The Chief Cornerstone
Matthew 21:1–10; Psalm 118:10–26
Matthew Lesson #121
May 29, 2016
“Father, we are so grateful that we have Your Word. Your Word informs us, instructs us, it reveals to us that which we must know in order to rightly interpret and understand all of the details of our lives, that we may properly orient it to You and properly orient it to Your grace.
Father, “Your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path”, as the psalmist said. And, we understand that if we do not understand Your Word as right, then we may not understand anything else correctly.
Father, as we continue our study today in Psalm 118 as background to our study in Matthew, we pray that You would use this to challenge us to a greater, more focused trust in You, an understanding of how You are our Deliverer, our Savior, an understanding that there is no problem, no difficulty, no challenge too great for Your omnipotence, too great for Your grace and that it is only through trust in You that we can have genuine victory in this life.
We pray this is Christ’s name. Amen.”
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Last week on Saturday was Armed Forces Day. On November the 11th we have Veterans Day. Those three holidays are important, but often people are confused about why we celebrate each one of those. Armed Forces Day is our time to honor those who are currently serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a day in which we remember those who gave their lives, those who have died in the service of our country in the wars of our nation. Veterans Day is when we honor those who have served in the armed forces.
Each one focuses on a different group and together they remind us that the freedom that we have has been bought with a price, that we have freedom because we have a strong military, and we have on numerous occasions had to defend this nation.
Each generation has to decide on its own if it is going to defend its freedom, defend the Constitution of the United States, and in order for that to truly be effective, then we have to have a generation that is informed, that is educated, that understands that terrible word that is so misused today and so distorted: “history.”
We have to understand history, and history isn’t what we want it to be. History is actually what happened. We have to study history. History tells us everything that has happened, and we can’t talk about any subject or think about any subject without thinking about history.
I was recently listening to somebody talk about church history, and they made one of those statements when you hear it you say, “Well, that’s just a blinding flash of the obvious.” This was a professor of church history at a seminary, and he made the statement that the course that he taught on church history was the most important course in the entire curriculum in any seminary.
He went on to explain something, and I thought, “That’s really true.” He said every time that you study anything, you study the exegesis of a passage, you’re going to read about what so-and-so said about it or somebody else said about it, and if you don’t know who those people are or what their contexts were, then you don’t understand the significance of those statements.
If you study grammar, you’re going to study things that other people have said about Greek grammar and the history of Greek grammar. Same thing for Hebrew grammar.
If you study anything about the Bible, you study theology, you study anything, sooner or later, probably a lot sooner than later, somebody’s going to talk about Augustine or Irenaeus or Origen or John Calvin or Luther or Wesley or Billy Graham even, and if you don’t understand who those people are, then you can’t really grasp what’s being said.
Well, you just take that and apply that to history as a whole. If you’re going to talk about freedom, liberty, government, politics, the Constitution, then that’s all embedded in history.
The history of discussions on freedom and liberty going back not just to 1776, but to those men who came together to declare our independence from Britain knew exactly what they were doing, and they had a whole history behind them of understanding what liberty was, understanding the role and limitations of government that came out of centuries of political thought and political development going back to at least the Magna Carta in the early 13th Century. That provided them with a frame of reference for being able to discuss things and to argue their position.
When you get a generation that doesn’t appreciate history, then they will destroy their future. A people who do not understand their past and how they got to where they are will have no future. That is one of the many things that is telling when a culture is on the path to self-destruction.
What has happened over the last 150 years as a result of numerous philosophical and religious changes that have taken place not only in this nation but in western civilization, we have reached a point where we deny reality. We think that we can shift and reshape the past in order to substantiate these fantasies of political correctness and liberal utopianism.
When that happens, when any individual lives in the realm of fantasy instead of the realm of reality, he’s on a path to self-destruction. When they start making decisions based on fantasy instead of reality, they will realize that it’s self-destruction.
Now when you expand that to a whole civilization, a whole culture, that’s what happens. We stand in this generation because there have been hundreds of thousands of citizens in this nation who have given their lives to defend the original intent of the Constitution—to defend liberty in this nation. When we take positions and beliefs that contradict that which gave birth to our culture and the greatness of America, then we are part of the problem and not part of the solution. And we dishonor their memories.
One of the greatest things that I’ve seen happen in recent years are a lot of free courses that come out of some different places, some different schools on the Internet, such as Hillsdale, where you can get a great education.
I encourage you to do that. They have courses on the history of the Constitution, history of the Declaration of Independence, history of capitalism, many different things. I encourage you to become educated more and more because this is important.
But the most important thing that we can do as Christians is to know the Word of God and apply the Word of God.
That’s important because as this psalmist writes, Israel has come out of a horrific time of divine discipline, as we have seen. His conclusion, the lesson that he brings to bear, is what he articulates in verses 8 and 9, that “it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence”—and the word there for confidence is the word “to take refuge”—“than to take refuge in man.” And “it is better to trust in the Lord than to take refuge in princes.”
See, that’s what Israel and the Kingdom of Judah failed to do in the time before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Southern Kingdom in 586 BC—is they were looking to Egypt, looking to human alliances, and looking to human viewpoint solutions in order to not be destroyed.
But when God determined to bring judgment on that nation, there was nothing they could do. In fact, God told them just to surrender. Jeremiah talks about this. God told them to surrender. Those who surrendered to the Babylonians would live. But they chose to disobey God and as a result, hundreds of thousands were killed.
We have to understand the Word of God. This is why in our study of Matthew, we’re going back to Psalm 118. Because in Psalm 118, we find that there are two verses that are quoted in this section in Matthew 21 that we are studying, and that also forms a framework during the last days of Christ.
As we look at this, the focal point this morning, the great verse that we’ll hit is Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” This is a verse that is quoted many times in the New Testament.
When we look at Psalm 118 in relation to Matthew 21 and that last week of Christ, just to remind you, in Psalm 118: 26, which says, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” is quoted and sung by the crowds as they welcome Jesus during His triumphal entry in Matthew 21:9.
Psalm 118 is then quoted by Jesus. Psalm 118:22 is quoted by Jesus as He denounces the religious leaders in Matthew 21:42, where He says to the Pharisees—now remember the Pharisees have all memorized the entire Hebrew Scripture—and He says, “Haven’t you read this?” What an insult! “Have you never read the Scriptures?” Then He quotes from Psalm 118:22.
He quotes from Psalm 118:26 again in Matthew 23:39 when He says, “for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
Then as they concluded what is known as the Last Supper, which was a Seder meal, a Passover supper the night before He went to the Cross, the last thing they did was they sang this song. They would sing Psalms 113 through 116 at the beginning of the Seder, and they would sing Psalm 117–118 at the end as part of the Hallel Psalms that praised the Lord. I covered that in the past.
So just a brief review:
Psalm 118 is the last of these Hallel Psalms. In the original context—now that’s so important because as we get to the heart of the passages that are quoted in Matthew 21, we have to remember what the original context was because that sets the framework for why these people are singing “Save now.” The Hebrew word is hoshiy’a na which is translated into Greek as HOSANNA. Why are they singing that?
The original context would have been sung by a procession of people being led by a political religious leader up to the Temple Mount. Jesus is entering into Jerusalem. It’s not that large back then. He’s going to be going up to the Temple Mount, and they are singing this psalm.
The psalm in its original context was a communal thanksgiving psalm for a deliverance that God had given them over to their enemies and had brought them back to the land. That’s the core to be able to understand the significance of what is being said here.
Last week I said that there are basic elements that you find in any thanksgiving psalm:
- Proclamation to praise God. That’s the first four verses.
- An introductory summary of what had taken place in verses 5–7.
- Then a report of the deliverance in verses 10–18, which is about as far as we got last time.
- Then there’s a renewed vow of praise in Psalm 118:19–28
- And then the closing praise or instruction, Psalm 118: 8–9, and then again in verse 29.
I also pointed out that we don’t know who wrote it. We really don’t know precisely the occasion for the psalm, but because of things that are said, we know that it’s a time where they’re delivered from a time of severe chastening from the Lord, a time of severe divine discipline.
The heart of the praise is Psalm 118:6–9 which focuses on the Lord, that the Lord is our only solution of hope, the only One who can deliver us.
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear”—great verses to memorize—“What can man do to me?”
“The Lord is for me among those who help me; therefore, I shall see my desire on those who hate me.”
“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in men.”
“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.”
These are great verses to memorize during a political year when you are just inundated with all of the political stories and all the political decisions—that ultimately our destiny is in the Lord’s hands, and we need to trust Him.
If we, as a culture, as a civilization, as a people, as a nation, do not trust God, then our security is ephemeral, and our future is in doubt. The only hope is the Lord.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get involved politically. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to vote. That doesn’t mean that we become passive. But it does mean that you have to keep all of that civic responsibility, which we must be engaged in, in right perspective in relation to who is ultimately in control.
Every year we see this. I’m as guilty as the next person. We come to an election. We hope the results will be one thing. They’re not, and we are discouraged and depressed, which tells us that that’s the clue: Our hope was in something other than the Lord. The Lord is the only One who never changes—in Whom we should have our only hope.
Psalm 56:11 echoes this same thought, where the psalmist says, “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
This is a theme that’s a drum beat throughout the psalms, that we are to trust in the Lord and to trust in Him alone.
As we’ve studied through these initial verses, down through this, we’ve pointed out that the indications here are that the author is speaking in the first person-singular. For example, in verse 10, “All nations surrounded me”—first person-singular—“but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them”—again first person-singular.
But nations do not surround an individual. Nations surround nations. So we learn from this that this person is a political or religious leader who is speaking for the nation, who’s representing the nation. What he is saying is related to a national crisis, not an individual crisis.
Four times he says that the problem is that they’re surrounded by these nations. Three times he says that the solution is that “in the name of the Lord”—that is, on the basis of God’s character.
“Name” in the Scripture often relates to the essence of something, the character of something, the attributes of something. So when we believe in the name of Jesus, we are believing not in just the nomenclature, but we are believing in the Person, the attributes, the character of Jesus—that He is the God-Man who entered into human history to go to the Cross and to die on the Cross for our sins.
So the psalmist says the solution was that “in the name of the Lord”—that is on the basis of who Yahweh is: that is the Covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He said, “I will destroy them.”
Three times he makes this statement, “I will destroy them.” “I will destroy them.” “I will destroy them.”
As I pointed out last time, this is really not an appropriate or correct translation. The word that is translated “destroy”, if you’ve got a NASB, it says, “I will cut them off,” which is much closer.
As I also pointed out last time, it’s the Hebrew word mul, which is the noun form that comes across in modern Judaism is mohel. Mohel is the rabbi who comes and performs the bris, the circumcision ceremony on a young male baby.
This not a military term. There are a lot of military terms in Hebrew for destroying the enemy, killing the enemy, annihilating the enemy, but this isn’t one of those military terms. This is a religious term.
I’ve explained before that it’s helpful for us to understand this because the writer of the psalm is talking about something spiritual and not something physical. It’s about how God did something, how God intervened to deliver the nation.
I’ve explained that this didn’t happen through physical circumcision. There were only a couple of incidences that happened in the Old Testament where there was circumcision in relation to a military battle, and that really doesn’t work in terms of conquering the enemy.
But Deuteronomy 30:6 says that “the Lord your God will circumcise your heart.”
Physical circumcision was really just a ritual that was designed to depict a spiritual reality of something that transforms a person from the inside out. In its most basic sense, this sense of a circumcision of the heart means a change of mind, a change of status. But it’s applied to the New Testament in a different way.
What we see in the background of this is that the victory that came in the past related to Israel’s victory over their divine judgment is a type of the individual believer’s victory over sin and the sin nature in Christ because Christ the Messiah is the One who circumcises us spiritually at the moment of salvation.
Paul alludes to this in two places: Romans 2:29 and Colossians 2:13.
In Romans 2:29 he said, “he is a Jew”—he’s talking about the difference between someone who’s truly Jewish, who is not just a Jew on the outside, but is one on the inside, and he says— “he is a Jew who is one inwardly”—that’s not based on just external circumcision. He says, “and circumcision is that of the heart, by the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”
So he is applying that to what happens.
Then later on, for example, in Colossians 2:13 he says, “You, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh.”
In Ephesians 2, it’s “you’re dead in your trespasses and sins.”
Instead of saying “sins” here, he says “the uncircumcision of your flesh;”—that is, when we’re originally born, we’re spiritually dead; and we have a sin nature that controls us. But when we are saved, when we trust in Christ as Savior, in that the many things that happen at the instance of salvation that God does for us by making us alive together with Him, there is a cutting off of the power of the sin nature.
That’s what Romans 6:1–6 talks about as the foundation for the spiritual life. We’re identified with Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection, so that we are buried with Him. We are raised again to new life where the sin nature is not the total authority over us that is was prior to our salvation.
So Psalm 118 foreshadows this with this language related to the fact that the Lord gives victory through the spiritual circumcision of the enemy.
What happened historically is that the Babylonians and the Chaldeans were used by God to bring judgment, to bring His discipline upon the kingdom of Judah. God has promised in Deuteronomy 28 and in Leviticus 26 that if Israel violated the covenant with Him, if Israel was involved in idolatry and worshipped other gods and disobeyed the law, that God would discipline them.
There would be different stages or cycles of discipline, and the most extreme of which if they continued to be rebellious would be that God would have them overrun by enemy forces, and they would lose the land that God had promised them because by disobedience to the Law, they would demonstrate that they weren’t worthy to live in the land.
So God would bring judgment upon them and take them out of the land. But the promise, the hope, is that God promised that He would restore them to the land, and eventually, they would be restored and possess the land forever and ever.
The Babylonians were used by God to take Israel out of the land. But then God brought judgment upon the Babylonians, and they were defeated in 538 BC.
Cyrus and the Persians came into power, and God changed the heart of Cyrus. That’s the idea here. He circumcised the enemy.
The Gentile nations had been seeking to destroy Israel. Israel and Judah were just this little bitty, almost worthless little nation that stood in the way of everybody else.
If you were in Egypt, and you wanted to go north, and you wanted to control the trade routes, then you were blocked by this little bitty, these two little kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
If you were in the north, and you wanted to take out Egypt, then you would have to go through and deal with this little bitty nation that stood in the way; the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
The Assyrians came down, and they had destroyed and defeated the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC.
In the eyes of the great powers, this little nation of these Jews was just something that was like a gnat. It was in the way. It was bothersome. They were a pain. They treated them with little respect and just hoped to take them out of the way.
But Cyrus has this change of mind. He restored them not only to the land but he paid for them to go back to the land to rebuild the temple, and he supported the re-establishment of the nation. That’s the backdrop here that’s important.
In Psalm 118:13, what we see here is a statement by the psalmist. He says, “You pushed me violently, that I might fall, but the Lord helped me.”
The “you” here—it’s important to pay attention—it’s a singular in the original. He’s saying, “You pushed me severely down.” “You pushed me down.”
This doesn’t read smoothly in the original: “You pushed me violently that I might fall.” There are some who have reinterpreted the text and written it, “I was pushed down,” but it makes it clear that the “you” here, he’s talking to the nations collectively, that they were the ones who pushed Israel down, that tried to destroy Israel, that for a while it appeared as if they’d been successful, but then he says, “but it’s the Lord”—it’s Yahweh who—“helped me.”
This word for “help” is the verb azar, which is related to the noun etzer—I pointed this out also last week—which is a word that is only used basically of God as a noun and of the wife. The wife is to be a helper to the man. This is what God says in Genesis 2:18–20.
Then in Psalm 118:14, the psalmist then breaks out into a statement of what God has done. He says, “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.”
When we think of salvation, we think of Phase 1 justification, but that’s not what he’s talking about here. The word for salvation is a word that often describes simply “deliverance or rescue from a physical calamity.” Sometimes it’s applied to health and healing. In the Hebrew the word here is Yeshua. That becomes the name of Jesus. In Hebrew the name of Jesus is Yeshua.
So he says, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my deliverance.”
When we look at the imagery here, we have the picture of a crushing defeat in verse 13, and this is so crushing that it threatens the very existence and the very future of the nation.
If you think about it historically, what you’ve seen in history is the Assyrian nation grow to its great power, expand throughout the Middle East, and as they come down through the Levant, they have completely destroyed and wiped out the Northern Kingdom and Israel.
They came like a high tide up to the walls of Jerusalem, and then God miraculously intervened and overnight, the soldiers of the Assyrians that had surrounded the city were killed. Sennacherib wakes up in the morning, and his army is dead, and he flees back to his capital where he is going to be assassinated by his own family members.
They have not survived.
Then you have the Babylonians. The Babylonians have also grown to great strength, and they have destroyed the Southern Kingdom. As you read about this, you see that Israel appears now to have been totally obliterated.
Like the other nations around them, the Philistines, the Syrians, Arameans, the Moabites, the Ammonites have all been taken over by these foreign powers, and like the Jews in the Northern Kingdom, have been relocated to other parts of the empire.
The only group that survives, the only group, the only people that are restored as a nation are the Jews. Now that’s just not an accident of history. This indicates that God is faithful to His covenant, faithful to His plan.
At the end of the 70 years that He had predicted through Jeremiah that would be the time of their captivity, they were restored back to the land. So it is as if the nation is reborn, and God’s plan is being renewed with Israel, and it indicates His faithfulness.
The emphasis here is on the fact that this is the Lord who does this. He is “my strength.” He is the strength of Israel. He is “my song.”
That is a figure of speech technically for those of you who are interested that’s called the “metonymy of the effect for the cause.” That means you talk about the effect, which is they’re singing, they’re rejoicing their praise to God, and that’s emphasized in place of the cause, which is God’s deliverance.
So the emphasis is on God as strength and song.
This echoes a couple of other psalms. In Psalm 18:1–2, the psalmist says, “I will love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
What a great couple of verses to memorize—to be reminded of the fact that God is the One who protects us no matter what the circumstances might be. But it goes back even further than that. This statement about the Lord being our strength is a reminder of God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt in the Exodus event.
In Exodus 15:2 in the song of deliverance, the song of Moses, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Psalm 118 takes us back to these historical events, these things that have happened where God has delivered them in the past.
As we move forward in Psalm 118:15, the psalmist says, “The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous.”
Then we have the first of three statements, where he talks about the right hand of the Lord. The right hand of the Lord, when you read these phrases, “the arm of the Lord,” “the finger of God,” “the hand of the Lord.” These all are metaphors for the power of God. His power is in His arm, it’s in His hand, it’s in His finger. He is the One who is strong.
When we think about this, that when it talks about the right hand of the Lord does valiantly, he’s praising the power, the omnipotence of God.
In verse 15 when it says that “the voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous,” this is not to be taken as some sort of an allusion to tabernacles.
The Feast of Tabernacles takes place in the fall. It is a feast that foreshadows the coming of the King to establish His Kingdom. But this isn’t talking about this. This isn’t an allusion to tabernacles.
This is probably a reference to the fact that the people have come back from captivity, and they’re still in the process of rebuilding Jerusalem. They probably just completed building the temple, so it’s probably around 516 BC or just after 516 BC.
They’re still living in tents, literally living in tents, mobile homes, whatever. They have just come back for a short time, so they’re rebuilding the city after it’s been reduced to rubble some 70+ years earlier. This idea of them living in tents is also mentioned in the minor prophets who wrote after the exile. We know that this was a characteristic of this period, that the people lived in tents.
They are rejoicing. It helps us understand this historical context. He’s praising the power of God, that “the right hand of God”—His omnipotence—“is exalted. The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
Then he states a conclusion again. “I’m not going to die!” The nation is not going to be destroyed. The nation is not going out of existence. “I shall not die, but live.” God has a plan for us. God has a future and a hope for Israel.
That’s the realization here—that God has brought the nation back from the brink of death, is re-establishing it. Nothing like this has been seen before in history.
“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”
When we talk about praising God, we so often just are superficial in our Christian culture. We think praising God means to say “Praise God” or “Hallelujah,” but when we look at psalm like this, which is a Hallel Psalm, from which we get the word “Hallelujah,” it’s a praise psalm. We see that it’s not just saying “Praise God,” but is describing what God has done and how God has delivered us and delivered the nation in this situation from a historical disaster, and is explaining what the lessons are that were learned in that particular disaster.
He says he’s going to declare the works of the Lord. That’s why this is sometimes, these types of psalms are sometimes called “declarative praise psalms.”
In verse 18 he describes the event again that “the Lord has chastened me severely.” That tells us again what the historical circumstances are that the nation has gone through severe judgment or discipline. “The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death.”
This ends this description of the praise and the cause for the praise in the psalm. Starting in verse 19, the leader then begins to declare his praise to God. There’s a shift in what is taking place, and this last part is more of a liturgical worship where the community is described as they come together as a community to rejoice and to praise God for His deliverance.
As we read this, we must think about this in terms of historical context. So much has happened in interpreting Scripture where people read it, and they read into the text without understanding this context.
For example, as we begin the next section, the psalmist says, “Open to me the gates of righteousness.”
There are many people who read that, and they think, “Oh, this is Heaven, going to Heaven, entering into the Pearly Gates, going into Heaven.” “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the Lord.”
This is a historical context where the people are being called to praise God as they go to the temple. It would have been sung in a procession up to the temple.
So what are the gates? The gates are the entry into the temple where they would come together as a nation to worship God and to praise God for His deliverance.
It’s very likely that this psalm was written at the time of the dedication of Zerubbabel’s temple. So he says, “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the Lord.” This is his declaration of praise as the nation is going to enter into the temple.
These are not lost people who are wanting to be saved. These are people who are believers who are expressing their praise to God for what He has already done and accomplished for them, that He has delivered them from all the nations, and He has allowed them to live and to be restored to the land.
In verse 20, which states, “This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter,” it doesn’t flow with verse 19 and verse 21. So the question that we should ask is—who is speaking in verse 20?
In verse 19 it is the leader of the group who is taking them into the gates. But verse 20 appears to be the response of the Levites who are holding the gate, reminding those who want to enter into the temple that they have to be ritually prepared.
They have to be cleansed, and they have to be prepared to worship God—that not just anyone can worship, that “the righteous shall enter.”
This is not those who are positionally righteous who are justified, but those who have cleansed themselves through the appropriate sacrifices before they come to worship.
This is the same kind of thing, as I mentioned earlier, that we do at the beginning of every Bible class as a reminder that those who want to enter into worship with God and study His Word need to be cleansed of sin.
We see a pattern here in the Old Testament, that if you are coming into the temple, that the worshipers would be reminded that only those who have been spiritually prepared or ritually prepared through cleansing can come and worship the Lord.
Psalm 118: 21 is their response. “I will praise you, for you have answered me, and have become my”—Yeshua, my savior, my—“salvation.”
Then we come to the core of the quotes that we find in our passage in Matthew and many passages in the New Testament that quote from Psalm 118:22.
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
When you hear that, if you’ve got any knowledge of the New Testament, immediately you’re thinking that this is talking about the Messiah.
But one of the things I’ve been laboring to teach you the last three Sundays we’ve been in this, is that this is talking about a historical situation. This is not prophetic, directly prophetic. This is talking about something that happened historically.
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” This is something that has happened already at the time this was sung, probably around 516 BC.
Then it says, ‘This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” He’s praising for something that God has already done, and then says, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
When the psalmist writes this, he’s not talking about just a beautiful day; no clouds, sunshine, low humidity. That’s such a superficial application. This is talking about a specific historical deliverance of God that occurred when God restored the nation in 538 BC, when God brought them back. That “this is the day that the Lord has made” is talking about how this has been brought to a completion when the temple is being completed, and they are now able to worship God in the temple as they did before.
This is talking about an historical event, and when we read “The stone which the builders rejected,” what’s the stone? When we read that He’s become the chief cornerstone, what’s that alluding to?
In terms of the historical event, the stone is Judah that has been rejected by the nations.
See, since man’s fall, there has been the redevelopment in history, broadly, of two kingdoms: the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God—in a broad sense, not the kingdom in the sense of the Millennial Kingdom. But man is seeking to assert his own right to rule himself over and against God.
So the nations are seeking to build their kingdom. This started at the Tower of Babel as Nimrod sought to establish himself and to establish a worship that was apart from God.
The nations are the builders who seek to establish their kingdom and their dominion over the earth.
The stone, Judah, has been seen as something worthless and useless for the nations to just roll over and destroy. This is the nation that has been viewed by the Gentiles as being useless, worthless, and what significance has it? It’s the stone, the nation, the builders rejected. It’s not pertinent to or significant or relative to the building of the kingdom of man.
The builders historically were the nations: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, who sought to rule and dominate Israel.
The stone that’s rejected is Israel. But in restoration, Israel has become the foundation for God’s Kingdom program. God has restored the nation. He is going to fulfill His covenant with Israel. He is going to build the nation, and from this inauspicious beginning, He will eventually establish the Kingdom.
Through the re-establishment of Israel, this will eventually lead to the coming of the Messiah, and the Messiah will eventually be crucified. There’ll be the lull in the Church Age, the parenthesis, and then when the Lord returns, He will establish His Kingdom.
That’s the typological application. The stone, therefore, is Israel, but Israel is typologically fulfilled in all of its intents and purpose in the Messiah.
The builders, in terms of the application we see in Jesus’ time, are the religious leaders of Israel who are still trying to establish the kingdom of man through their human viewpoint religion. They reject the Messiah as not being relevant, significant or valuable, and yet after the resurrection, He is the One who will eventually come to establish His Kingdom.
This imagery of the stone is found in numerous Old Testament passages, which would have been known by the writer of this hymn.
For example, in Isaiah 28:16, “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.’ ” This is a Messianic prophecy.
Zechariah 3:9, “ ‘For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.’ ”
See, it has that prophetic significance that this stone is the stone which destroys and removes iniquity and brings in the Kingdom.
It’s related to the stone that’s cut without hands in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that represents the coming of the Messianic Kingdom.
Jesus quotes this in Matthew 21:42 as He is arguing with the Pharisees.
Paul uses it in Ephesians 2:20, that Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone for the church.
Peter applies it also in 1 Peter 2:6–7, and we’ll be getting to that when we get there in our study of 1 Peter on Thursday night.
The response of the people in verse 25 is to say, “Save now, I pray, O Lord.” In their moving beyond the deliverance that has already occurred and calling for Him to work out the ultimate deliverance, and what they’re saying is hoshiy’a na.
This is two words in the Hebrew, and it means “save or deliver now.” The root of hoshiy’a na is the verb Yasha which means to save. It’s where we get the name Jesus, Yeshua.
“Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.”
In Matthew 21, as these followers and believers in Jesus are laying down the palm branches, welcoming Him into Jerusalem, when they quote this psalm, they know exactly what they’re doing. This is the King that has offered the Kingdom, and they are welcoming the King who will bring in the Kingdom that has been promised. They understand that He is the Coming One, they understand that He is the One who will establish the Kingdom, and they are welcoming Him. So to understand that is to understand this context from Psalm 118.
In John 11:27 Jesus was talking to Martha, and she says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is”—to what?—“who is to come into the world.”
See this goes back to this quotation in Psalm 118.
In verse 26, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The One who comes in the name of the Lord is understood as the Messiah, the One who establishes the Kingdom. In the thinking between 516 BC and the coming of Christ, the thinking is that the Messiah is this Coming One. He’s referred to as “the one who’s coming,” “the coming one,” and so Martha uses it that way in verse 27.
So as we wrap this up in preparation for going forward in Matthew 21, let me make a couple of points of comparison:
- Between Psalm 118 and Matthew 21, first of all, the nation in Psalm 118 is partially restored from divine discipline.
- In Matthew 21 the nation is on the edge of another great divine discipline, which will come in AD 70.
- The solution in Psalm 118 is the restoration of the temple, and the One who comes in the name of the Lord.
- The solution in Matthew 21 is to welcome the One who comes in the name of the Lord.
- In Psalm 118 God alone delivered the nation from the plans of the nations; the plans of the Gentiles.
- When the Coming One comes, He will deliver the nation. He will destroy the plots of the kings, Psalm 2 and Revelation 19, and He will then establish His Kingdom.
- In Matthew 22 that solution is rejected by the religious leaders. But in Matthew 23:39, when Jesus says, “I will not come until they say ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,’ ” that indicates that there will be a future recovery and restoration of the nation.
- The final application is that the solution for every believer is to trust in God rather than in government, rather than in politics, rather than in human methods or in human works. The only government that will provide perfection is the government of a perfect King who is the Messiah, and that won’t happen until Jesus returns.
“Father, we’re thankful for this opportunity to study Your Word. We’re reminded that Jesus came to solve the greatest problem that we will ever face and that is the problem of sin. He solved that problem by going to the Cross. On the Cross He died on our behalf in our place, He paid the penalty for our sin. Scripture says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. Every single person is born in sin and sins, and we’re all under condemnation, but Jesus took that condemnation upon Himself.
The certification of our debt was nailed to the Cross, so that the issue now is not our sin, our failures, the issue is what we believe, what we trust in. Are we trusting in Christ to save us? Are we trusting in our own works, our own efforts, our own motivations? Scripture says that we’re saved by grace through faith and not of works, lest any man should boast.
Father, we pray that if there’s anyone listening this morning who has never trusted Christ as Savior, who has no real hope and no real understanding of truth, that they would respond by trusting in Christ alone this morning. The offer is a free offer. There are no strings attached. The issue is simple. Just to believe in Jesus as your Savior and you will have eternal life.
For the rest of us, we need to understand that we are saved for a purpose. We have been redeemed. We are owned by You, and we are in Your royal family. Now the issue for us is to live to be disciples, to grow and mature in our spiritual life and to serve You with all of our being.
We pray that we would respond positively to that challenge as well. And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”