Psalm 118 Commentary
The psalmist has two sets of troubles.
First: the troubles caused by mere mortals. He is hard-pressed. He finds himself between the hard place and the rock. There is no space; nowhere to run. Nations surround him, intent on destroying him. But the LORD is with him. He is not afraid. He pushes his enemies back.
Second: the troubles caused by the LORD. “The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” Verse 18. What is the psalmist talking about?
Probably the psalmist is talking about the same thing. There are no two sets of troubles. It could be the same thing. Are the troubles caused by mere mortals a chastening of the LORD? Probably yes. Adam’s sin ensures that none enjoys a trouble-free world. It is the deserved punishment for sin. From the top, the answer can always be yes.
The saint may want to reflect on the wider view of sin and its consequences. Not only in the narrow present but also in the wider present. Not only in the now present but also in the distant present. Not only in my space but also in the other spaces occupied by humanity. It directly refers to the moment when the LORD God scattered man from the Garden of peace and tranquility. That critical moment introduced humanity to suffering.
But the psalmist knows he will live and not die. What is he thinking about, by whatever he means?
Probably because the same LORD who has chastened him has opened the gate for the righteous to enter. The New Testament saint knows this gate in the LORD Jesus Christ. But here and in these two verses that talk about the gate, it remains a mystery.
“This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.” Who, or what is this gate? Let the saint uncover this mystery in this chapter.
The saint doesn’t have to look further. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Verse 22. Or, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Verse 26.
The New Testament relies heavily on the prophetic utterances in this psalm. The Gate is now known. Let the righteous enter.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So the Gate is a direct reference to the Way. Could the statement that the psalmist will live and not die be a thought drawn from the fact that the Gate is also the life?
And the timeless question… What is truth? Pilate had asked the LORD Jesus Christ the same question but unfortunately didn’t have the eyes to perceive the truth.
This deeply important psalm brings into focus several key elements of the Christian faith. The LORD has subjected humanity to punishment because of sin. Yet the LORD has done mighty things by becoming the Gate through which the righteous may enter.
And by this Gate, the saint will live and not die.
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