The Praise of His Presence
As Nehemiah and the men of Jerusalem constructed the city wall, they had encountered angry opposition. Their enemies were so aggressive that only half the men worked while the other half stood guard, ready to defend the city from attack. In fact, the builders labored with a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other (Ne. 4:16–17). But God strengthened Nehemiah and his crew and, by His faithfulness, they finished the task.
A Messianic psalm, Psalm 118 is among the most-quoted in the New Testament. It celebrates not only Israel’s deliverance from her enemies but also the salvation that would be brought by Jesus Christ. As sure as God delivered the Jewish people from their foes and Christ delivered us from sin, we can rest in the confidence that God will help us when we face intense opposition and persecution.
The psalmist called the people to worship by encouraging them to give thanks to the LORD (v. 1). God deserves our undying gratitude because He is good and because His mercy or unfailing love endures forever.
This specific call to worship was used frequently in the life of Israel. It occurs repeatedly throughout Psalms (100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 136:1). Apparently, it was also a common practice in temple worship to refer to three groups who comprised the congregation (see outline and notes—Ps. 115:9–11 for more discussion):
⮚ Israel—natural-born Jews (v. 2)
⮚ The house of Aaron—the priests or ministers (v. 3)
⮚ All who fear the LORD—most likely, Gentiles who converted to Judaism and lived in the land (v. 4)
The worship leader encouraged all three groups to openly praise God’s mercy (chesed)—His unfailing, covenant love (see outline and notes—Ps. 107:1 for more discussion). This declaration of God’s faithfulness was also an expression of absolute trust in Him. The people confessed that the LORD’s unfailing love endures through every trouble and trial of life.
Thought 1. Our salvation rests on the unfailing love and faithfulness of God. Because of His immeasurable love, God gave His only begotten Son to redeem us (Jn. 3:16; Ro. 5:8). Just as God was faithful to His people under the old covenant, He is faithful to us under the new covenant. In fact, Scripture declares that we have a better covenant with better promises than Israel had under the old covenant (He. 8:6).
We are saved, forgiven, and secure because God is faithful. He will not fail us, forget us, or cast us away. Every day, we should give Him thanks for His goodness and unfailing love. We should also trust Him completely in all circumstances with full assurance that He will never fail us.
The people gave strong testimony to what the LORD had done for them in their time of anguish. The painful circumstances to which they referred were their years of captivity in Babylon and the challenges of rebuilding Jerusalem after they were released. They cried out to the LORD for help, and He delivered them.
Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe notes that the LORD is mentioned in every verse of this section. “He was the one who protected Israel from their enemies and enabled the people to complete the work in difficult times.” The LORD (Yahweh, Jehovah) is God’s covenant name. By using this name exclusively, the psalmist was emphasizing God’s faithfulness to His Word and to His people.
Note that the personal pronouns I, me, and my are used throughout this section, suggesting that the writer was speaking of his own experience here rather than that of the congregation of worshippers.
The people rejoiced because of the great victory God had given them. Even as they rested in their tabernacles or tents, their praises resounded throughout the Holy City.
God’s people sang this joyful song while they marched in procession to the temple. As they approached its entrance, they asked God to open the gates of righteousness—the gates into the court of the temple, where God’s presence resided in a special way.
The thankful people prayed for God to continually deliver them from the surrounding nations and to sustain them in the land. In addition, they asked God to make them prosperous and successful (v. 25).
Psalm 118 ends just as it begins: with a call for everyone to give thanks to the LORD. The psalmist reminds us again that the LORD is always good, and that His mercy or covenant love never fails nor ends.