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Psalm 118

June 5, 2009

This psalm is simple and straightforward in its’ content but complex in its’ context. It is obvious that this psalm is liturgical in nature. It has parts for a leader and parts for the people’s response. The NIV Study Bible gives three different possibilities for this psalm’s context. They prefer and offer good comments as if King David is leading this procession of worship. I have decided to comment based on their third possibility, that of this being written and said at the dedication of the Second Temple and/or rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem after Israel’s return from exile in Persia. This psalm was evidently used during the Feast of the Tabernacles [vs. 27]. Both contexts are possible and/or plausible and both have difficult interpretations within the context chosen. Perhaps it is a psalm that was added to as time went on so it could be used at special occasions to bring special meaning and remembrances to the past and the present. Regardless, this psalm speaks truth, is beautiful, and promotes praise, worship, and thanksgiving to God.

The most obvious liturgical setting is in verses 1-4 proclaiming gratitude to the Lord because He is good and His love endures forever. I can envision Nehemiah, who acted as governor and was instrumental in rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall, and Ezra, who was instrumental in reviving obedience to God’s Word and the worship of God in rebuilt Jerusalem, leading the Israelites in worship using this psalm.

In the context in which I am commenting, Nehemiah would be the leader and speaker in verses 5-7 and 10-15. The people respond in verses 8-9 and in verses 16-18. Verses 5-7 would refer to Nehemiah’s being released to return and rebuild Jerusalem’s wall by the King of Persia. Verses 10-15 would refer to the opposition to the rebuilding of the wall by the people living outside of Jerusalem. The people respond in verses 16-18 as the nation Israel.

Verses 19-24 can also be read responsively in liturgical fashion. The gates may refer to the main gate into Jerusalem or into the temple. Regardless, the righteous are those who desire to enter Jerusalem and enter the temple courts to worship God and to thank Him for restoring them as God’s chosen people.

Verses 22-23 are prophetic in nature and refer to Jesus Christ according to the Gospels. But within this context the capstone would refer to God. God, who was rejected by Israel, is now able to dwell in His temple once again in Jerusalem. God accomplished this through His righteous remnant and the compassionate hearts of the Persian rulers. It could also refer to some disagreement in building the gate or temple. The Word of God is inspired so sometimes there is both a physical and a spiritual dimension to the text.

Verse 24 stands alone as a final proclamation and verses 25-29 conclude the liturgy led by Ezra at the temple with perhaps some of these phrases being the people’s response.

Understanding the context gives us understanding and clarity to the psalms’ message “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever”. This message is to be remembered forever. Praise the Lord!\

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