Summary: To the Jews, Hosanna meant "Help - Save us!" But it morphed in its meaning in a way that gives us all hope. This psalm is jammed full of Messianic references and hope for the future king of the world: Jesus.
In this psalm we see the victory brought about by the Lord for a king of Israel. It is full of Messianic references. As such I think we can also safely look at it in terms of the victory God won for us over sin through His Son Jesus.
Let’s begin, though, in Mark 11, which we normally study as we go through the gospels or on Palm Sunday. In it, Jesus comes to Jerusalem on a particular day, and the crowds sing a particular song to Him as He approaches. (Read)
Keep verses 9-11 in mind—the song, and the act of Jesus entering Jerusalem. They are extremely significant. Psalms 113-118, known as the Hallel psalms, were always sung at Passover in the spring and the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall.
1 – 4
This refrain is repeated in Psalms 100, 105, 106, and 136. And it ought to be repeated often by us. God’s covenant love (Chased) is why we can rejoice; it is why we have found victory. Israel = the people, Aaron = the priests, and “those who fear the Lord” could refer to “God fearers” which were Gentiles who also loved “Yahweh.”
5 – 9
The word “distress” means to be hemmed in or constrained. The word “spacious place” means the opposite. It’s great picturesque language for how the Lord sets us free from sin that holds us in bondage. Verse 6 is repeated almost exactly in Psalm 56. Paul said in Romans 8:31 “If God be for us, who is against us?” This also reminds me of Jesus’ words when He came to them in a storm: (Matt.14:27) “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
No matter what enemy comes against you, the Lord is stronger—even if that enemy is your own desires that want to pull you away from depending on God.
Verses 8 and 9 are so true. Finding help from people who don’t know God is not wise, nor is trusting in the government to do the right thing. Only God does the right thing every time.
10 – 14
Surrounded by those who wanted to hurt him or his nation, the king here strikes out in the name of Yahweh. A swarm of bees is very dangerous and you don’t know from where the stings will come. But with God, opposition might flare up, but goes out as fast as a dry weed.
The picture of pushing hard to make me fall reminds me of what the enemy seeks to do to us, but though we might get pushed off balance, we will never fall for trusting in God, for He is both strength to our limbs, and a song in our mouths!
15 – 18
This is like in the movies when the armies return from a successful battle. They are tired but joyful. Here the king recognizes that Israel’s trouble was the result of them walking away from Yahweh. But still, God went to battle for them. Though we too rebelled against God (“all have sinned” Romans 3:23), we can also say “we will not die, but live” thanks to the salvation brought about by Jesus for us!
19 – 24
So now the procession goes to the Temple by way of the Eastern Gate (which has two sides, thus “gates”). This is interesting because the Messiah is supposed to come through the Eastern gate when He comes to power.
Ezekiel 44:1: “The man then brought me back toward the sanctuary’s outer gate that faced east, and it was closed. 2 The LORD said to me: “This gate will remain closed. It will not be opened, and no one will enter through it, because the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered through it. Therefore it will remain closed. 3 The prince himself will sit in the gateway to eat a meal before the LORD.”
Jesus walked through this very gate on Palm Sunday. In fact, in verse 25 we’re going to see the verse the crowds proclaimed on that day.
This gate has held significance for millennia. Right now it is closed and there is a Muslim cemetery in front of it. It will open again, upon Jesus’ return! (here is an interesting article about the Eastern Gate)
Verse 22 – the “stone that the builders rejected” is Jesus Himself. It’s referenced in Matthew 21:42, Acts 4:11, Ephesians 2:20-21 and 1 Peter 2:4-8). We (as humans and the Jewish religious leaders) rejected Him but He became the cornerstone of God’s kingdom. He is the thing that we all rest upon. He holds everything up. The cornerstone served two purposes: it bears the weight of a building and serves as the standard for leveling the rest of the structure. Peter describes Jesus as a “living stone” and us as “living stones”—laid upon Jesus. Jesus, who purchased salvation by His strength, now serves as the example of how we should act as we are built up into His church.