Psalms 113-118 are generally accepted as having special reference to the Passover, the feast which introduces us to the Lamb of God and during which our Lord was crucified. PSALM 113: Freedom From Slavery This psalm begins by calling Israel to “praise” the Lord three times in verse one. As “servants of the LORD” (113:1 KJV), those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Ex. 12:13) were no longer Egyptian slaves. Jehovah is invoked as the One who promised the land of Canaan to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There is also the prospect of an eternal inheritance whereby the children of Abraham will bless God from “this time forth and for evermore” (113:2). This also has special reference to New Jerusalem and the celestial land of everlasting possession (Gen. 13:15). In the days of the Tabernacle and the Temple there existed a basis for praise from the rising of the sun till the setting thereof (113:3). In addition to the morning and evening oblations, David formalized the consecutive praise of God in imitation of the heavenly hosts. Passover and the other set Feasts were connected ceremonies, telling us that we should not think we may be idle between formal gatherings. We should begin each day with thanksgiving and not rest our heads at night without committing ourselves to God.
The psalmist contrasts the glory of God with the humility of the Almighty. There is no one more glorious yet so humble as God. For thousands of years He hid His glory from men. The same God who created the millions of galaxies in immeasurable space, became the Babe of Bethlehem with a single star above His humble home. This same great God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush: “I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them” (Ex. 3:7-8). Israel saw that the Passover Lamb represented God “manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). To deliver us, the Son of God was “found in fashion as a Man” (Phil. 2:8).
The phrase “joyful mother of children” (113:9) expresses a beautiful truth. Many Hebrew mothers wept when the Egyptians put their baby sons to death. But the children at the Passover table were proof of divine preservation and multiplication. In contrast, the Egyptian mothers wept when the destroying angel slew their firstborn.
Psalm 113 blesses God for blessings received. Praising God is the recurrent theme of these psalms, because they reminded Israel of her humiliation as slaves under the Egyptians. Now in their own land, Israel was blessed beyond measure. But their slavery must not be forgotten. Their army did not deliver them, the blood of the Lamb did (Ex. 12:17,51).
PSALM 114: Mighty To Save
This psalm emphasizes the power of God by which Israel was delivered from Egypt and preserved. The phrase, the “house of Jacob” (114:1), reminds us that Jacob and his sons spent their final years in Egypt. This was to fulfill the prophecy spoken to Abraham in Genesis 15:13. Despite the early prospect of blessing, these were not happy centuries. God was determined that His people would never be able to settle in this land of idolatry and slavery. Therefore as the children of Israel went out from the land of servitude, it seemed as if creation itself jumped for joy with them (114:4).
This would remind us that when the Passover Lamb entered Jerusalem the city rose up in joy to welcome Him. When the scribes tried to silence those who praised God, Christ replied, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Lk. 19:40). To be identified with the Passover Lamb, the infant Jesus was taken down to Egypt and then called out of it (Mt. 2:14-15). This psalm records God’s faithfulness in the wilderness (114:8). Christ not only saves, but He also shepherds His flock forever (Rev. 7:17).
PSALM 115: The One True God
When God destroyed Pharaoh’s armies in the Red Sea, Israel became the most feared nation in the Middle East. Yet Moses confessed that Israel’s strength and glory were in her God (Ex. 14:13). The psalmist prays that the heathen will give glory to Israel’s God rather than to the nation itself. This prayer had already been answered by the confession of Rahab when she told the spies, “Your terror is fallen upon us … all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you” (Josh. 2:9). She also stated that this fear was based upon God’s drying up the Red Sea and Israel’s later routing the two kings of the Amorites (115:10). This destruction of Gentiles was now leading to the salvation of the heathen. In her saving faith, Rahab confessed: “The LORD your God, He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (115:11). In view of these miracles, the wonder is that the heathen persevered in their idolatries. The Philistines continued to revere Dagon even after his collapsing temple killed so many (Jud. 16:23-31). And later Nebuchadnezzar continued to worship Baal despite the miraculous preservation of the three young Hebrew men in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:19-4:37). After so long a time, the psalmist laments that the heathen continue to ask, “Where is now their God?” (Ps. 115:2).
While the psalm proceeds to refute idolatry, we must not suppose that the heathens thought that smashing their idols annihilated their gods. The worshipers of idols regarded these images as representations of those who were invisible. The astrologers of Babylon spoke of “the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Dan. 2:11). The point of Psalm 115:4-6 is that God is saying that the gods represented by these images were totally mythical. This is in sharp contrast to Israel’s confession, “but our God is in the heavens” (115:3). This was their reply when the heathen asked them why they had no images of their God. While the heathen world offered sacrifices to wood, stone or metal, from the first Passover to the last Israel continued to worship the invisible God who “hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (115:3).
The heathen had never seen Baal or Dagon; Israel was the only nation to see God. Those who kept the Passover in Egypt saw God later at Sinai. So the commandment was to “be ready … for on the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai” (Ex. 19:11). Abraham who had worshiped without any image had seen his God and heard His voice (Acts 7:2-3). At Sinai the children of Abraham heard God speak from the mountain which flamed like a furnace (Ex. 20:19; Dt. 18:16; Heb. 12:19). On the third day, the Son of God appeared to His disciples. For having kept the feast, Christ the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) was seen and heard alive.
PSALM 116: Faith Reconfirmed
The previous Passover psalms rejoice in the wonders of God revealed to Israel. However Psalm 116 deals with doubts, fears and troubles. Israel was tried in the wilderness and generally found wanting. Many died without entering the Promised Land. Others suffered opposition from their brethren. In the end, survival rested upon personal faith and obedience. Psalm 116 is a confession of personal love for God and praise for His preserving care. For this reason “I love the LORD” (116:1) is a beautiful beginning to a hymn of thanksgiving. For as the love of God has made our praise possible, so in love we should worship God who is love. Despite our collective praise, each of us should be able to confess from the heart “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Whereas the psalmist gives voice to the reason for his love, the Scriptures give no reason for God’s loving us who by nature are His enemies. Our deserved fate is hell, yet God has rescued the repentant sinner from going there. And so in 116:3-4, the psalmist reminds us of the horror of guilt and coming doom. These he describes as the “sorrows of death” and the “pains of hell.” But he rejoices in the fact that he was saved by beseeching God to deliver his soul. Salvation is not based upon the observance of rituals and regulations. The psalmist not only thanks God for salvation from the penalty of sin but also from the power of it. In verse 8 he praises God for preventing “my feet from falling.” He also rejoices in spiritual consistency as he continues to “walk before the LORD” (116:9). Personal deliverance from the pit should be complemented by public confession of the Savior. We should preach the gospel as we take our place with the Lamb who was slain and rose again – as Paul did when he quoted 116:10 in his second letter to the Corinthians: “I believed, and therefore have I spoken” (2 Cor. 4:13).
PSALM 117: Savior Of The World
Although this psalm has only two verses, like Psalms 116 and 118 it is quoted in the New Testament. In Romans 15:11 Paul quoted Psalm 117:1 when he wrote, “Praise the LORD, all ye Gentiles; and laud Him, all ye people.” The force of this verse is that the blood of the Lamb was shed for all people. Even under the Law, Moses provided for circumcised Gentiles to partake with their Israelite brethren (Ex. 12:48; Num. 9:14). So in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul included Jew and Gentile in the blessings associated with the prophetical fulfillment of the Passover: “Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us.” All nations are envisaged as praising God together (117:1). This infers that they eat and drink together at the Lord’s Table. In contrast to the Law, Gentiles are no longer regarded as a concession. Rather it is their right in accordance with the equality of Jew and non-Jew in Christ (Gal. 3:28).
PSALM 118: Messiah, The Passover Lamb
The final Passover Psalm is unmistakably about “Christ, our passover … sacrificed for us.” Its most quoted verse tells us, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner” (118:22). It is referenced in five New Testament books (Mt. 21:42; Mk. 12:10; Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7). It is also echoed in Ephesians 2:20 where Paul refers to Jesus as the “chief cornerstone.” While this verse describes the triumph of Christ over His enemies, it must be seen against His rejection, suffering and death. For the psalm also states as a pre-condition, “bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (118:27). The Lord quoted verse 22 before the Passover. Calvary was no surprise to Him: “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (Mt. 26:2). In becoming the head of the corner, Jesus had to rise from the dead and be exalted in heaven. But He will return in power to establish His kingdom in the land which denied that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
For the sake of clarity we must consider the difference between Christ, the Rock and Christ, the Stone. The former refers to the foundation on which any structure stands. The wise man who built his house on the rock accepted the foundation as existing (Lk. 6:48). This speaks of Christ in His Deity from eternity to eternity. In contrast the corner-stone was shaped to specification. And once set in place, every other stone took its alignment from that stone.
When applied to Christ it describes His humanity where a body was prepared for Him in the virgin womb of Mary. Thereafter His teaching and way of life became the standard to be imitated by His disciples. However, for the Stone to be rejected there must be death. The immortal God cannot die, therefore Christ Jesus was crucified for us (Mt. 26:2). This means that our salvation is built upon the immovable rock of the deity of Christ (Mt. 16:18), while our service conforms to the teaching of the Christ and His apostles (Eph. 2:20) who have taken their alignment from the cornerstone. The “apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42) is equivalent to the Law of Christ. However our salvation rests totally upon faith in our Redeemer. Or as Peter told those who crucified the Lord, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12).
For us the Passover Psalms are a blessing because they remind us of where we were before the Lamb of God shed His blood for our sins, and where we are now because of His sacrifice.
By Tom Summerhill
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org