Seder Psalm 118, Luther’s Favorite

1. Preparation

Near the beginning of the service, the Welcome should mention that many of the songs today will be taken from Psalm 118, the Psalm Jesus and the twelve sang before walking to Gethsemane.

a)    Song to be played earlier in the service: Blessed is he who comes in name of the Lord, Hosanna – by Michael W. Smith

b)    Hymn to be sung earlier in the service: Forever – by Michael W. Smith

c)     Hymn to be sung before the communion sermon: This is the Day that the Lord has made

d)    The Ushers should be prepared to pass the trays near the beginning of the Communion lesson – not at the end. Participants will take the bread and wine and consume them at their own discretion during the message.

e)    At the end of the message, the following song/video of Psalm 118 should be played. During this time, the ushers should pass around “cup” trays in order to collect the cups.

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2. Scripture

Matthew 26:30
“…After singing a hymn together, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

3. Introduction

Matthew 26 records the Last Supper – when Jesus sat down with the twelve at his final Seder Passover meal.

During this meal, there were certain things expected.

There was a sequence, an order, expected to be covered.

Similar to our modern Thanksgiving or Christmas experience, the Passover Seder meal in the first century was clearly choreographed.

Like our Thanksgiving, each Seder meal included 5-10 very specific foods plus several cups of wine.

In fact the word Seder simply means “in order”.

And at each Passover meal, a set of Psalms were sung – Psalms 113-118.

These are known as the Egyptian Hallel psalms.

Hallel is the word from where we derive our word Hallelujah, and these are the psalms of Praise.

These all focus on God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt.

It was typical to sing Psalms 113 and 114 before the meal began.

Psalms 115-117 would be during the meal with Psalm 118 sung afterwards.

The next time you read these Psalms, read them together and imagine yourself sitting together with Jesus on that fateful night when Jesus would initiate the Lord’s Supper, pray for hours in Gethsemane and finally be arrested in the Garden.

Then think of how Jesus felt as he sang the text of these Psalms – knowing they were about to be fulfilled by him.

In Matthew 26:30, we see that the final thing these men did before going to Gethsemane – was to sing a hymn.

In accordance with proper Jewish Passover custom, it is almost certain that they sung the final Psalm, Psalm 118.

Unlike many other Psalms, this one has no sub-title or listed author.

It is really no wonder that the great reformer Martin Luther claimed this as his favorite Psalm – dearer to him “than all the wealth, honor, and power of the pope, the Turk, and the emperor.”

Today, instead of praying at the end and then taking the bread and wine, we will pray right now.
And the ushers will pass the trays of bread and juice.

Keep the bread and juice and consume them at any point in the lesson or during the song that will be played following the message.

Consume them when you feel moved to thank God for Jesus’ body and Jesus blood.


Lord, your love endures forever. This truly is the day that you have made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who came in the name of the Lord. They rejected you, but you became the capstone. Bless our hearts as we take the bread and the wine today and consider Christ at his last supper, his final Passover meal. In the name of Him who came in Your name, Amen.

4. Discovering Psalm 118

Psalm 118:1-4, 28-29

Students of the Psalms often group verses 1-4 and verses 28-29 together. The beginning and the end.

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.”

28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Again and again, we are called to remind ourselves, “His love endures forever”

Psalm 118 begins by calling all worshippers to be reminded that we are all the same at the feet of Adonai.

There are three groups of people who are called to worship in the first four verses.

Let Israel say it!

Israel is the people of God.

That’s you and me.

Let the house of Aaron say it!

This is the Priesthood, those called to intercede.

According to Peter, you and I are now that holy priesthood.

Let the God fearers say it!

That’s referencing all the Gentile converts to Judaism, the God fearers.

That’s most everyone in this room.

So everybody–Jews and Gentiles, priests and ordinary folks–are to join together in one voice, one heart, one mind.

This psalm begins with the single voice of the psalmist, and it concludes with a huge chorus of praise and thanksgiving for God’s goodness.

Now consider what Jesus was thinking when he sang this – in contrast to all the other Jewish households who were singing this song at their own Passover meal.

This song shows how God opens the door to all who will convert – the God fearers!

And Jesus would take the door that is cracked open – and he would throw the doors wide open and welcome in the  masses!

Isn’t that the true symbolism of “His Love Endures Forever”?

Nothing can stop his love from reaching the masses!

The rest of this Psalm are broken down into two sections.

Verses 5-21 are sung just by the psalmist.

They are individual.

They are sung in the first person singular.

My God

My Deliverance

My Needs that God listens to.

This is then followed in verses 22-27 with a chorus of community praise.

Although I have an individual walk with God, I am part of a community that praises the Lord.

Psalm 118:5-9

Two issues are highlighted in verses 5-9: miraculous rescue and finding refuge in God.

5 In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.

I can imagine Jesus anticipating the Garden and his cries to the Lord.

And I can imagine how important those words are to Him, “The Lord answered me.”

6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Consider Jesus anticipating his upcoming arrest, beatings and crucifixion.

7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.

How ironic that Jesus’ view of triumph would be to die without sin, to forgive without bitterness, to obey without regret.

8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.  9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.

Who were the Princes in Jesus’ environment?

They were the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court), Herod, Pontius Pilate and the High Priest.

And Jesus knew he would face them in mere hours.

Psalm 118:10-14

10 All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.  11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.  12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off.  13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

This is reminiscent of Psalm 22, which refers to bulls and lions surrounding the Messiah.

Here we see the overwhelming attack from his enemies.

In a few hours, he would feel that all mankind was against him, even his closest companions.

Yet, we continually see throughout the Passion that Jesus remained in control.

He would decide that his time had come.

He would decide when and if to answer Herod.

He would control the conversation with Pilate.

And he would choose to remain sinless throughout the ordeal.

Psalm 118:15-18

15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous:  “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! 16 The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”

For those of you who have ever sat at a Seder meal, you will catch the significance here.

The key element of each Passovermeal is the Shank bone, the lamb bone.

Today this is often replaced by a Chicken Wing.

But the meaning is the same – The mighty right hand of God.

So as Jesus sang this final hymn, he was reminded of the Shank bone.

And as he ate the Shank bone, the meat of the lamb – yes, he was reminded that he, himself would become that Lamb, but he was also reminded of the mighty right hand of God.

Ironic, isn’t it.

The mighty right hand of God DID bring salvation, through the sacrifice of the lamb.

His lamb.

17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.

Yes, Jesus would die, but only temporarily.

He would die.

AND he would live!

18 The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

He would suffer…severely.

Yet he knew that he wouldn’t be left to linger in death.

Psalm 118:19-21

Consider these next verses and how they reflect the joy Jesus would feel after the resurrection.

19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; through which the righteous may enter. 20 This is the gate of the LORD you have become my salvation. I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;

Psalm 118:22-24

22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

This verse is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament verse.

In Matthew 21:42 Jesus quotes this passage.

Yes, Jesus would be rejected, yet he would be the foundation of a whole new beginning, a whole new temple, a spiritual temple.

24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

The next time you sing this song, be reminded of the bitter-sweet meaning.

Bitter agony for Jesus.

Yet sweet salvation for you and me.

The Lord made this day!

And the Lord made that day 2000 years ago – for you!

Psalm 118:25-27

These three verses may be the most haunting part of this final Passover hymn.

These lines are what the crowd sang and shouted to Jesus as they waved their palm branches during his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday morning.

They shouted, “Hosanna, hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (see Matthew 21:9).

25 O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.  26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.

Again we see the irony between the joy and blessing of God shining his light upon us – and the Passover sacrifice being bound to the altar, ready to be slaughtered.

Yet this Passover sacrifice, the Messiah, would volunteer himself to bound to the horns of the cross.

5. Prayer

Lord we have read through the Psalm that Jesus sang directly before praying in the Garden. Guide our hearts as we now hear this song sung once again.

6. Video of Psalm 118


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