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As Jesus entered Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, the crowds went before Him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mt. 21:9; Mk. 11:9; Jn. 12:13). What you might not be aware of is this, the people were shouting Psalm 118: 25-26.
Psalm 118 is the crown jewel of a very special collection of Psalms, the Hallel Psalms, which consists of Psalms 113-118. These Psalms were sung in celebration of the Exodus from Egypt. They were sung during the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. These Psalms were sung in homes, synagogues, on the road to Jerusalem, but especially as the ancient kings of Israel led the people into the Temple for worship. In ancient Israel, the king was the worship leader of the people. In fact, most of the Psalms were either directly composed by one of the kings or by someone closely associated with him. Moreover, the people were aware that the kings were serving in a prophetic role as well, as types, pointing to the great and final King—The Messiah.
We see this reflected in all the accounts of Palm Sunday. The people were not just singing the Hallel Psalms, but they were singing them to Jesus and assigning to Jesus the Messianic titles of “Son of David,” “The one who comes in the Name of the Lord” and “The King of Israel”!
Consequently, Psalm 118, in fact all the Psalms, are Jesus’ Psalms. As the great and final worship leader of Israel, the Psalms are the songs Jesus sings and leads the people in singing. Moreover, as the eternal Word of God, Jesus is the author of all Scripture, especially the Psalms. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus inspired the human authors of Scripture. The voice we hear leading the people of God in worship in Psalm 118, is the voice of Jesus!
This is a lengthy Psalm, and I do not want you to forget what it says. Consequently, I going to read it as I expound upon it. The first major section of Psalm 118, is...

The King’s Call to Worship (vs. 1-9)

Psalm 118 begins as it ends, with these words:
Psalm 118:1 ESV
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
God’s steadfast love is His unwavering commitment to His people. We live in a world of broken promises and broken relationships, but over all this carnage, God remains faithful. This is the Hebrew word that inspired the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.
Jesus, as the Great Worship Leader, is calling his people to remember that His Heavenly Father is a promise keeping God.
Oh, how we need to remember this. It is so easy for us to project onto God the faults and failing of the people around us. We have a hard time trusting God, because we have a hard time trusting people. In Psalm 27, Jesus our Great Worship Leader, leads us in singing, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.”
As you come into worship, you need to remind yourself that God the Father is ready and willing to take you in! This truth is so important, Jesus calls ALL His people, be they ethnic Israelites, Priests or Gentile converts:
Psalm 118:2–4 ESV
Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
No one is left out and that includes you. Worship is not passive; you are being called by Christ to shout out God’s praise as that crowd did on the first Palm Sunday. King Jesus is here! Will you not shout out His praise?
Because we live in such an unfaithful world, words are often empty promises. Therefore, King Jesus now gives as a brief testimony of God’s steadfast love. He will give as a fuller testimony in a moment, but it is important right from the beginning that God’s steadfast love is based on fact, not fiction.
Psalm 118:5–7 ESV
Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
There is an important point of truth in this brief testimony. When Israel in Egypt, David in the wilderness and Jesus in the Garden cried out to God in their distress, God did not immediately deliver them; there was a delay. Perhaps some of you came here today discouraged, believing that God has not heard your prayers. Do you not hear the testimony of Jesus? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed with “loud cries and tears” (Heb 5:7) and by all appearances it appeared as though God had not heard; that very night He was arrested, the next day He was crucified and the day after that He lay in the grave, but the third day, He was raised from the dead! This is why our Great Worship Leader leads us in singing:
Psalm 118:8–9 ESV
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
In our sinfulness, we have a tendency to trust in men or princes. As the Great Worship Leader, Jesus is calling us to trust in the Lord. A call to worship is a call to faith, faith that is lived out all seven days a week. What you do on this day sets the course of your entire week; in fact your entire life! Make no mistake, if you are not making it a regular practice to be a part of corporate worship you are trusting in something other than God.
I often hear people say, “I can worship God just as well in nature or at home as I can in church”.
My responses is this, “Tell me were God says that!” God says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex 20:8) and “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together” (Heb 10:25). Whose word are you trusting: yours or God’s? I am not questioning your sincerity, but I am questioning your choice, because in trusting in your word rather than God’s Word, you are trusting and worshiping an idol! You heard me right, an idol! The true God, the God of revealed to us in Scripture, calls His people to corporate worship. An idol cannot save. Those who forsake corporate worship are like those Isaiah speaks of saying, “They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save.” (Is 45:19) What a poor, poor choice you are making!
However, the true God can save: we see proof of this in the testimony of King Jesus.

The King’s Testimony of God’s Steadfast Love (vs. 10-18)

The King’s testimony begins by recalling a time with the King surrounded on all sides by his enemies.
Psalm 118:10–13 ESV
All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.
On first reading, it appears that the King’s foes were all Gentiles, “the nations”, but in verses 22-23, we learn that the Messiah’s foes included the “builders” of Israel, a poetic ways of saying the leaders of Israel:
Psalm 118:22–23 ESV
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
The “builders” are the men of power in Israel. Isaiah the prophet speaks of how the leaders of Israel boasted that they had “made a covenant with death” and “made lies their refuge” (Is 28:15). Here is God’s response:
Isaiah 28:16 ESV
therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
King Jesus’ testimony is that God is a God who is able to save!
Psalm 118:14–16 ESV
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”
That same right hand can save you as well! This morning, some of you are feeling as thought you are surrounded by a host of foes. Some of you are feeling as though the troubles of life are pushing hard against you, so hard that you are falling. The Father was Jesus’ help (Ps. 118:13), He will also be your help! You shall not die, but you will live, and you will recount the deeds of the Lord (Ps 118:17)!
Do you not see the true, deeper meaning of Palm Sunday? The King’s triumph becomes our triumph!

The King’s Triumph Becomes Ours (vs. 19-29)

As I read this last portion of Psalm 118, notice how the voice of the people are added to the voice of the King.
Under the Old Covenant, the king would enter into the courts of the Temple in a great procession during the three annual pilgrim feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles in order to lead the people in worship. The gate by which he entered was called the Gate of Righteousness. He could only do so by bringing a festal sacrifice tied up with cords, which it would be sacrificed at the horns of the altar. As the king approached the gate, he would ask permission to enter:
Psalm 118:19 ESV
Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
The people would respond:
Psalm 118:25–26 ESV
Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.
All this was a type or shadow to be fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus by his own merit and righteousness would pass though the gates of righteousness, not in the earthly Temple, but in the true Heavenly Temple. Moreover, He would not bring a lamb, bound to the horns of the altar, but He Himself was the sacrifice, bound not with cords but nails, upon a cross, not upon the horns of the alter (Hebrews 9:24-26)!
How perfectly Jesus has fulfilled everything the Old Testament pointed to! Now that Christ, our High Priest and King has opened the way with His blood, we too may enter, not just into the court of Israel, but also into the Holy of Holies itself!
Hebrews 10:19–22 ESV
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
The ancient Israelites would respond to the sight of the King sacrificing the lamb upon the horns of the altar with these words:
Psalm 118:25–29 ESV
Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
As you have seen today the true meaning of Palm Sunday, how will you respond? Will you take up the ancient chorus and add your voice to their voice by singing, Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!
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