Psalm 118

July 22, 2021

1 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.

2 Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

3 Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

4 Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

5 I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.

6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

7 The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.

8 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

9 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.

10 All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord will I destroy them.

11 They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.

12 They compassed me about like bees: they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.

13 Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the Lord helped me.

14 The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.

15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.

16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.

17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.

18 The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:

20 This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.

21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.

22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

23 This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.

24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.

26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.

27 God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.

29 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

The Point: 

Under the most oppressive and dangerous circumstances, God’s people retain indomitable faith in His merciful salvation. 

How do we feel in the recitation of this Psalm? 

There are warriors who are sour, glum, reticent and fearful.  Then there are the happy warriors who engage the battle with full confidence of eventual victory. As we swing the sword in the battle, we are comfortable to be there.  We have accepted our post from our Captain with enthusiasm and joy.   

What does this Psalm say? 

Verses 1-4. 

A familiar phrase repeated throughout the Psalms comes four times in the preface of this Psalm. “His mercy endures forever.” This is encouraging to the believer who is sometimes subjected to multiple, relentless trials over a long period of time.  Will God’s mercy sustain us all the way to the end of our lives and then deliver us into the gates of the “celestial city?” The fact that God’s mercy does not give up on us is a huge relief, especially when we find ourselves coming back to God for mercy again and again. While we do not want to tempt God and presume on His mercy, which of us has not fallen multiple times and needed God’s forgiveness and restoration with each lapse?  Faith in God’s capacity to show mercy is demonstrated in the loud proclamations of this chorus: “His mercy endures forever!”  We call on all of those in the church who fear God and believe these words to join in with the singing. 

Verses 5-16. 

The fifth verse sets the backdrop for the Psalm with the words, “I called upon the Lord in distress.” Given the several references to the military context, it is possible the author of the Psalm is David or another king of Israel.  The Psalmist finds himself in harrowing circumstances, possibly in close quarters with an enemy who is eager to take his life. For a thousand years, Old Testament Israel was constantly threatened by surrounding nations, whether it was Philistia, Moab, Syria, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, or Greece.  It seemed as if the future of this tiny nation hung by a thread, and the Psalmist clearly understood this reality.

The most courageous men are not those who have the upper hand in the battle, or those who are tied into the power brokers in the United Nations, or the Council on Foreign Relations or the Chinese Communist Party. They are fearful men, because they sense the precariousness of their condition, even when they take their place at the top of the heap. Moreover, because they oppose God and His laws with their man-centered totalitarianism and ethics, they constantly face a dread of divine judgment. When it comes to the cultural and political systems that hold sway over the nations, the people of God are severely outnumbered. But this does not mean they must huddle in a corner, paralyzed in fear!  If God is on our side, we have nothing to fear (verse 6). The most amazing display of courage will always come from those who stand, by faith, in the true and living God, while surrounded by tens of thousands of enemies. This is the man who learns how to overcome the fear of men. The following verses are some of the most encouraging in all of the Book of Psalms.  If these words do not inspire courage, nothing else will! 

Trusting in man will do you no good because practically everybody will let you down at some time or other (verses 8-9).  Either they will not have enough power, or else they’ll lack the love or wisdom to stand by you in the day of trouble. When push comes to shove, nobody can help you except God. Even if the President of the United States was your best friend, political forces might require him to abandon you on your very worst day.  That is usually how politics operate anyway.  

Sometimes it feels as if you are surrounded by enemies (verses 10-12). This horrific circumstance may produce feelings of helplessness and even panic. But that is not the heart attitude of the Psalmist; He will not capitulate in the battle.  The victory is well in his hands as far as he is concerned. Though he may be struck down now and then in the spiritual battle of life, he retains full confidence in the name of the Lord and the mighty resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Victory is certain!  Victory is inevitable! It would, then, be the most foolish thing to relinquish his armaments and surrender to the enemy in the hottest fray of the battle. Whether the battle is going for or against him, the attitude of the believer must always be, “In the name of the Lord, I will destroy them!”  Paul taunts the enemy of death in 1 Corinthians 15 when he says, “Oh death, where is thy sting?  Oh grave, where is thy victory?” It is the last enemy to be destroyed, and it is a most formidable enemy.  But the Christian rides into the pale of death, with the sword of the Lord in hand crying out, “In the name of the Lord, I will destroy you!”  That is the exhibition of true faith. 

Verses 13-16 reveal the author’s true faith in the Lord of the battle. It is not in his own strength that he wages this ferocious battle. This marks an important distinction between the humanist man of faith and the Christian man of faith:  self-confidence is ruinous for the Christian in this war.  In the previous verses, the Psalmist may have set out to destroy the enemy, but now we know that his confidence is in the right hand of the Lord.  This makes for a formidable warrior - one who aggressively pursues the battle with his whole heart, all the while resting fully upon the sovereign hand of God to yield the victory. 

Verses 17-21. 

These words are shouted out in the heat of the battle, even when our protagonist has taken several severe hits: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord!” he cries. Whatever setback he suffers, whatever wound he sustains, is taken as coming from God’s chastising hand. Because the Psalmist is in saving relationship with God, he is confident that he will make it through the thick of it. There is not a hint of doubt in his faith testimony.  Death itself does not concern him, for he knows that the God who created life can sustain it and recreate it if necessary. His true interest is to spend his life chronicling the works of God and declaring them to others. That chronicle extends to every detail of history, but especially the harrowing circumstances of his own life, as he struggles through his physical and spiritual battles. Actually, the real intentions of this battle-seasoned warrior are to make it back into the walls of the church to offer sacrifices of praise to God for His salvation (verses 19-21).

Verses 22-29. 

This salvation is an unlikely salvation from the human perspective. How few recognized this salvation in a carpenter from Nazareth, a baby in a manger, a Savior on a cross, and an outcast of Israel! Jesus Christ speaks of Himself as the stone the builders rejected in Matthew 21:42. In order to identify God’s salvation, one must look through eyes of faith, because His salvation comes unexpectedly, unconventionally, and unpretentiously. When God acts, it will always appear marvelous, always a pleasant and powerful surprise. Fittingly, when chronicling the powerful work of God during the First Great Awakening in America, Jonathan Edwards wrote his “Narrative of Surprising Conversions.” 

Verse 24 is one of the most “upbeat” verses in the Psalms.  If the Lord has made the day, then the outcome is not in the hand of the devil.  No matter how badly it is going, the believer knows that it will turn out grand; there will be one phenomenal ending to the day!  Every day is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Therefore, the believer rejoices in hope, knowing that all will turn out for his good and God’s glory. 

This Psalm is chosen in Matthew 21 to highlight the triumphal entry of Christ as He enters Jerusalem in preparation for His passion and death. Bursting with hopeful expectation, this Psalmist prophesies the coming Messiah as he pens the words, “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord!” Someone is coming.  Who it is, the Old Testament believers could not foretell precisely.  All they knew is that the Stone would be rejected at first by the builders (verse 22).  They also knew that there must be a sacrifice, bound firmly to the altar (verse 27).  This sacrifice was the Lord Jesus Christ. 

With that in mind, the Psalmist ends with a rousing chorus of praise using the identical words with which he began the Psalm. 

How do we apply this Psalm to our lives? 

Happy, optimistic warriors are what we are looking for in the spiritual conflict of our lives.  When the football player finds himself in a very difficult game, he may wish for a moment the game was over.  If he is playing the biggest game of his life, he shouldn’t mind the sleet and the rain and the physical challenges that he faces from 400 pound linemen on the other team.  In a similar vein, true believers should relish the battle because they are certain of victory and they have firm hope in the glory that lies beyond the battlefield.   They are valiant in battle because they can see the right hand of the Lord acting valiantly!

How does this Psalm teach us to worship God? 

Worship should include wildly optimistic statements of faith such as those included in this Psalm.  God tests our faith in worship as we hear the Word of God and exhortation, to believe and trust in God. On occasion, the worship leader might cry out a profession of faith such as, “The battle is in our hand!  By God’s grace, we will overcome!’  It is for the rest of us to cry out, “Amen!”  But that is a test of faith.  Are we able to say it? 


1. What are the Messianic references in this Psalm that are quoted in the Gospels? 

2. Why is it a bad idea to trust in men? 

3. What is the Psalmist referring to when he mentions the stone which the builders refused to use?

4. Which verse might indicate that the Psalmist believes in the resurrection? 

5. Give several examples of Thanksgiving Psalms. 

Family Discussion Questions: 

1. Are we happy warriors or glum warriors in the midst of our trials and difficulties?  At the moment that the battle joins most intensely, do we face it with the sentiments presented in this Psalm?  Is our faith weak or small in the day of battle? 

2. Does the Psalmist believe that God has already saved him or that God will save him?