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.