Summary: How do we serve God in our lives? We can turn to Scripture to find out. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.
“This is the day which the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
Psalms 113-118 comprise a wonderful 6 psalm praise to God called the “Egyptian Hallel” (Hallel meaning praise in the Hebrew.) These 6 psalms were sung during the main Jewish holidays, Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of the Tabernacles. Traditionally, Psalms 113 and 114 were sung before the Passover meal and Psalms 115 through 118 afterwards, reflecting on their deliverance from Egypt. Psalm 118 was most likely sung by Jesus Christ Himself and the disciples before they left the upper room in Jerusalem the night He was betrayed.
We’re not sure who the author is, although some believe this is one of David’s writings. We’re also unsure of the date it was written. But as we look closely, there are two, perhaps better, possibilities. It was written during Moses’ day in the Exodus from Egypt, or it was written sometime after the Jews returned to Jerusalem from their 70 year captivity in Babylon. I believe it was written by Moses during the Exodus. The language is very similar. Moses wrote this beautiful Psalm to look back in worship at the Historical Passover and look ahead in wonder to the Spiritual Passover in Christ. And we are very sure of its importance. This Psalm is intensely Messianic and it is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament. Don’t you think this is important?
Psalm 118 has bookends at the start and at the end; “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Let’s look a few of these verses and how they apply to our lives today, and then I want to close with a powerful story of persecution, faith and endurance It’s a true story about a Godly woman who is worshipping with us today.
I love the start of Psalm 118. It’s very liturgical as the Psalmist writes “For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Verses 1 – 4; “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Oh let Israel say, His lovingkindness is everlasting. Oh let the house of Aaron say, His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Aaron was Moses’ brother and the very first High Priest in the tabernacle days. The house of Aaron represents all of the Priests. “Oh let those who fear the Lord say, His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Other meanings of the word “fear” include love, reverence, or exaltation. This is something we should take to heart. Every day giving thanks for His lovingkindness with full knowledge that His lovingkindness is everlasting, or never ending, or His lovingkindness will continue throughout eternity! Praise God.
And then the Psalmist continues with honest truth. Verse 5 says, “From my distress I called upon the Lord. The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” Think about when you are or have been in distress. When we are in distress we can be experiencing great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; suffering, affliction or trouble of any kind. And freedom from distress oftentimes requires immediate action, not necessarily immediate solutions. It is God’s timing.
What is the first thing we are to do when we are in distress? The Psalmist says to call upon the Lord and He will set us in a large place. When we’re in distress often times we feel closed in and heavily burdened. God will take our burdens and take away that closed-in feeling. In place He will set us in a large open space where we can breathe and be at peace – even facing any kind of persecution whatsoever. Sometimes I picture myself in green pastures and beside quiet waters as David writes in the 23rd Psalm. It’s interesting that Psalm 23 ends with these words; “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.” God’s lovingkindness is His mercy and it is for eternity.
Psalm 118 continues in verses 6 – 10; “The Lord is for me; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me, therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.” Or in other words, those who hate us cannot hurt us, I will be satisfied with the knowledge that there will be those in our lives who will hate us. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in princes (or those who are in authority.) If we put our trust anywhere else other than in the Lord, we will be let down at some point. Don’t misunderstand, we are to absolutely respect those in authority and their positions, but our unconditional trust needs to be with God. Mankind will let us down, appointed and elected leaders will let us down, even our family members may let us down from time to time, but God will never disappoint. His mercy, His lovingkindness is everlasting.