Summary: Psalm 118 is a powerful song of Praise. But behind this psalm of praise is a great deal of pain. What was the pain that led David to write this hymn to God, and what can we learn from David’s pain that make our song as powerful as his?
(We opened by playing Chris Tomlin’s “Forever” song found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjrAeWCOg6Q&feature=fvwrel. Immediately after the song, I read Psalm 118 in its entirety, and prayed.)
APPLY: The Psalm we’ve read today has inspired numerous hymns and contemporary songs.
· One of the best known is called “This is the Day that the Lord has made”
· And of course, it inspired the song by Chris Tomlin that we played during the offertory time. And I noticed this morning that it also was the basis for the first verse of “In Christ Alone”.
· When I was at camp we sang another song based on this Psalm: “My Lord, my God, my strength my song, has now become my salvation”
· And it has inspired many lesser known songs including one by a Reggae singer named Bob Marley called “Corner Stone”.
Many believe this was one of the “Psalms of Ascent” that Jews would sing on their way up to Jerusalem to take part in the Sacrifices and Feast Days. And there is some reason to believe that this was the Psalm that Jesus and His disciples might have sung right after their last Passover meal.
In addition, the 118th Psalm - is a Messianic Psalm. The part of the Psalm that talks about the cornerstone that was rejected by the builders was quoted by both Jesus and Peter as being about Christ.
This is a POWERFUL Psalm of praise. In fact, it’s so powerful, that one of the preachers in our group – as he was preparing his sermon on this Psalm – found himself being so consumed by it as he read it aloud, that he thought it was a shame he couldn’t just read it with all the power he could put into it... and then close with a word of prayer and send everybody home.
This is a great Psalm of Praise. You can almost sense the Israelites dancing in joy as they sang it.
But lying behind the Praise in this Psalm there appears to be a great deal of pain.
In verse 5, David writes “In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.”
Then in verses 10-13 he says:
“All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me.
And then in verse 18 he says
“The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.”
Now, this Psalm doesn’t tell us what had happened to David that had caused him so much pain, but a couple of possibilities come to mind. And the one that appeals to me concerns the time in David’s life when he’d been a servant in King Saul’s palace. Because of David’s heroics as a soldier for Israel, King Saul sensed that this young man was a threat to his throne and sought to kill David on several occasions.
Realizing he had to run for his life, David fled into the wilderness for safety. Ultimately, he fled to the cities of the Philistine’s (Israel’s arch-enemies) to hide out… and at one point feigned madness to avoid being imprisoned by the town leaders.
In time, David drew to himself several hundred men who were either in debt, in distress or discontented with King Saul’s leadership. And his small army eventually made an alliance with the Philistines for protection from Saul. Part of that alliance apparently involved pledging to attack the cities of the Israelites to prove their loyalty. But David “fudged” a little on that agreement. He would attack cities… but they were Philistine cities. And when he returned to the Philistines who were protecting him, he claimed the plunder from his raids came from Israelite cities.
This was a very difficult time in David’s life.
And I’m told that it was during this dark period in his life that he wrote the fewest number of his Psalms.
Now, the reason I’m focusing on the background of this Psalm is because there are believers out there who see others who’ve suffered in this life, and they want to help. In our preachers’ group a couple of the men noted that one of the things that irritated them when this would happen was that well meaning Christians would often tell those suffering heartache, that what they needed to do was to just praise God.
Apparently it was hard for some Christians to identify with the pain of others, so they simply say something like: