The Lord is the Redeemer
Topic: English Passage: Psalm 118:1-29
This morning, as we continue studying various psalms, we are going to be looking at the Old Testament psalm that is quoted in the New Testament more than any other psalm. Interestingly, as much as it’s quoted in the New Testament, I don’t think it’s a psalm that would make the top ten list of psalms if we had to make one. For whatever reason, this psalm just isn’t that well known. Some of the verses will probably be familiar, but most people don’t know where they came from.
The psalm we’ll be looking at today is Psalm 118, so I invite you to turn there with me in your Bibles. Psalm 118.
In total, we’ve got 150 psalms. The shortest is only two verses, and the longest is 176 verses. The average length of a psalm is about 16 verses, and over half of them have less than 12 verses.
Psalm 118 is a longer psalm. It’s 29 verses. As we read it, you’re going to notice a good amount of repetition, and that’s intentional. Let’s read it. Psalm 118. This is the word of the Lord.
According to Christian tradition, the Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. That is a reference to Jesus entering Jerusalem about a week before His Resurrection. He came near to Jerusalem and sent two disciples ahead of Him to find a young donkey, a colt which no one else had ever ridden.
Entering Jerusalem on a donkey was in accordance with the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. Israel’s King would come to them gentle and humble, seated on a donkey.
The crowds of Israelites who had gathered in the city in celebration of and anticipation of Passover understood the significance of what Jesus was doing. So, when they found out Jesus was coming into the city, they plucked branches from the palm trees and went out to greet Him. Many of them spread their cloaks on the road as well as the leaves they had picked.
Taking note of what was happening, the Pharisees said, “Look, the whole world has gone after Him!”
As Jesus was entering the city, the people began to cheer and to praise God. This was the man who had recently raised Lazarus from the dead. This is the man who had repeatedly made God’s power known in Israel. And so, the people began to shout: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”
This was the peak of the people’s excitement and expectation. And in effect, the people were proclaiming, “Jesus is our Redeemer! Jesus is our Savior!”
The Pharisees, jealous at the attention Jesus was getting and believing the words of the crowd to be blasphemy, said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke them! Tell them to stop saying such things!” And Jesus responded, “I tell you, if the people were to keep silent, the stones would cry out.”
Jesus was emphasizing that all of creation testifies to His glory. One way or another, He will be praised as the Redeemer and the Savior. To be a redeemer is to rescue someone from some sort of trial or difficulty. It’s like saying someone is a rescuer.
Now, some of the words that the crowd was chanting that day came from Psalm 118, and that is understandable because during the major festivals, and especially during Passover, the main songs that were sung were Psalm 113-118. Those are known as “The Egyptian Hallel.” Hallel means “praise.” And the reference to Egypt is because these songs were used to celebrate Israel’s redemption from Egypt.
So, Psalm 113-118 are psalms of thanksgiving and praise because the Lord is the Redeemer. The Lord is the Savior. This is what the crowds have in mind as they see Jesus entering Jerusalem for Passover.
At that time, the people didn’t understand the full significance of what they were saying, but they were quoting a very significant psalm. So, let’s get to know this psalm a little more and let it help us praise God as our Redeemer and our Savior.
Psalm 118 starts and ends with a call to give thanks to the Lord. You see that in verse 1 and then again in verse 29. Those are the brackets that set the tone for this song.
You also see the idea of giving thanks repeated in verses 19, 21, and 28. So, as a psalm of thanksgiving, it begins with a call for everyone to praise God. Look again at verse 1-4.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! How is He good to us? Let’s say the second half of verse 1 together out loud. Okay? For …His steadfast love endures forever!
Let’s do that again for verses 2-4. Let Israel say… His steadfast love endures forever!
Let the house of Aaron say… His steadfast love endures forever!
Let those who fear the Lord say… His steadfast love endures forever!
I wouldn’t make too big a deal over the groups mentioned here. The point is that everyone should be proclaiming this—whether you’re in the leadership or not. We all need this reminder, don’t we? We need it personally and corporately as a church family. We need to be reminding one another about this truth. When you get sick, when you’ve got some kind of uncertainty or difficulty in your life, you need to remember that God loves His people. He acts for their good.
That phrase “steadfast love” is an important Hebrew word. Other translations use phrases like “lovingkindness,” “faithful love,” “loyal love,” or “mercy.” The Hebrew word there is Hesed¸ which doesn’t have a direct English translation. It’s not the ordinary word for love or mercy. This is a word that points to a love connected to a promise. It’s covenant love rooted in the character and the commitment of the one who shows it.
God committed Himself to love His people. Even though they don’t deserve it, He pledged Himself to love and preserve them. That’s the love Christ has shown for the church. That’s the love husbands are supposed to be demonstrating toward their wives.
This kind of love isn’t rooted in how cute someone is, or how worthy you think they are of your affection and kindness. This is the love of commitment. And for that kind of love, we praise the Lord, and we rest in the confidence of His faithfulness. His steadfast love endures forever. That is the basis for His redemption and His salvation. God redeems and saves His people because He has set His love upon them.
Now, as a way of unpacking that love, this psalm moves into a personal example, a personal testimony of redemption and salvation. And although it’s personal, it’s also written generally so that all of us could identify with it. We can all say, “God helped me. God brought me relief. God gave me victory. God is my Redeemer and my Savior.” Let’s read that personal testimony in verses 5-9.
Hopefully you took note of the repetition there. The Lord is your refuge. So much of your life is directed or controlled by where you put your trust. You make decisions based on what you think will take care of you. Your true refuge is going to be made evident in your speech and in your actions and in your emotions.
If your refuge is found in the government, you’re going to emphasize changing it. And you’re going to feel frustrated when things don’t go the way you like.
If your refuge is found in the approval of others, you’re going to do what you can to please them. And you’ll get frustrated if you realize that the right people aren’t pleased with you.
If your refuge is physical comfort, then you’ll be taking steps to make sure your life is free of pain or difficulty. And you’ll get grumpy or upset when life gets uncomfortable.
If you’re refuge is control, then you are going to feel it when you don’t get your way or when circumstances remind you that you are not in ultimate control. You might get angry or worried or desperate, but it’s all an expression that your refuge is being attacked.
One example of how important it is to have God as our refuge comes to us in Hebrews chapter 13. The opening verses of that chapter are a call to pursue Christian love and hospitality and sexual purity. And for the Jewish Christians to whom the letter was written, that meant there needed to be a willingness to be persecuted. There’s a separation from the comfort or the luxuries or the pleasures of this life.
That was the struggle for early Jewish Christians. If they sided with Jesus Christ, they would be persecuted. They might be cut off from their family or their livelihood. But if they just said, “I’m Jewish, that’s all,” nobody cared. Nobody was offended. Their life could go on like normal. So, the temptation was to revert to Judaism in order to avoid the pressure on their life.
So, Hebrews 13 uses Psalm 118, verse 6 as a reminder to stay faithful to Christ. He is our refuge. He’s on your side. There’s no need to fear. What can man do to you in comparison to God’s power to rescue? If God is your refuge, there’s nothing to fear. He will rescue you. The Lord is your Redeemer. The Lord is your Savior.
Now, in continuing that theme of God’s power to rescue and to save, we come to verses 10-14, which some believe sound a lot like the ruler of Israel as he was facing the possibility of attack and destruction.
Some people think that this psalm was written by Moses back in the days of the exodus. Part of the evidence for that is that verse 14 says exactly the same thing as Exodus 15:2, which is part of a song that Moses and the Israelites sang after they crossed the Red Sea and God destroyed the army of Egypt.
Another possibility is that this psalm was written at a later time and was simply quoting those words of redemption. Either way, these were words that every future king could use to celebrate God’s redemption and salvation. Let’s read verses 10-14.
You can see here in Psalm 118 the repetition of the word “surrounded” and the phrase, “I cut them off.” The idea there is that from a worldly, human perspective, Israel should have lost. They were too weak to fight back against their enemies swarming around them, but a limit was set and those enemies did not advance. The king says: I defended myself successfully. They were defeated. So again, we thank and praise the Lord because He gives the victory. He is our Redeemer and our Savior.
Like verse 14 says, the Lord is our song. He gives us joy. He has given us a reason to celebrate. None of us liked the difficulty we were in, but through them God has shown us His power and His love.
In verses 15-21 you see the references to God’s right hand, which is a reference to His power. You also see the reference to God mercifully freeing His people, and so they respond with joy and thanksgiving. And since the Tabernacle and the Temple were not destroyed by foreign armies, you see references to the gates, which are the entry points. Let’s read verses 15-21.
Now, starting in verse 22 we get what is probably the most familiar part of this psalm. So let’s slow down and look at smaller section. First, we have verses 22-23.
Whenever a larger building was going to be put up, they used large stones as the foundation, and the most important stone was the cornerstone. That had to be selected and then formed just right, because it was going to set the angles for the rest of the building.
The image we have here in verses 22 and 23 is like a group of engineers or architects saying, “Nope, we don’t like that stone. That’s not a good one.” They reject it. But, as it turns out, that stone ends up becoming the most important stone of all—the cornerstone. So, something that the experts reject ends up becoming vital and necessary.
Doesn’t that make sense when we think about Israel’s history? This little nation, living in slavery under one of the world’s greatest empires of that time ends up plundering Egypt. And then, this group of ragtag nomads ends up defeating the Canaanites and establishing themselves in their place.
From an earthly standpoint, that wasn’t supposed to happen. And the same could be said for every other battle that Israel won. They were not supposed to win, but the did it anyway. How? It was the Lord’s doing. He raised up and protected and preserved a nation because it was playing a special role in human history.
So, as the nation recalls that time when God stepped in as their Redeemer and their Savior, they say verse 24.
Most people use verse 24 as a reminder to be joyful every day, and there’s certainly some truth to that idea. But in the context of Psalm 118, this is applying to a more specific day. This is the day when God makes His power known. This is the day when people see God’s redemption and salvation. Let’s rejoice.
More than that, let’s look forward to an even greater redemption and an even greater salvation which God is bringing. That’s the prayer of verses 25 and 26.
In Hebrew that phrase “save us, we pray” is “Hosanna.” Hosanna is an urgent plea for God to rescue and to save. And verse 26 recognizes that one day someone will come in the name of the Lord to bring a future redemption and a future salvation.
And so, in anticipation of that future day, this psalm ends with another proclamation of joyful worship and thanksgiving.
Now, what makes this Psalm interesting is that as the people chanted these words on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, they didn’t realize how these words were going to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. And they didn’t realize what kind of Redeemer and Savior Jesus would be.
What they wanted was a king who was going to free them from the oppression they were facing from the Roman Empire. They wanted someone to bring them true freedom. They wanted a political revolutionary. And a few days later, when they realized that Jesus wasn’t going to free them form the Romans, they cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Those words were a rejection of the Messiah and of God’s plan.
And there are still people who claim to follow Jesus but reject who He really is. There are people today, particularly in liberal or progressive Christianity, who claim that Jesus’ work wasn’t to save us from the wrath of God.
I saw a video this past week with Ibram X. Kendi speaking to a church. I’m not sure if that name is familiar to you, but he is an well-known author who, in his opinion, is fighting against racial discrimination. He’s an anti-racism author.
The basic idea he promotes is that all of us, and the United States as a whole are inherently racist, and he finds evidence of that in all sorts of places. According to him, there needs to be some sort of deconstruction. We need to create a system that does not end with different outcomes.
And one of the ways Ibram Kendi defends this view is by using Jesus as an example. He advocates what is known as liberation theology. He says, “Jesus was a revolutionary, and the job of the Christian is to revolutionize society…to liberate society from the powers on earth that are oppressing humanity.”
Well, let me just say, that is absolutely wrong. That’s dead wrong. Jesus Christ came, ultimately, not as a Redeemer and a Savior from worldly oppression. That’s going to happen eventually, but He’ll be the One to do it. Jesus came to save sinners. He came as our Redeemer and Savior from sin—the sin that would condemn us to the wrath of God in hell.
This is what the Jewish people didn’t understand. They wanted a political revolutionary who would free them from their greatest perceived needs. But they didn’t realize that they need to be rescued, not from their political enemies, but from the sin within their own hearts.
And so, Jesus knowing the people’s true hearts, knowing that they didn’t understand redemption and salvation, knowing that this was only superficial praise, ends up weeping over the city. He condemns the Jewish leaders for their hypocrisy, and He prophecies the destruction of the city.
At the end of Matthew 23, He says, “I tell you, you will not see Me again, until you say, ‘Blessed in He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” In other words, until they fully understand and accept Jesus as the Messiah He is, Christ will not return for their redemption and salvation.
You need to listen to those words. And there’s a warning here for all of us. Jesus is not some figure you get to mold to your liking. You either accept Him as He is and accept His message, or you will be destroyed. You will perish.
Your biggest problem is not your spouse or your kids or your finances or your health. Your biggest problem is your sin. That’s what needs to be dealt with. And the only way that gets dealt with is by confessing your sin and crying out for forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ who suffered under the wrath of God to pay the price of our redemption.
The Jews couldn’t handle this idea that their Messiah died. He was supposed to give them victory, and they wouldn’t accept that they needed to be redeemed for their sins.
But God has given us the truth. Jesus died because He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He died, and He faced God’s wrath, because that’s the righteous punishment which you deserve for your sin. As 1 Corinthians 5 puts it, He is the true Passover Lamb, sacrificed for our redemption.
He was the stone which the builders rejected. The Jewish leaders condemned Him to crucifixion. And yet, through it all He was entrusting Himself to the love and wisdom of His Father.
It’s interesting to remember that Psalm 113-118 were psalm specifically sung during Passover, and Psalm 118 would have been the final one sung after the Passover meal. So, when the Bible tells us that Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn before heading out to the Garden of Gethsemane, this is what they would have been singing.
The disciples would have mainly been looking back on the first Passover, but Jesus knew that the true Passover was coming soon, and He would lay down His life for His sheep. So, this psalm would have been especially significant for Jesus at that time. He knew that His enemies were going to surround Him, but He also knew that redemption and salvation were coming.
He was going to be resurrected. He was going to have the final victory over sin and death, and His people would be free. The Messiah of God would be vindicated. So, with that victory in mind, Jesus could say (verse 24), “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
And all of us who have experienced the redemption and the salvation of God can say the same thing. God is our great Redeemer and our great Savior. And so, we give Him thanks, for He is good. For His steadfast love endures forever!