for selecting the most important stone of all—the cornerstone. And when it is all finished, there would still be stones laying around that were not included in the structure… they were rejected.
The point of the illustration is that the Jewish leaders (as the stone masons) rejected the most important stone (Christ), but that God had rectified the situation by exalting Jesus to his proper position as the foundation of God’s house. And this is the message being delivered soon after the resurrection and in the early days of the church by Peter and John before the Jewish council (Acts 4:10-12)…
“Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by this name this man stands here before you in good health. ‘He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone.’ And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
As we know all too well from our culture and world today, Jesus is rejected. Christians this day will give their lives in places like Iraq and other countries around the world, and there is little outcry against this. Faith will again today be mocked in our own country.
But there is no salvation in any other name or belief. The song says so; the song is God’s Word … from His playlist.
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.