The song that pilgrims in festal procession sang came to life in a new way at Jesus’ entry into the city

Psalm 118:1-2 and 19-29

The person whose name had the meaning “You have become my salvation” was to become the “stone that the builders rejected”  in the words of this processional.

This is a song of national deliverance i.e. victory over the Canaanites or victory over enemies following the exile, at the dedication of the second temple or the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra 6:16, Nehemiah 12:37-43. Psalms 113 to 118 became a set of songs used at annual festivals to celebrate national deliverance after the exile, and as this was the last song of the set, it may have been what Jesus and the disciples sang after the Last Supper, Matt 26:30.

1  Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

2  Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”

The Lord is good, and His mercy endures – the covenant affirmation and the conventional call to worship.

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.

The “gates of the righteous… through which the righteous may enter” could be the way in for the festal procession of the righteous, with the gates of the temple inner court symbolically guarding the presence of the Lord from any who are unrighteous. See Psalm 24.

21  I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation.

“Salvation” – the procession entering Jerusalem and the Temple, seen as the dwelling place of God, to celebrate the deliverance of God’s people, time after time, by God’s gracious action. We would say this verse with joy and sincerity in the different understanding of finding salvation with God through receiving the Son of God as a personal Saviour and Lord.

22  The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…

The chief stone in the whole building, by which the several parts of the building are upheld and firmly united together; thus Christ united Jews and Gentiles together (John Wesley). Isaiah says elsewhere that the Israelites had forsaken the God’s cornerstone for their own refuge in a lie, Isaiah 28:15. The NT leaves us in no doubt that the cornerstone of v.22 foreshadows Jesus, Matt. 21:42, Acts 4:11, Rom. 9:32, Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:6ff.

23  …the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.

24  The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

The crucifixion of Jesus was like throwing out the main building block; the resurrection of Jesus was his vindication, a focus of “marvellous” rejoicing for the Early Church and Christians subsequently for whom these words have been prophetic and a source of worship.

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.

What Jesus had earlier implied by quoting these words, Matt. 21:42, the crowd at the Entry to Jerusalem saw for themselves. The crowd’s  ‘Hosanna’ (hôšîʿ ânnāʾ, ‘Save, pray!’) of v.25 is related to “my salvation of v.21) and followed by their shout “Blessed is He who comes …” which continues the quotation from this psalm.

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.

This verse tells us that the psalm is written for a festal procession, most likely more than a Sabbath. The three big annual pilgrim feasts were Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. There is the sense from these verses of call and answer: one procession, already inside the gates, was greeting another that was arriving.

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

The processional ends with declarations that “The Lord is God” – the only God – and “You are my God” and the affirmation that the Lord is good and enduringly merciful.

29  Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

The crowd who took part in these processions year after year could not have imagined that there would be a time when the symbolism would break out into reality, Hebrews 10:1, the horns of the altar would become the arms of the Cross, and the festival would become the full and final sacrifice of “Christ our Passover” 1 Cor 5:7.


This processional song was often sung at the major festivals when people would come into the city from the area around with a common desire to honour God for His goodness – and in remembering the past times of deliverance for the nation.

How good are we at recounting what God has done for us? The situations that turned around, the answered prayers, the unexpected signs of God’s favour?

We may call them coincidences but in the heavenly order, nothing is a coincidence. In the spiritul battles of life, praise is our most powerful weapon, and praise with testimony puts a sharp edge on that weapon.

For reflection, or as a discussion starter

What recent instance of God’s goodness in answered prayer in His provision or in another aspect of salvation, could you speak out to give brief testimony to His goodness?

Speak Your Mind


%d bloggers like this: