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Psalm 118 - His Mercy Endures Forever

INTRODUCTION: Psalm 118 begins and ends with a phrase that should help us to concentrate our thoughts on the Lord in thankfulness because "his mercy endures for ever." That phrase also provides a link to other passages of scripture that can enhance that thought in our memory as it was so closely related to dedicated worship at the temple in Jerusalem. The author and the specific time of writing of this psalm cannot be determined with certainty, but the working of the Holy Spirit gave meaning at the time of writing, and the way some verses were shown later to be about the Christ makes it a rich experience to explore and contemplate their meaning.

NOTE: All scripture passages are from the American King James Version.


Psalm 118 "1 O give thanks to the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endures for ever. 2 Let Israel now say, that his mercy endures for ever. 3 Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endures for ever. 4 Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endures for ever."

COMMENTS: the phrases "give thanks" and "His mercy endures forever" began to appear in scripture when King David brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. 1 Chronicles 16 "1 So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the middle of the tent that David had pitched for it: and they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God. 2 And when David had made an end of offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD. 3 And he dealt to every one of Israel, both man and woman, to every one a loaf of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. 4 And he appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, and to record, and to thank and praise the LORD God of Israel:" ... "7 Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the LORD into the hand of Asaph and his brothers." ... "34 O give thanks to the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures for ever." The first fifteen verses of Psalm 105 are the same as 1 Chronicles chapter 16 verses 8-22. Verse 34 of 1 Chronicles chapter 16 is contained in the first verse of Psalms 106 and 107. In Psalm 136 the phrase "his mercy endures for ever" is a refrain at the end of all 26 verses.

When the temple that was built by Solomon was complete, the LORD was again praised for his unending mercy. 2 Chronicles 5 "13 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endures for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; 14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God."

When some of the Jews returned to Jerusalem after the seventy years of captivity in Babylon, King Cyrus had given them authority to reconstruct the temple. Ezra 3 "6 From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings to the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid. 7 They gave money also to the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, to them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia. 8 Now in the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity to Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD. 9 Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brothers the Levites. 10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks to the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endures for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid."


Psalm 118 "5 I called on the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do to me? 7 The LORD takes my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire on them that hate me. 8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. 9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes."

COMMENTS: A similar expression to that of verse 5 above is attributed to David. 2 Samuel 22 "1 And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul:" Verse 7 has that aforementioned similarity. 2 Samuel 22 "7 In my distress I called on the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears." David's song is also recounted in Psalm 18 with verse 6 stated as follows. Psalm 18 "6 In my distress I called on the LORD, and cried to my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears."

In two other Psalms the author gave his reason for not being afraid. Psalm 27 "1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 56 "11 In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do to me." The Lord Jesus clarified the value of that secure position in the Lord because the threat of another man is limited to our physical life. Luke 12 "4 And I say to you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him, which after he has killed has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, Fear him."

Verses 8 and 9 from Psalm 118 remind us not to trust the help of man more than that of our Lord, and another Psalm reinforces that truth. Psalm 146 "1 Praise you the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul. 2 While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises to my God while I have any being. 3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. 4 His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. 5 Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:"


Psalm 118 "10 All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them. 11 They compassed me about; yes, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. 12 They compassed me about like bees: they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. 13 You have thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation."

COMMENTS: Even when the opposition has been exceedingly overwhelming, the Lord has demonstrated his absolute power over those who oppose his purpose in physical salvation in the record of historical events. Exodus 15 "1 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying, I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea. 2 The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him." After many centuries of Israel occupying their own land, the LORD was still the only source to prompt a song of praise for lasting salvation. Isaiah 12 "2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation."

The salvation of the Lord from death to eternal life is because of the righteousness he applies to us when we trust in him. Psalm 31 "1 In you, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in your righteousness." If we have trusted the Lord alone for an everlasting salvation, we have the confidence that he will not fail us when this temporal world has no more value. Isaiah 51 "6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. 7 Listen to me, you that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear you not the reproach of men, neither be you afraid of their revilings. 8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation."


Psalm 118 "15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the LORD does valiantly. 16 The right hand of the LORD is exalted: the right hand of the LORD does valiantly. 17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. 18 The LORD has chastened me sore: but he has not given me over to death."

COMMENTS: The right hand of the LORD saved the emerging nation of Israel from the pursuit of the Egyptian army and they greatly rejoiced throughout the camp as they saw the saving power of God for their physical lives. Exodus 15 "6 Your right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: your right hand, O LORD, has dashed in pieces the enemy. 7 And in the greatness of your excellency you have overthrown them that rose up against you: you sent forth your wrath, which consumed them as stubble." Israel was helped by the LORD over the ensuing centuries when they would call upon him. Psalm 34 "17 The righteous cry, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivers him out of them all."

The LORD had also prepared his nation to understand that chastening is sometimes necessary. Deuteronomy 8 "5 You shall also consider in your heart, that, as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. 6 Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him." When the kingdom of Israel was firmly established under Solomon, the principle of beneficial chastening was still applicable. Proverbs 3 "12 For whom the LORD loves he corrects; even as a father the son in whom he delights." Chastening is actually a blessing when it is not intended to impose an everlasting punishment. Rejoicing can return after the chastening has completed the intended purpose. Hebrews 12 "5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to children, My son, despise not you the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and whips every son whom he receives."


Psalm 118 "19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: 20 This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter. 21 I will praise you: for you have heard me, and are become my salvation. 22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. 23 This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

COMMENTS: The psalmist made his request to have that gate of the LORD opened that he could enter in and praise the LORD. Then he immediately began to give praise as he recognized that his request had been heard and answered as the LORD had become his salvation. . The key for the LORD to become salvation for any person has always been faith in his Word. Hebrews 11 "6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." Faith leads to eternal salvation by mercy and grace from the Lord. Titus 3 "5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

Religious practices are futile if faith in the true God is not the basis of all that is done even in the most strict adherence to religion. The religious leaders of Israel should have been building up a people for the Lord through their teaching, but they did not center on faith in God's word, and they failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus made application to himself as the stone the builders rejected, as he quoted from Psalm 118. Matthew 21 "42 Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I to you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." When that day of rejection of Jesus came, it was orchestrated by the LORD for his intended purposes, and therefore was cause for continual celebration in praise.

The Law of Moses had made provision for strangers to become partakers of the blessings of Israel. Exodus 12 "48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with you, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. 49 One law shall be to him that is home born, and to the stranger that sojourns among you." Leviticus 19 "33 And if a stranger sojourn with you in your land, you shall not vex him. 34 But the stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." As we consider this Psalm we can see that the LORD was preparing a much greater way for people to become citizens of God's kingdom because of Christ the corner stone.

After Christ had come in the flesh Paul and Peter both wrote about the pathway to citizenship in God's kingdom. Ephesians 2 "19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together grows to an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." 1 Peter 2"6 Why also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on him shall not be confounded. 7 To you therefore which believe he is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." Being called into his marvelous light to be among the people of God through his mercy should prompt us to show forth our praise for the Lord's bountiful blessing.


Psalm 118 "25 Save now, I beseech you, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech you, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed be he that comes in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD. 27 God is the LORD, which has showed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise you: you are my God, I will exalt you. 29 O give thanks to the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever."

COMMENTS: The psalmist requested that the day of rejoicing that the LORD has made with the stone the builders rejected, be brought into thriving success or prosperity. When the time had come for Jesus to enter Jerusalem in fulfillment of another prophecy as the Messiah, a great multitude honored him as the one coming "in the name of the Lord" even before he reached the "house of the Lord." Matthew 21 "8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way. 9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." Jesus is the promised one in the line of David, and he told the religious leaders that stones would declare his coming if all the people stopped their praise! Luke 19 "37 And when he was come near, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38 Saying, Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. 39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said to him, Master, rebuke your disciples. 40 And he answered and said to them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out."

The psalmist wrote that "God is the LORD, which has showed us light," and we have this statement from Psalm 27 "1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" When Jesus came, he declared that he is the light of the world. John 8 "12 Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." That light of life is the eternal blessing from the Lord.

The second clause of verse 27 is not easily interpreted either for the Jewish sacrificial system, or for an allusion to the Christ. But it is clearly recorded that the blood of the sacrifice had been applied to the horns of the alter. Leviticus 4 "25 And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out his blood at the bottom of the altar of burnt offering." Jesus became the sin offering for all who will be saved, and his blood was on the cross at Calvary where he died to reconcile all believers to God. Leviticus 8 "15 And he slew it; and Moses took the blood, and put it on the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured the blood at the bottom of the altar, and sanctified it, to make reconciliation on it." Our Savior Jesus Christ satisfied all the elements of sacrifice to grant us everlasting forgiveness of sin as we place our faith in his grace and mercy to us.

Even now we can join with the psalmist in earnestly requesting that the Lord bring to pass the perfection of success in his salvation when we shout in praise once more, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Matthew 23 "39 For I say to you, You shall not see me from now on, till you shall say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord." Our praise and exaltation will be unending when Christ returns to catch us up to be with him forever. But until that time, as long as we are in this body, we should have the attitude recorded by the prophet. Isaiah 25 "1 O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things; your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth."


Lord, I thank you for this wonderful psalm that can helped me to keep in mind that your mercy to me endures forever! What a great comfort this can be especially in those times of my life when I need to take my focus off of difficulties, and direct praise to you for your great love in preparation for eternity. I want to call upon you, Lord, in faith, with the confidence that you will answer every request made according to your will. I understand that since my citizenship is in heaven, I am in the midst of many who have allegiance only to this worldly kingdom. This presents much potential for me to be surrounded by those opposed to your kingdom. But you, Lord, are my help in times of trouble, and I need not be afraid of what mere man can do to me. Lord, I want to genuinely thank and praise you for any time you need to chasten me because you do that which is necessary as a father who perfectly loves his children. The gates of the temple in Jerusalem were only available during a certain time in history, but the gate to that eternal temple has been opened to me through your marvelous mercy because you have become my salvation! I now eagerly await that time when I will be able to say, blessed is he that comes in the name of the LORD! You are my God, and I will praise you: you are my God, I will exalt you. I give thanks to my LORD; for you are good: for your mercy endures forever. Hallelujah!

Published 18 March 2014