After Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with His disciples, the Bible says that they finished by singing a hymn (Mt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26). This hymn was probably Psalm 118, the last of the Jewish Hallel (praise) psalms (Ps. 113-118). Here’s the highlights of this psalm.
It begins and ends with a call to praise, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (v.1, 29NIV). The theme is to thank God for deliverance from enemies. He answered their call for help. The Israelites give thanks for deliverance and victory over their enemies (v.5-21). They repeat “God has become my salvation (or deliverer)” (v. 14, 21). God rescued them from their enemies. And they respond with rejoicing (v.22-27).
They sing, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (v. 22). This probably referred to the king who was now exalted instead of being rejected. It’s a metaphor that describes his changed circumstances. He was like a stone which was discarded by the builders as useless, but now he is important to God like the cornerstone of a building. Imagine Jesus singing “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” on the night before He was rejected and crucified! The Bible applies this verse to Jesus. We can also apply it to Jesus. Let’s exalt Him in a world that rejects Him.
They also sing, “This is the day the Lord has brought about, we will be happy and rejoice in it” (v.24NET). They were rejoicing on the day of their victory and deliverance. Imagine Jesus singing “This is the day the Lord has brought about we will be happy and rejoice in it” on the night before He was crucified! We can also apply it to Jesus. He brought about a great victory and deliverance that we can be happy about and rejoice in.
They also sing “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (v.26). This probably refers to the one who with God’s help has defeated the enemies. The crowds shouted these words during Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (Mt. 21:9; Mk. 11:9; Lk. 19:38; Jn. 12:13). Imagine Jesus singing “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” four days after the crowds had shouted it to Him and knowing that they were about to reject Him! We can also apply it to Jesus. He indeed was sent by God the Father.
The psalm ends with, “You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you” (v. 28). And “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever”. Likewise, let’s praise and exalt God for His goodness and love shown through Jesus.
Psalm 118 may also be sung at the second coming of Christ by those who believe in Him during the tribulation. In this case it will celebrate God’s final victory over evil.
Like the Jews recalled psalm 118 after the Passover meal, we can also thank God for His eternal love in delivering us from the penalty of our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus. That was a great victory for which we should be grateful, thankful, and joyful.