The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone (v. 22).
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (v. 26).
This is the final psalm in our series on the messianic psalms. This particular psalm is interesting in that its fulfillment is connected with the final days of Christ’s ministry which took place in Jerusalem and in the Temple precincts. It has a solemn place in that regard, but the words of Psalm 118 are words of worship and thanksgiving despite the fact it reveals that Messiah would be rejected by the leaders of His own nation.
Save now, I pray, O Lord (v. 25).
In verse 25, the words “save now” “(Oh save” DBY) are translated in the New Testament1 as “Hosanna.” It is a prayer for salvation while at the same time an expression of praise. The “multitudes” cried this to the Lord Jesus when He entered Jerusalem as did the children in the temple (Mt. 21:9, 15). In doing so, they were fulfilling the prophecy even while the religious leaders were also fulfilling the Scriptures concerning the “rejected Stone” by their rejection and hatred of Him.
Of course the chief priests and scribes were not happy about the people and the children saying this about the Lord Jesus. They perfectly understood the messianic implications of this expression of praise. When the children in the temple cried: “Hosanna to the Son of David”, we read the response of these unfaithful “builders”: “They were indignant” and they said to Christ: “Do You hear what these are saying?” (Mt. 21:14–16). The amazing hardness of heart to reject Christ is evident in the Gospels—just as predicted in the psalm.
The Blessed One
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (v. 26).
Following the scene in the temple, and His official rejection by the leaders of the nation, Christ pronounces a series of eight “woes” upon the erstwhile shepherds and leaders of the nation (see Mt. 23:1–36). This is followed by an earnest appeal and cry from the Lord, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” (Mt. 23:37). How often He would have gathered them as a hen gathers her chicks but their hardness of heart was persistent.
The Lord Jesus then warned the Jewish leaders, “Behold your house is left to you desolate” (Mt. 23:38). This state of desolation for Israel would not be permanent for He says they would not see Him again until they will say “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord!” (v. 26 cp. Mt. 23:39). This is a well-known messianic confession and in fact His followers and multitudes of the people actually confessed this as He entered Jerusalem (Mt. 21:9). However, as we have seen, He received a different response from the rulers of the nation then He did from many of the common people and His close followers.
Some have taught that God is permanently finished with Israel as a nation. However, the Lord Jesus would not have said that their “house” would be desolate until they confess Him as Messiah if they had no future. It was not necessarily a permanent state of desolation but conditional “until” their genuine confession of Jesus of Nazareth to be their Messiah. When the Jews repent and turn to Christ, then God will send Him from heaven to establish the Kingdom (Acts 3:19–21). The Christian does not need to wait for any such earthly event for the coming of the Lord. May we be watching and waiting for Him!
If the Lord Jesus sang Psalm 118 with His disciples in the upper room on that last Passover evening (and most Bible scholars believe this to be the case) then this fact should be very touching to our hearts. Consider the close of the psalm: “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” (v. 28). The reference to binding the “with cords to the horns of the altar” would have had a deep significance to the Lord Jesus as the one who would fulfill the whole typical sacrificial system. We often sing:
Not all the blood of beasts On Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace, Or wash away its stain.2
J. Flanigan points out an interesting feature in the conclusion of Psalm 118 which should touch our hearts as well. He alludes to the fact that there are two references to “My God” in verse 28. As the Lord Jesus sang this psalm with His disciples as traditionally done at the Passover, He would not have missed the implications of the twice repeated expression, of “My God.” Only a few hours later, He would cry from the cross: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
The disciples of course, would have been oblivious to the deep implication of these words as they sang them, even as the shadow of those words had fallen across our blessed Lord!
1. From the Greek.
2. Isaac Watts.
3. What the Bible Teaches, The Psalms, p. 509.