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Summary: This cycle of six psalms, known as the “Egyptian Hallel” (praise), was used at Passover. While only one psalm mentions Egypt, the theme of each fits the season during which Israel celebrated redemption from a condition of slavery.

PASSOVER PRAISE

PSALMS 113–118

“The LORD remembers us and will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel, He will bless the house of Aaron, He will bless those who fear the LORD—small and great alike” (Ps. 115:12–13).

This cycle of six psalms, known as the “Egyptian Hallel” (praise), was used at Passover. While only one psalm mentions Egypt, the theme of each fits the season during which Israel celebrated redemption from a condition of slavery.

Overview

Israel celebrated the Passover season with this cycle of six psalms. They affirmed God for raising up the oppressed (Ps. 113) and for deliverance from Egypt (Ps. 114). They offered the praise of the community (Ps. 115), the individual (Ps. 116), and all nations (Ps. 117). The cycle concluded with an exultant shout of praise that looked forward to Messiah (Ps. 118).

Understanding the Text

Psalm 113: Raising the Poor. God is praised for stooping to lift the needy from the ash heap and seating them with princes.

“Praise the LORD” Ps. 113:1–3. Passover was truly a season of praise. Israel recalled all God had done for His people as each Jewish family reenacted the supper held the night death struck Egypt and passed by the blood-marked homes of God’s own. At last Pharaoh acknowledged his sin, and released his slaves. Passover thus was a festival of freedom, a joyous celebration of God’s salvation. No wonder this psalm begins, “Praise the LORD!” and called on Israel to praise Him “now and forevermore.”

“Who is like the LORD our God?” Ps. 113:4–9 No wonder God is praised. The God of Israel, who is exalted over all nations and whose glory is above the heavens, stooped down to “lift the needy from the ash heap” and seat “them with princes.”

We Christians too have a passover to celebrate. God in Christ became a man, and humbled Himself to accept death, that we whom faith marks with His blood might be lifted up beyond princes, to stand before the very throne of God. Praise Him indeed!

Psalm 114: Out of Egypt. The very earth trembled as God’s strong hand brought Israel out of slavery to freedom.

The verses of this psalm allude to God’s historic acts of parting the Red Sea and Jordan River (v. 3), causing Sinai to quake (v. 4), and water to spring out of solid rock (v. 8). God’s love motivated redemption; His power accomplished it. Then, as now, all His people could do was to watch in wonder as God did it all. And offer Him praise.

Psalm 115: Israel’s Praise. This psalm is a hymn sung by the whole community, rejoicing in its solidarity as a people of the LORD.

“To Your name be the glory” Ps. 115:1–11. Passover recalls events which set the God of Israel apart from the deities of all nations.

Pagans scoff because God cannot be seen, yet their idols of silver and gold are inanimate lumps. Grasping the vast difference between God and all the gods, the people of God cry out together:

O house of Israel, trust in the LORD—

He is their help and shield.

O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD—

He is their help and shield.

You who fear Him, trust in the LORD—

He is their help and shield.

“The LORD remembers us and will bless us” Ps. 115:12–18. Together the people of God affirmed that God will bless (vv. 12–13), and wish one another His blessing (vv. 14–15). Together they “extol the LORD, both now and forevermore.”

Perhaps the thing we need to learn from this psalm is the benefit, the vital importance, of corporate worship. The whole psalm reveals a worshiping community that by its worship encourages all to trust God more deeply. We need the mutual support shared worship offers. We need the reminder that we are part of a vast company who know God, who have experienced His blessing, and who are confident that God will continue to bless.

No wonder the New Testament says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).

Psalm 116: Personal Thanksgiving. Passover did not only commemorate the deliverance of the nation. It spoke of salvation of individuals as well. The true believer was sensitive to the personal nature of salvation, and cried out his thanks that “when I was in great need, He saved me!”

“I love the LORD” Ps. 116:1–7. The believer of every age has had a deep sense of need, and an awareness that God has somehow acted to meet that need. Faith that “the LORD is gracious and righteous, our God is full of compassion” has been expressed by calling on the name of the LORD, saying, “O LORD, save me!” And in every age, that cry has brought the soul rest.

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