The Hallel Psalms are a set of six Psalms, 113–118. These psalms of praise were sung by God’s people on joyous occasions. Psalm 118 is the final song in the collection and was sung to celebrate Passover. In fact, this was probably the hymn which Jesus and His disciples sang at their last Passover supper together.
In this song of thanksgiving, the worship leader calls Israel to confess that God’s faithful love endures forever (Ps. 118:1–5). Israel was not delivered from Egyptian slavery because they had a powerful army or brilliant military tactics. Rather, they were delivered because they trusted in our great and powerful God. The psalm reminds Israel that “It is better to trust in the LORD than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes” (vv. 8–9).
As Israel streamed toward the Temple to celebrate Passover, they would remember not only God’s deliverance from Egypt but also His work in saving them from their foes in their past: the Philistines, Midianites, and the Amalekites to name just a few (vv. 10–14). Remembering what God had done in the past encouraged Israel to trust Him with their present and future.
As the psalm celebrates what God has done in the past, it also looks forward to a future deliverer (vv. 22–26). When Jesus was faced with the unbelief and opposition of the teachers of the law and priests, He reminded of them of this psalm: “Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Mark 12:10–11). God’s salvation demands a response of faith and gratitude.
>> The same words start and end our reading: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (vv. 1, 29). Pause today to thank God for what He has done in your past and what He has promised to do in the future.
God, You show us the meaning of faithfulness. You have promised to redeem us from our sins, to give us new life, and to return to take us home. We give thanks for the already fulfilled promises that assure us You will fulfill others.