Psalms 112-118
(The Center)
June 24th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

- Psalm 118:8 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

The Psalms in this group mostly focus on praise, but each looks at worship from a slightly different angle. In Psalm 112, for example, the author begins in praise and then throughout most of the remainder of the Psalm describes the many blessings of those who fear the LORD. Then, at the end, he presents a contrast to the consequences for the wicked man:

    Someone wicked takes one look and rages,
    Blusters away but ends up speechless.
    There's nothing to the dreams of the wicked. Nothing.

    - Psalm 112:10 (MSG)

The remainder of the Psalms in today's study are a set of six Psalms traditionally sung on Passover. The first two (113 and 114) are sung before the meal and the last four are sung afterwards. Presumably, Jesus sung these with his disciples at the last supper, and these were the last he sung before the Crucifixion (1). The 113th Psalm praises God for the complete set of dimensions of his dominion: Vertical space as far as the eye can see, horizontal space into the sky, and time forevermore:

    May the LORD's name be blessed
        now and forevermore.

    From the place the sun rises to where it sets,
        praised be the name of the LORD.

    High over all nations, the LORD
        over the heavens His glory

    - Psalm 113: 2-4 (Translation by Robert Alter)(2)

Psalm 113 also praises God for addressing the needs of the helpless people, such as the poor and barren. Psalm 114 poetically describes how the sea and mountains fear God, fleeing and skipping away on God's command, referring to the parting of the Red Sea, the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, and the splitting of the Jordan to allow Joshua and the Israelites to finally enter the Promised Land.

The 115th Psalm takes on the topic of fake idols. The author points out the powerlessness of these statues of wood and metal that cannot speak, cannot hear, cannot feel or talk. He surmises that "Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them (Ps 115:8 - NIV)."

The author begins Psalm 116 by declaring that he loves the LORD "for he heard my voice (Ps 116:1 - NIV)." Perhaps this statement is presented as a subtle contrast to the inability of the false idols to hear. The psalmist describes how God saved him from death and other troubles. He then submits himself in humility, asking "How can I repay the LORD for his goodness to me (116:12 - NIV)?"¯ Finally, he decides to pledge his service, sacrifice a thank offering, and repeat his desire to fulfill his vows.

Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the entire Bible It consists of two verses of praise, calling on all nations to praise him because he is good. As with all the Psalms, it was originally written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek, and later into English and other languages. Multiple translations of this Psalm are presented below, in chronological order of their publication:

    O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

    For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.

    - Psalm 117 (KJV)

    Praise the Lord, all you nations!    Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us,    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

    - Psalm 117 (NRSV)

    Praise the LORD, all you nations!
    Extol him, all you peoples!

    His mercy for us is strong;
    the faithfulness of the LORD is forever.

    - Psalm 117 (NAB)

    Praise the LORD, all you nations;
        extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us,
        and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.

    Praise the LORD.

    - Psalm 117 (NIV)

        Praise GOD, everybody! Applaud GOD, all people!
    His love has taken over our lives;
    GOD's faithful ways are eternal.
    - Psalm 117 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

The 118th Psalm is considered a liturgical Psalm because it contains a sequence of call and response. It has some similarities to the 116th in that the author gives thanks and reviews ways that the LORD has helped him. But in this case, the emphasis is on rescue from enemies. Psalm 118 also includes a summary statement about the value of the relationship with the LORD: "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man (118:8 - NIV)",¯ and features a key prophecy, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone (118:22 - NIV)".¯ Jesus quoted this Psalm after telling the Parable of the Tenants, as recorded in Matthew 21, Mark 12, and Luke 10. The passage is also referenced by Luke in Acts and is discussed by Peter in 1 Peter 2:

    As you come to him, the living Stone ”rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him” you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ

    - 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NIV)

This group of Psalms by itself provides sufficient justification to praise and fear the LORD. While the false idols are powerless to do anything the LORD has all power. He is the capstone that was rejected, but he hears us, he delivers us, and he saves the downtrodden. Even the seas and mountains move at his command.

We might chuckle at those foolish ancient people who crafted golden calves and prayed to them, as if the calves could make miracles happen. However, if we closely audit our own lives we might find one or two golden calves. Is our work our central priority, above all else? Then it's a false idol. Or perhaps we worship celebrities or the stuff that we buy and collect or other hobbies. There is also a risk of falling prey to more subtle golden calves, such as volunteer work that can become all-consuimg. The risk is that if we allow any type of work or activity to become our central priority then it may become our false idol.

Let God be our God. If he is our priority and the centerpoint of our lives then we will work as if working for him when doing any type of job and will give the glory to him. If God is our focal point then we will conduct ourselves in a respectful way, putting the need to respect each other above the goals of our business or hobby or charity. Our work does not save us or others, God does.

A PowerPoint presentation about Psalm 118 was circulated via email a few years ago (3). The presentation includes beautiful background scenes and reports the following observations:

  1. Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the entire Bible and Psalm 119 is the longest.
  2. Psalm 118 sits between those two and is the center of the Bible!
  3. There are 594 chapters before it and 594 chapters after it. Add up those numbers and you get 1,188.
  4. Guess which verse is in the center of the Bible? Psalm 118:8

The author of the PowerPoint file notes that this central verse records a central point about God's perfect will for our lives - "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." Was this coincidence or divine insertion of a hidden message for those who dig deep into the book? We could extend the end of verse 118:8 to say "or to trust in man's creations." You can find a link to this Powerpoint file at the footnote near the bottom of this page.

Psalm 118 also includes the oft-quoted phrases such as "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it (118:24 - KJV)."¯ Observe that this verse calls for unconditional rejoicing. Whether we conclude that the day was a good one or bad one it was made by God and is good for his purpose.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What type of weather is your favorite?
    2. Which false gods beckon you on a regular basis?
    3. In what ways can you sense that the real God has heard your prayers, praise, and tears?
    Recommended Prayer
    God, we know that this is the day you have made and you have plans for us today. Please help us to listen to you and ignore the false gods who cannot speak to us or save us.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Hector Velsket - the unknown creator of the popular Powerpoint about Psalm 118


    (1) Kidner, Derek, Psalms 73-150, A commentary, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1975, p.401
    (2) Alter, Robert, Psalms, A Commentary and Translation, W.W. Norton & Company, New York and London, 2004, p.403
    (3) THEMIDDLEISTHEBIBLE.pps, Hector Velsket, creation date unknown

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Psalms 119 (A to Z)

    Comments and Questions
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