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Saturday, February 9, 2019

A PSALM OF THE KINGDOM


The 117(118)th Psalm is a particularly important Messianic Psalm. One particular phrase from this Psalm will certainly be familiar to the student of the New Testament. The psalmist declares:

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. [1]
This familiar passage is quote by Christ, alluded to by St. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians and is also quote by St. Peter in his first epistle and sermon in Acts 4. In Matthew’s gospel this passage is quoted by the Lord at the close of a parable that He gives concerning wicked servants of the owner of a vineyard who abused the man’s messengers and then finally killed his son. At the conclusions Christ says to the Jews present “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”[2] In the first epistle of Peter the apostle references this passage from Ps 118 in support of his teaching that Christ is the “chosen stone” and that those who follow Him are “living stones” that build up a spiritual house unto the Lord. He goes on to call these a “royal priesthood”, and a “holy nation.” In the sermon in Acts 4, Peter challenged those who listen that they are those who rejected the corner stone. He then proclaims salvation in the name of Christ. Paul alluded to Ps 118 in Ephesians 2 in the midst of teaching that both Jew and Gentile are one “new man” in Christ. He says that this “building” that grows into a Holy Temple is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, and that Christ Himself is the “chief cornerstone”.[3]
            The brief survey above demonstrates the importance of this Messianic Psalm to Apostolic teaching. We also see the themes that are pulled from the Lord, Peter and Paul. The concepts of the transition of the Kingdom and the building of a house unto the Lord; a spiritual temple to offer spiritual sacrifices. Because of the importance of the Psalm, as demonstrated by its pivotal place in the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, it warrants particular attention. A particular phrase that is of interest in this psalm, and one I believe we will find of equal importance in the NT is “This is the day the Lord has made.” This phrase is more than an inspirational thought, but I will assert that it is an eschatological pronouncement. The Day of the Lord is the day of the Kingdom.


It is very likely that this Psalm was composed by David to be used in celebrating the return of the Ark of the Covenant to the city of David; and subsequently sung at the feast of tabernacles. [4] It has also been noted that the opening and closing verses of this psalm are mentioned in Ezra at the dedication of the Temple, and it is suggested that this entire Psalm was chanted by the people, and that this was, in fact, ordained by David. [5] We have already noted the motif of Kingdom and Temple with the reference of this Psalm in the NT. So, its origin in the rise of David to the throne and the dedication of the house of the Lord seem quite natural to its usage. In fact, the Psalm opens with an admonition for the people of Israel, the priesthood and then all those who “fear the Lord” to worship Him for the eternal duration of His mercies.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let Israel now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

The Psalm then goes on to speak of the deliverance and exaltation of the king in the midst of his enemies.

I called on the Lord in distress;
The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
The Lord is on my side;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in princes.

All nations surrounded me,
But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
They surrounded me,
Yes, they surrounded me;
But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
They surrounded me like bees;
They were quenched like a fire of thorns;
For in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
You pushed me violently, that I might fall,
But the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.

Following the historical setting of this Psalms composition, this must describe the time when David, anointed as king, ruled with Divine authority in the midst of his enemies. He was surrounded by “all nations”, yet he would “destroy” all of his enemies. We cannot help but note how this resonates with the theme that Paul presents in his epistle to the Corinthians:

Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.[6]

While this portion of 1 Cor 15 seems to be an allusion to Ps 110, the imagery of David, the anointed King ruling in the midst of his enemies, is certainly present. Vs 24 has typically been a difficult passage when taken to mean the Christ will relinquish the Kingdom to the Father. This however is not the correct inference. Here Christ does not relinquish the Kingdom to the Father, but rather wins the Kingdom for the Father. Christ is the Word of the Lord that will not return to Him void.[7] Christ is the Right Hand of God, the Arm of the Lord, and acts to subdue all things to the will of the Father. “Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and His arm establishes His rule. His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him.”[8]

The voice of rejoicing and salvation
Is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
The right hand of the Lord is exalted;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the Lord.
The Lord has chastened me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.

Here we see the theme of the conquering arm of the Lord vindicated. It is the voice of rejoicing and salvation. The Right Hand of the Lord does valiantly and is exalted. We cannot help but note the prophetic reference to the resurrection. This leading into the “opening of the gates of righteousness”:

Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter.

I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

This leads us to our opening passage. The Lord’s Day is a day of salvation for the righteous, and a day of judgment for the enemies of Christ. The righteous will “rejoice and be glad in it”, but the wicked will be judged by the Word of the Lord. What we see then is that the judgment and reward of Messiah in His kingdom is progressive and represents the nature of the Lord’s Day.

Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
God is the Lord,
And He has revealed Himself to us;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

The conclusions of this psalm is a prayer for salvation in the light of the exalted king and his kingdom. Save now…blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord. We notice that this is quoted by Christ as he confronts the Jews in Matt 23 “you will not see me anymore until you say ‘blessed is he that comes in the name of the LORD.’” The message should be clear, salvation is in the revelation of God that comes through Christ. Christ was telling them that the Day of the Lord was upon them. The time when Anointed would sit on the throne of David and subdue all things by the authority of the Kingdom of God. As Moses warned Israel before, “behold I sit before you a blessing and a curse.” In similar manner Peter compares the waters of Noah to baptism. That which lifted Noah and his family above the flood washed wickedness from the land.
The importance of Psalm 117(118) is established by the many references and allusions to it by Christ and the Apostles. This Psalm establishes an important messianic image of the King surrounded by the enemies of the nations, but resolving to “destroy” them all. The righteous, however, rejoice in this “day that the Lord had made” and exult in the revelation of God and His Right Hand. The Day of the Lord is described as a time when the “gates” of salvation are opened, and the righteous enter into them. The temple is consecrated and acceptable offering is made. The rightful and anointed King reigns, and all those who are his enemy are destined to fall. The repeated phrase “in the name of the Lord I will destroy them” indicates that this is a progressive and ongoing reality in “the day that the Lord has made.” This is an equally true statement concerning salvation in the Lord’s Day. The ongoing and progressiveness of salvation is inextricably tied to judgment. Both things are the economy of the Lord’s Day. The righteous enter through the gates of salvation and the enemies of Christ fall before Him. This leaves no room for neutrality. We are either gathered with Christ or scattered. This is the day that the Lord has made … may we find the grace to rejoice in it, and never be found to fight against God and His Christ.


[1] Psalm 118:22-24
[2] Mtt 21:43
[3] Eph 2:20
[4][4] Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible -Ps 118.
[5] Charles H. Spurgeon’s Treasury of David – Ps 118
[6] 1 Cor 15:24-26
[7] Is 55:11
[8] Is 40:10

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