Praise for a Parade
by Jack Wald | August 28th, 2016

Psalm 118

It is always amazing and a bit surprising to see where a sermon series takes us. We began in mid July to preach from psalms that are quoted in the New Testament and have looked at psalms 2, 14, 16, 22, 69, 110, and today 118. I have known intellectually that Jesus is revealed in the Old Testament. Patrick Havens, who some of you may remember, taught a Sunday School class that moved through the Old Testament with an eye on how Jesus is revealed. But there is something about this series that brought home to me the truth that the Old Testament reveals Jesus in a way I have not seen before.

I have realized more clearly that for the early church and for the writers of the documents that are in our New Testament, what we call the Old Testament was the Bible. There was no New Testament.

When Jesus told the Sadducees, (Matthew 22:29) “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God,” he was talking about the Old Testament.

When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the sacrament of communion and said, (1 Corinthians 15:3) “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” he was talking about the Old Testament scriptures.

When Paul wrote to Timothy and told him, (2 Timothy 3:16) “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” he was not talking about the four gospels or his letters, he was talking about the Old Testament.

When the resurrected Jesus met Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus, (Luke 24:27) “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Jesus used the Old Testament to explain who he was.

When we want to read about Jesus we go to the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When we want to read about how Jesus works through his followers, we read the book of Acts. This is appropriate. I don’t want to pull us away from the New Testament. If Abraham, Moses, and David had the New Testament in front of them, they would have read it with great enthusiasm and wonder. But what I want for us is that when we read the Old Testament, we should expect to see Jesus the Messiah in those pages.

There is one God who inspired the writers of the Old Testament and the New Testament. There is not a God of the Old Testament and a God of the New Testament. The law is not limited to the Old Testament and grace is not limited to the New Testament. The love of God, the justice of God, the grace and mercy of God is seen from Genesis all the way through to Revelation.

Next Sunday we will begin a series of sermons that look at appearances of God in the Old Testament. This will take us from Genesis, to Joshua, to Judges, and to Isaiah. Elliot and I are looking forward to preaching through this series. But today we focus on Psalm 118, a psalm that was read by the early church and seen as a psalm about Jesus the Messiah.

This is a psalm that takes us from the rescue of Israel in Egypt, up the hill into Jerusalem and into the Temple, right up to the steps leading to the altar where sacrifices to God were made.

This was a ceremonial psalm and in a few minutes we will read it together that way. Verses 1-4 lift up praise to God. The priest called out, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;” and the people responded, “his love endures forever.”

Then in verses 5-9 there are personal reflections of the one who will be revealed to be the king. This section ends with the great truth, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”

Then in verses 10-14 the king remembers a time when he was under attack and in danger of falling. “but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”

The priest leads in praise for deliverance in verses 15-16 and then the king proclaims in verses 17-18 “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. 18 The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.”

The king in the procession he is leading now stands at the gate of the temple and calls out, “Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.”

The priest responds, “This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.”

The king leads the procession into the temple courtyard up to the steps of the altar where animal sacrifices are made and says, “I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;”

The psalm ends in verses 21-29 as the king and priest lead in praise. “the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.”

Our own “Priest” and “King” will now lead us in reading Psalm 118. Our part, as the congregation, is to read the parts in the bulletin in the bold print.

Let’s walk through this psalm and see how it was viewed by the early church as a psalm about Jesus, the Messiah.

The opening verses take us to Psalm 136, the Great Hallel, the great psalm of praise.
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

In the Seder meal that we celebrate each year on Thursday night of Holy Week, the week before Easter Sunday, we read Psalm 136 that has the refrain, “His love endures forever,” as the second half of each of its twenty-six verses. This psalm celebrates the rescue of Israel from Egypt and Psalm 118, by using this refrain, is making a deliberate reference at the beginning to God’s rescue of his chosen people.

Psalm 118 celebrates God’s rescue of Israel from slavery.

Now, as David thinks back to difficult times in his life, he remembers how God was present with him and delivered him from those difficult situations.
5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

David had put his trust in friends who betrayed him. David had put his trust in members of his family who betrayed him. David had made alliances with other kings who betrayed him. Because of these betrayals David had suffered. He had been hard pressed. But over and over again he put his trust in the Lord who had kept him safe.

These verses contain great wisdom for us.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

We continually put our trust in humans, in princes, in people with power and wealth. When we have a financial need, do we put our trust in God to provide? Or do we look to people we know have money and expect them to help us out? In a political season in the US, some people look to a presidential candidate for the answer to what they think they need. But it is not a presidential candidate who will bring the healing the US needs; it is God who will bring that healing. The US needs to look to God for help, just as all the nations of the world need to look to God for help.

Brian Zanhd, who I quoted in a sermon a couple weeks ago, wrote about this political season in the US and said, (for those not from the US, the elephant is the symbol of the Republican party and the donkey the symbol of the Democratic party)
You see, having pledged all my allegiance to the Lamb I have none left for elephants or donkeys. I’ve placed all of my hope in the kingdom of Christ. My short form politics is, “Jesus is Lord.” My long form politics is the Sermon on the Mount. And I know good and well that neither the elephant party nor the donkey party have the inclination or ability to seriously embrace the cruciform politics of Lamb. That’s the gist of my political theology.

Psalm 118 reminds us to put our trust in God, not in people with wealth and power. Jesus said in John 14:1 (NIV84)
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.

Princes, political leaders, even pastors will disappoint you. Put your trust in Jesus who will never fail you.

In verses 10-14 David recounts times when he was attacked. When the early church read these verses, they saw those who had surrounded Jesus, trying to kill him.
All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.

When David spoke prophetically in Psalm 22, there were specific details about Jesus being crucified. In this psalm the specifics are missing, but there is a general sense in which Jesus was attacked, encircled and on the third day, rescued.

This leads to verses 15-18 and songs of victory.
15 Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.

When David came back from having killed Goliath and the army of Israel had defeated the Philistines, there was great celebration. Military victories were always celebrated and under the leadership of David there were many military victories.

But here the early church saw the work of God in Jesus’ victory over death. The celebration of Easter morning is seen in these verses. Jesus died but the grave could not hold him. He did not remain in the grave but rose triumphantly to life.

So now we come to where David stood at the head of the procession, at the gate of the temple, and called out, “Open for me the gates of the righteous;”

When David brought the ark of the covenant up the hill into Jerusalem, he wrote Psalm 24 that asks the question, (Psalm 24:3–4)
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
And the answer is:
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

But who is righteous? Earlier in this series we looked at Psalm 14, another psalm of David, that Paul quoted to talk about how we all deserve the wrath of God. (Psalm 14:2–3)
The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

Paul wrote in Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

David stands in front of the gate to the temple and calls out, “Open for me the gates of the righteous,” and how is it he is able to enter? The early church read this psalm and knew the answer.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.

We enter because Jesus is the stone the builders rejected and has become the cornerstone.

We know that when Jesus read Psalm 118 he saw himself because he quoted verses 22-23. In the Parable of the Tenants that is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The owner of the vineyard appoints caretakers and moved to another place. He sent his servants to collect his portion of the fruit but they beat them, stoned them, killed them. Finally he sent his son and the caretakers killed him. At the end of this parable Jesus quoted Psalm 118 to the Jewish religious leaders. (Matthew 21)
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“ ‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

It is because of Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith, that we are able to enter into the presence of God. It is Jesus who has made us righteous.

Paul wrote in Romans 5:1–2
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Jesus saw himself in Psalm 118 and this is why the early church saw Jesus in Psalm 118.

In the procession as David entered the gate of the temple and made his way to the altar, the people called out
25 Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.

Psalm 118 takes us from slavery in Egypt, up the hill to Jerusalem, through the gate to the temple, and then up to the horns of the altar. What is the significance of the horns of the altar?

When David was old his sons began plotting to see who would succeed him as king. Adonijah gathered his brothers and half-brothers and began his own coronation ceremony. When Bathsheba, mother of Solomon, heard this she went to David and pleaded with him to put her son on the throne. David gathered his energy and made Solomon king. Solomon set out with trumpets blaring and the people proclaiming him as king. When Adonijah heard this news, he ran for his life to the temple, entered the gate, ran up the steps of the altar and clung for safety to the horns of the altar. Only after Solomon promised him he would not be killed did Adonijah release his hold on the horns and go home.

The horns of the altar were used as a place of refuge, a place of safety. This was not foolproof. When David’s general clung to the horns of the altar, David ordered him to be killed anyway. But the horns of the altar were viewed as a place to be safe. That is certainly the sense in Psalm 118.

Psalm 118 takes us to the horns of the altar but Jesus takes us much farther.

The procession David led entered into the gate of the temple, through the court of the Gentiles, through the court of Israel, into the court of the men of Israel, and into the court of the priests, up to the altar. The closer to the Holy Place they came, the more exclusive the company became. Gentiles had to stop in the court of the Gentiles. Women had to stop in the court of Israel. Only male Israelites were able to come to the altar. Psalm 118 doesn’t go farther than this because only priests were permitted to go into the Holy Place.

Jesus takes us farther. Jesus takes all who follow him farther. Jesus broke the barrier between Jew and Gentile so Gentiles can go farther. Paul talks about this in Ephesians 2:14
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jews and Gentiles] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

Jesus broke the barrier between men and women so women can go farther. (Galatians 3:26–28)
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And then Jesus took us where only priests were permitted to go. Jesus led us into the holy place where priests entered to make offerings. It was a great honor to be chosen to enter this holy room. The priest who entered to make offerings to God was chosen by lots for this honor. This is where Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, received a visit from the angel of the Lord who announced he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son in their old age.

Beyond this was the Holy of Holies, separated by a curtain from the rest of the room. The Ark of the Covenant contained the staff of Aaron that budded, a golden pot containing manna, and the stone tablets with the ten commandments. The Ark of the Covenant was placed in this room. Into this room, the Holy of Holies, only the High Priest was permitted to enter. And even the High Priest was able to enter the Holy of Holies only once each year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The curtain or veil that separated the most holy place from where the priests entered to make sacrifices, was made of many layers of cloth and was about a meter thick. The curtains overlapped and made a small maze through which the priest walked.

Do you remember what happened when Jesus died on the cross? (Luke 23:44–46)
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

With the death of Jesus the final barrier between us and God was removed.
(Hebrews 4:14–16)
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

We no longer need a priest to intercede for us; we are able to come directly to Jesus ourselves. The veil that separated God from men and women has been torn apart. We have access to the Father through the Son. Jesus took us all the way into the Most Holy place, into the intimacy of being present with God.

Psalm 118 began with a call to give praise to God.
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Shouts of joy came from seeing the powerful work of God for our good.
15 Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem for his last week on earth, the crowds recognized him as Messiah in giving praise that comes from this psalm.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.

Psalm 118 ends with praise
28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Psalm 118 led David and the procession following him up to the altar of sacrifice in the Temple. Jesus walked up the steps of the altar but instead of grabbing on to the horns for safety, he sacrificed himself, one time, for all people. (Hebrews 9:11)
[Jesus] did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Because of what Jesus has done for us, we no longer have to go to the temple to offer blood sacrifices for our sins. We no longer have to have a high priest who offers sacrifices for our sins each year on the day of atonement. Jesus has paid the price for us and we are able to enter boldly into the presence of God, not because we deserve this, not because we are righteous, but because Jesus has covered us with his righteousness.

For this reason we give praise to Jesus and we never tire of giving praise to Jesus. For this reason we cling to Jesus. Even in the most painful moments of our lives, we cling to Jesus. Even when we are filled with doubts, we cling to Jesus. As Peter said when Jesus asked if he and the other disciples would desert him because of his teaching, (John 6:68)
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

To whom will you go? Will you chase after the idols of the world, seeking approval from friends? Seeking the wealth and prestige of the world? Seeking the pleasures of the world? It is not easy to follow Jesus because at ever turn there is a choice to be made and the world can be so enticing. It can be so difficult to resist the temptation of what is offered to you.

I was in the business world for thirteen years and know all about wanting to earn the respect of peers. I know all about the temptation to seek pleasure when traveling. I know all about the temptation to give a gift in return for a business deal. I know all about the lust for a big house with lots of possessions.

I also know that these are dead ends that lead to death. They do not satisfy. They do not give you what you most need.

Only Jesus can satisfy the deepest needs of your life and if you have to sacrifice career for Jesus, that is the only rational choice to be made – if it is your goal to follow Jesus into eternity.

If you have drifted from the path where Jesus leads you to his kingdom, come back this morning. Repent and receive the grace and mercy of Jesus who will give you another chance to follow him.

If you have been on the edge, not sure if you want to make the decision to follow Jesus, let the Holy Spirit help you surrender this morning to Jesus who holds out his hand to rescue you from eternal death and lead you into eternal life.

Follow Jesus past the horns of the altar of sacrifice, into the Holy Place, into the Most Holy Place where you will discover intimacy with God who created you and wants you to live with him in his eternal home.