Praise and thanksgiving continue in these latter verses of Psalm 118, and once again we are called on to express our appreciation for God’s steadfast love and abiding protection.
Many of us have heard preachers open their Sunday sermons with words from today’s reading: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Any day we’re with God is worthy of celebration. On this day, the psalmist is rejoicing in salvation—for himself and for Israel—that the Lord has provided.
The two verses before this one are familiar as well. Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23 while telling a parable in Matthew 21. As Christians, we understand the psalmist to be foretelling that God declares the One rejected by religious leaders as the One above all others—Jesus is the “chief cornerstone.” You don’t have to know much about construction to appreciate that the first stone set when laying a foundation is important. Without a stable, well-placed cornerstone, a building can’t stand the test of time. Without a firm foundation in Jesus, people will sin and nations will fall. Likewise, without a fixed faith in something beyond himself, the psalmist would have been crushed by his enemies. Now he is granted admission into the Temple to give thanks, and he cries out for the “gate of the Lord” to be open so that the righteous may pass through it.
In addition to being words of thanksgiving, these verses can offer us a cautionary tale: Think long and hard before you cast aside something—or someone—on which you might need to rely later. Don’t concern yourself with public opinion, and instead mind the ways of God—for therein lies your salvation.
Thank you, God, for the stable foundation our faith provides. Amen.
The Liturgy of the Palms readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, when Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem in triumph. The psalmist celebrates the one who comes in the name of the Lord, who is celebrated with palm branches. Matthew then tells the story of Jesus, who enters Jerusalem in this way and is greeted with joy, such that the crowds quote Psalm 118. The Liturgy of the Passion points to the end of that week and the coming suffering of Jesus. Isaiah and the psalmist describe being treated with contempt, beaten, and rejected. In reciting the earliest known Christian hymn, Paul in Philippians emphasizes how Christ surrenders his glory and is subjected to humiliation and death. Matthew recounts the passion of the Messiah, who is rejected as the prophets have foretold.
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How has God been steadfast in your life? How do you praise God for this continual presence?
Read Matthew 21:1-11. How would you expect a ruler to enter a city? How is Jesus’ entrance the same? How is it different?
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. What does being a servant of God look like? How does God help you live as a servant?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. Consider the author’s suggestion that Jesus manifests his divinity by being completely obedient to God. How does this change the way you think about the divine image within you?
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