Vol. 3, No. 4
There can be no doubt that Psalm 118:22 is Messianic in its import because this verse is cited in the New Testament and applied to Jesus Christ. (See: Matthew 21:9 & 42; Mark 11:9-10; 12:10-11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-12.)
God would only have to apply this passage of Scripture to the Messiah once in order for it to testify that it was speaking of the Messiah, but he has done so on several occasions.
There are other views as to who is rejected in this Psalm some of which we will list below:
Some say that it was Israel who was rejected. We cannot recall Israel ever being called a stone or a cornerstone. Besides, God did not reject Israel until after Israel rejected his Son.
The text does not speak of God rejecting anyone, but it was the "builders" who did the rejecting.
Others suggest that the Psalm is speaking of the family of David, but that is exactly opposite from what God promised to do in an earlier Psalm. (89)
Others (Jewish writers) believe that it is David personally that is the rejected stone, but David is never pictured as rejected by God in any way; as a matter-of-fact he was a man after God's own heart. This can only apply to the Messiah!
Thirteen verses of the psalm are in the first person singular, and this causes us to ask "Who is the one doing the speaking?" To this question we respond:
If the rejected stone in verse twenty-two is the Messiah, then the one who describes his suffering in the first part of the Psalm must also be the Messiah.
Eusebius, one of the "Post-Nicene Fathers," set forth this view.
Some object to this view, which is undoubtedly scriptural, by saying the singers of psalms could not chant this hymn using the first person to refer to someone else.
We ask, "Why not?" Do we not do the very same thing every time we sing the words of that great hymn by Frances Havergal "I gave my life for thee, My precious blood I shed, That thou might'st ransomed be, And quickened from the dead; I gave, I gave my life for thee: What hast thou given for me?" We all understand that what we are singing is as if it were Christ doing the speaking.
Why then, should it be thought incredible that the first person singular in this psalm is the Messiah himself?
David is, no doubt, the author of this grand psalm, and it was written after the final defeat of Saul when David had come to the throne of Israel. This is reasonable because:
David was an Old Testament type of Christ, and could compose such a psalm as this.
No other character of the Old Testament had received such promises from God regarding the Messiah as had David.
It seems to this student that the main theme of the psalm can be set forth in one word, and that is Deliverance.
The psalm speaks of the deliverance of the Messiah from at least four different states, or conditions. They are:
Distress (vv. 5-9), Danger (vv. 10-16), Death (vv. 17-21), and Disgrace (vv. 22-26).
After we shall have looked at the introduction to the psalm, which we find in verses one through four, we will study the rest of the Psalm just as we have indicated in number 6-b.
This is a beautiful psalm, and one which should be set to music for those of us who are Christians, because we relate to, and identify with the Stone which the builders rejected!
The Introduction to Psalm 118 (verses 1-4).
The exhortation comes for the singers of the Psalm to give thanks to Jehovah for two reasons:
Because he is good.
Because his lovingkindness endures for ever.
This thanksgiving is to be expressed by several groups or classes of people in ancient Israel. They are:
The whole nation of Israel in general.
The priests (house of Aaron) were to testify of the fact that Jehovah's lovingkindness endures forever.
Those who fear (shudder, shiver, tremble, stand in fearful awe of) Jehovah must testify that his lovingkindness endures for ever.
The goodness and the lovingkindness of Jehovah, if we would carefully observe it from the beginning of time to the present would certainly make us want to offer thanksgiving of praise to him!
Let us attempt to define these two words, goodness and lovingkindness that came from Jehovah upon the Messiah.
Goodness That which is morally good, agreeable, pleasant, desirable, and beautiful, that which brings happiness and pleasure.
Lovingkindness the expression of kindness (gentleness) or mercy which is motivated by love.
Yahweh Brings Deliverance From Distress (verses 5-9).
The Messiah begins, in verse five, to describe his personal experience with Yahweh in which Yahweh had come to his aid, or given him help, while he suffered in the distress into which he had fallen.
Jehovah had answered him, when out of his distress he had called upon him, and set him in a broad place.
A narrow place symbolizes distress while a broad place represents deliverance.
We still use this same kind of imagery when we say, "I was between a rock and a hard place."
During the time of his sojourn upon the earth, Christ was often in prayer to his Father, and this was especially true when he had to face some crisis.
His greatest crisis came on Calvary, and before the crucifixion he prayed in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane begging Jehovah to allow the cup of suffering to pass from him if it was the will of the Father.
Yahweh did deliver the Messiah in answer to his prayer, but he did not deliver him from the agony; he delivered him through it!
Next the Messiah stated that God was on his side, and therefore, he would not fear what man could do to him (v.6).
The Lord (Jehovah) was his great Helper, and that realization empowered Jesus to set his face toward Jerusalem. (See: Luke 9:51.)
The Messiah feared not (did not quake or tremble in cowardice) what man (mere human beings) could do to him.
Jesus was so sure of the outcome of his life that he went to Calvary without fearing the pain and affliction which man would cause him to endure.
Jehovah took his part, that is, he actively aided the Messiah, giving him the ability to look upon those who hated him with pity and forgiveness (v.7).
Upon the cross he uttered the words: "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."
Jesus, in life, and in death could look any man in the eye because there was no sin in his life, and no guile in his mouth.
Before describing in greater detail the distress from which Yahweh had delivered, Jesus stopped to deal with a extraordinary principle in verses eight and nine. That principle is:
It is better to put confidence in Jehovah than it is to trust men, even the princes (kings) of the earth.
Man will always fail us, but Jehovah never does.
The Messiah's Emancipation From Danger (verses 10-16).
The seriousness of the distress which the Messiah mentioned in verse five is intensified in these verses.
Three times, in verses 10-12, the Messiah portrays himself as being encompassed by his enemies.
Those who put him in distress are spoken of as "all nations." This probably refers to the Gentiles who acted in harmony with the Jews to taunt, mock, threaten, and crucify him. The Jews and the Gentiles composed "all nations."
The Messiah goes on to say that they tormented him like a swarm of bees.
They encircled him like fire in a dry thorn patch that would burn very hotly.
Nevertheless, in the name of Jehovah, by the authority of Jehovah, the Messiah cut off (destroyed in the sense of overcoming) all his enemies.
In verse thirteen the Messiah seems to be speaking of an especially malicious leader of those who opposed him. He, no doubt, was speaking of Satan himself. Of this leader, Jesus said:
"You pushed me violently that I might fall." Satan's onslaught against Christ is one of the most incredible things revealed to us in the New Testament. It was by his efforts that the Messiah was brought to the cross.
When Jesus died on the cross Satan thought he had won the battle, but he received a rude awakening on the third day because the Messiah had more than sufficient resources for dealing with Satan, and with all the rest of his enemies.
The resource that Satan did not anticipate was that Jehovah helped Jesus.
For this reason the Messiah recognized Jehovah as his strength, song, and salvation.
Strength Jehovah was the source of the might and authority of Jesus.
Song Jehovah was the victor's song which was sung at the final victory by Jesus.
Salvation Jehovah delivered him from the bondage of Satan, of death, and of hades.
The phrase, "I will destroy them . . ." is found in these verses three times which indicates the confidence of the Messiah in his paramount victory over sinners and Satan. Since the ascension of Christ all judgment has been placed in his hands, and all authority has been granted to him, so he will be the final judge of his enemies and certainly will overcome them.
The Messiah now clinches the point of what he has been saying when he points out two important facts (v. 15).
There will be rejoicing, and at the fall of his enemies there will be salvation.
This rejoicing will be in the tents of the righteousness because they, like the Messiah depend upon Jehovah for their strength, and because Satan has been judged.
Then in the same verse, the Messiah said, "The right hand of Yahweh does valiantly."
The Deliverance of the Messiah From Death (verses 17-21).
Those who will not accept this psalm as being Messianic argue that the speaker in the psalm could not be the Messiah because Jehovah did not rescue Jesus from death.
While it is true that Jesus did indeed die on the cross, he was delivered from that death when he arose from the new tomb of Joseph of Aramithea.
The passage does not say that Yahweh kept the Messiah from dying, but that he was delivered from death.
Jesus was not forsaken to the power of death, but he rose again.
This passage cannot refer to David, because the Apostle Peter reported that David was dead, and that his tomb was with them even at the time Peter spoke on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:29)
When the Messiah returned from his sacrificial mission here on the earth, he called for the gates to the heavenly city, which are called, the gates of righteousness, to be opened to him.
And he spoke of these gates as those which only open to the righteous, and exclude all sinfulness.
The Messiah came back to the heavenly city to praise Yahweh. (v. 19-20)
The Messiah would praise Yahweh because he had been the salvation, or deliverance, of the Messiah. (v. 21)
Through this same gate, by which the Lord re-entered heaven, the righteous both of the Old Testament and the New Testament will enter to live forever.
That is why we sing: "I'll exchange my cross for a starry crown where the gates swing outward never."
The Messiah Is Delivered From Disgrace (verses 22-29).
The Messiah used a figure of speech, called a metaphor, to refer to himself in this passage as a stone.
He is the stone which the builders rejected.
The leadership of the Jews, who had been entrusted by God with the task of building God's spiritual Temple, refused to recognize him as the rightful foundation upon which the new spiritual Temple (the church) was to be built.
Though the stone had been rejected by the Jews, he did become the head of the corner.
The stone called the head of the corner was the most important stone in any structure.
Christians can only marvel at the circumstances which led up to the exaltation of the rejected stone.
On Friday evening the limp body of Jesus of Nazareth was removed from the cross and hastily laid in a new tomb.
The hopes and dreams of all his followers had been shattered by the rejection of Christ by the Jews.
But very early in the morning upon the first day of the week the disciples of Christ became witnesses to the empty tomb, and then saw with their own eyes the most marvelous miracle in the history of the world.
Death had been conquered by the Messiah!
The Psalmist speaks of the resurrection day when he quoted the Messiah as saying, "This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
In verses 25-27 the saints welcome the triumphant Messiah back to the heavenly realms by crying out, "Save now, I pray, O Yahweh; O Yahweh, I pray, send now prosperity."
Then a blessing is pronounced upon the Messiah in the words, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh!"
Notice the use of this very same blessing in Matthew 21:9 during the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. (It occurs to this writer that the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the holy city, the dwelling place of God, while Jesus was upon the earth was a preview of his triumphant entry into heaven after he ascended back to the Father.
Jesus also used this same quotation in Matthew 23:39, in his lament over the city of Jerusalem which would be destroyed about forty years from that time.
In verse 27 there is another expression of praise for Yahweh. The Messiah proclaimed, "Yahweh is God, and He has given us light . . ."
When Jesus Christ resurrected from the grave he brought new light (2 Timothy 1:10) to those who sat in darkness.
Matthew 4:16, ". . . the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."
Those who have been recipients of the light which God brings forth through the Gospel cry out in deep earnestness, "Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar." (v. 27)
This is a prayer that the sacrifice of Christ is a once-for-all offering.
A sacrifice bound to the horns of the altar would have the effect of being a perpetual sacrifice since it was never loosed from the altar. This is true of Christ.
John declares that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7)
In verse twenty-eight, twice the Messiah declares to Yahweh that he is his Father, and that the Messiah would praise and exalt Yahweh.
Yahweh is absolutely pleased with the earthly mission of the Messiah.
Such goodness of Yahweh, and of the Christ calls for them to receive everlasting praise from men and angels.
So, in verse twenty-nine, the Psalm ends as it began, and the newly enthroned king (Messiah) called upon all creatures as follows: Psalm 118:29, "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
There is so much that could be said about this marvelous Psalm which pictures the Messiah as the Stone which the builders rejected, that one is left somewhat overwhelmed.
How deeply we appreciate the fact that though the builders rejected the Stone, millions of others have not, and as a result of that we entertain the hope in our hearts of one day experiencing the resurrection and of going to heaven to be with the Stone which we have not rejected.
It is our prayer that all will strive for that goal!