Even those of us who should know better sometimes buy into the misperception that the God who has disclosed himself in the Old Testament is a God of wrath whereas the God who has disclosed himself in the New Testament is a God of love. This is a misperception because Scripture makes clear that God is one God in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Being one the different members of the Trinity are in agreement with one another for they share the same attributes. Even as we saw last week when we considered another Old Testament passage, Psalm 145,[1] David provided multiple reasons why we ought to praise our kind LORD for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love,[2] displaying abundant goodness and righteousness,[3] a God who does wonderful and awesome works,[4] who is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does,[5] who upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down,[6] who satisfies the desires of every living thing[7] and is near to all who call on him.[8] Who wouldn’t want to know—and love—and serve—and tell others about such an awesome God???

This morning’s psalm similarly gives the lie to the notion that the Old Testament God is a God of wrath for as the opening and closing refrains declare, his love is what endures forever. And this psalm similarly recites some of the specific ways that the psalmist, most likely one of Israel’s kings, has experienced God’s enduring love. Beginning with verse 1 he calls all the people to express their gratitude to this loving God: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”[9] We should ever thank God for his goodness; we should ever thank God for his love; we should ever express our gratitude and wonder to such an awesome and good LORD! All who know him should proclaim this wonderful truth, whether Israel, verse 2; or the priestly branch of Israel, Aaron’s house, verse 3; or any and all who fear the LORD—that is any and all who believe in and seek to please him, verse 4. For as we find stated throughout the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, the fear of the LORD and the shunning of evil is the beginning of wisdom and understanding but fools, that is those who are morally deficient, despise wisdom and instruction.[10] The focus of the psalmist is those who are wise and fear God. All who know this amazing LORD and God should shout out and share the awesome news about him, “His love endures forever[!]”

In verses 5–21 we find the specifics listed in this song of thanksgiving concerning the deliverance given this king by the LORD. Notice the examples provided in verses 5–7 of this wonderful LORD’s love:

Verse 5 tells how this continually loving LORD was responsive to his cries for help as he brought him into spacious places when we he was hard pressed;

Verse 6 bears witness to how, because this continually loving LORD is ever with him, he needn’t be afraid for if the LORD is with him, “what can mere mortals do to” him?;

Verse 7 reiterates that this continually loving LORD is with him, he is his helper. Therefore the psalmist is able to “look in triumph on [his] enemies.”

And though the examples provided in this psalm are specific to its author, the wonderful news is that all who fear the LORD are able to provide their own examples of times when they were hard pressed and delivered into a spacious place when they called on the LORD; all who fear the LORD can know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the LORD is with them therefore we needn’t fear anything, much less “mere mortals”; and, again, all who fear the LORD can know the LORD is with them for he is our helper. Keep in mind that this is precisely how the second and third members of the Triune God are later similarly disclosed for  Christ and the Holy Spirit  are each referred to as our helper and comforter. [11] Also in the New Testament we see the author of Hebrews encouraging followers of Christ to embrace these very truths about the LORD and even referencing this psalm as he exhorts those to whom he’s writing, “5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’[12] 6 So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”[13] What, indeed!

This theme of the primacy of God’s protection and care over humans continues in verses 8–9 as the psalmist declares, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans.It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Even the power of the most powerful human; even the power of the most powerful prince is nothing in comparison to the power of the LORD. As the power of an ant is to the power of a human, even greater is the disparity between the power of the most powerful earthly human and the power of the LORD who made heaven and earth. Therefore let us not trust and turn to human power but let us place our trust in the LORD and take refuge in him alone.

Verses 10–14 go on to bear witness to this king’s personal experience for when the nations surrounded him (v. 10) on every side (v. 11), he cut them down in the name of—that is, in the power— of the LORD; when the nations “swarmed around” him like bees, “they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns” as again the psalmist cut then down in the name of the LORD (v. 12). Even when he “was pushed back and about to fall,” the LORD helped him (v. 13). Therefore what can he do but give credit where credit is due as he concludes in verse 14, “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”

This joyous testimony of the many ways the eternal and continuously loving LORD delivered the king who feared and loved him is shared by the people over whom he’s been appointed to rule. As stated beginning with verse 15, “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous.” And what is the content of their shout? “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! 16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!” Both the king and the people know the odds were against them and that but for the LORD’s deliverance, but for the LORD’s right hand wielding his power on their behalf, they would never have known victory.[14] Again, to speak of the right hand of the LORD is to speak of his power. The LORD’s right hand is ever on the side of those who are his and who turn to him for refuge.

It is because of the LORD’s right hand, it is because of his power, that the psalmist “will not die but live,” verse 17, and “will proclaim what the Lord has done.” Though the LORD has severely chastened, verse 18, “he has not given [the psalmist] over to death.” Having been thus delivered, the king can lead his people to the sanctuary, the LORD’s temple, and say, verses 19–20, “19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.” After providing this testimony of how the good LORD whose love endures forever has, against all odds, delivered him and his people, the psalmist again states in verse 21, “I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.” This portion of the psalm ends as it began in verse 5 by underscoring the fact that the LORD is responsive to those who are his. This is so important for us who love God to remember for it highlights the fact that our relationship with him is just that—a relationship. As people who know each other are responsive to one another, so too is God. As Jesus later taught, even before we ask, even before we pray, our kind and heavenly Father knows what we need and is responsive to that need.[15]

Verses 22–24 continue to bear witness to the miraculous delivery the LORD has given in stating, “22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” The psalmist is using the analogy of a builder rejecting a stone to indicate just how unlikely it was that the small nation of Israel would ever be able to triumph against the larger nations that were its enemies. Israel was viewed as rejected, defeated, yet against all odds triumphed over these enemies with God’s help. For Israel was the stone chosen by the LORD to one day bring a blessing to all nations.[16] This unlikely victory—unlikely at least when viewed through human eyes—is yet another reminder, as we continue to see, that God’s thoughts and ways are not those of his creation.[17]

Yet God’s ways are marvelous and worthy of rejoicing over and being glad about today and always. For to know our LORD is to know him not simply as our Creator but as our Savior and Deliverer. As stated in verse 25, “Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success!” This focus upon God’s salvation is one we celebrate each year on Palm Sunday which has a connection with this portion of the psalm. If you’ll recall, “Save!” is the meaning of the word, “Hosanna!” And when our Savior and Deliverer LORD Jesus made his way to Jerusalem seated on a donkey, the crowds cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”[18] But the connection with our morning’s psalm doesn’t end there for the crowds went on to proclaim what is stated in the first half of verse 26, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”[19] We have here a parallel: as the king in the psalm was able to defeat his enemies with God’s help so, too, our King, Christ Jesus who as eternal God took on flesh, was able to defeat not only human enemies but, more importantly, he defeated the enemies of sin, the devil and death itself.

As we see in the continuing celebration and joyous reception in verse 27 of the psalm, the One coming in the name of the LORD is God himself. As the psalmist proclaims, “The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us.[20] With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” As the king is caught up in this celebration, he again cries out, verse 28, “You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.” And so he turns again to the congregation with the call with which he began in verse 29, saying, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Give thanks to the Lord, indeed!

Now I want to swing back and focus upon the rejected cornerstone of verse 22 for the New Testament authors followed the lead of their Savior, LORD, and King in applying this psalm to Jesus in their own time. In telling the parable of the tenants wherein the wicked tenants killed not only the servants but the son of the landowner from whom they rented the vineyard, notice how Jesus applied verses 22 and 23 of this psalm to himself and the chief priests and Pharisees, respectively, in saying to them,

Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” 43 Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”[21]

Builders, of course, are those who are experts in their craft, able to recognize those stones that will be useful to their purposes—and those that will not. Yet these expert builders rejected the stone chosen by the LORD. Similarly, the chief priests and Pharisees, experts in the law and Scriptures, should have recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah, the promised Christ, sent by God to deliver them, his people, from their suffering and sin. Yet these religious leaders, like the expert builders, rejected the cornerstone of which they were most in need for they rejected Jesus Christ; they rejected their Savior and LORD.

This is the very message delivered by Peter as we heard in our morning’s New Testament reading. After he and John had been imprisoned for “teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead,”[22] the result of their preaching was that over 5000 who heard their message came to a saving faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ.[23] When asked the next day by what power they had done these things,[24] listen again to Peter’s response as he, “filled with the Holy Spirit,”[25] stated as recorded in Acts 4:8–12:

Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, [26] 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.” 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

Notice how Peter got right to the heart of the matter in applying verse 22 of this psalm. Instead of saying, “the stone the builders rejected” as in the original, he said “the stone you builders rejected” thereby making the analogy clear.

In both the psalm and the New Testament’s use of it, what is low and insignificant when judged by a human perspective—the small nation of Israel, the lowly carpenter Jesus from the lowly town of Nazareth—is exalted by God and thereby becomes a cornerstone in his plan of salvation. In the case of Jesus, Paul traces the arc of his humiliation and exaltation as he exhorts the Philippians in the second chapter of his letter to them,

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus Christ, the cornerstone rejected by those in power, is nonetheless embraced by all who see the need we all have for the salvation he offers. Therefore, dear sisters and brothers,

let us join the psalmist and give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Let us thank and embrace the rejected cornerstone for his goodness and enduring love in bringing us into a spacious place when we cry out and are hard pressed (v. 5);

Let us thank and embrace the rejected cornerstone for his goodness and enduring love in being with us when we are afraid (v. 6);

Let us thank and embrace the rejected cornerstone for his goodness and enduring love in being our helper (v. 7);

Let us thank and embrace the rejected cornerstone for his goodness and enduring love in being our refuge (vv. 8–9);

Let us thank and embrace the rejected cornerstone for his goodness and enduring love in delivering us from our most fearsome enemies—from the devil, and sin, and death itself;

Let us thank and embrace the rejected cornerstone, our Savior and LORD Jesus Christ for his goodness and enduring love for, as Peter teaches and reminds us so clearly, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”[27]

May we be those who never pass up an opportunity to tell others about the goodness and enduring love of the one God disclosed in the Old and New Testaments, our kind and gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Let us pray.

[1] Sermon preached on November 10, 2019, Why Praise God? On Psalm 145.

[2] Psalm 145:8, 9.

[3] Psalm 145:7.

[4] Psalm 145:3–6.

[5] Psalm 145:13.

[6] Psalm 145:14.

[7] Psalm 145:16.

[8] Psalm 145:18.

[9] This is a common call found elsewhere in Scripture, most notably throughout Psalm 136 but see also: Psalm 105:1: Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.; Psalm 106:1: Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.; Psalm 107:1: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.; 1 Chronicles 16: 8, 34: 8 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done…. 34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.; 2 Chronicles 20:21: After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”

[10] Proverb 1:7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.; Job 28:28: And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” See also: Psalm 111:10:The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.; Proverb 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.; Proverb 15:33: Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.

[11] παράκλητος, ου, ὁ. “counselor, intercessor, helper, one who encourages and comforts; in the NT it refers exclusively to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus Christ.” < https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/parakletos> See John 14:16, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7.

[12] Deuteronomy 31:6: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

[13] Hebrews 13:5–6.

[14] There is an echo here of the Song of Moses and Miriam found in Exodus 15:2, 6: 2The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him…. 6 Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy.

[15] Matthew 6:7–8: 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

[16] Genesis 12:1–3: 1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.2 I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

[17] Isaiah 55:8–9: 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “9 As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

[18] Matthew 21:9. See also Mark 11:9a: Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

[19] See Matthew 21:9: The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Mark 11:9–10: 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”; Luke 19:38: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

[20] There is an echo here of the benediction found in Number 6:22–27: 22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” 27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

[21] Matthew 21:42–44. See also Mark 12:10–12: 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.; Luke 20:17–19: 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?’ 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

[22] Acts 4:2–3.

[23] Acts 4:4: But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

[24] Acts 4:7.

[25] Acts 4:8

[26] This account is the content of Acts 3. See especially vv. 1–10 after which Peter preaches about Christ: 1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

[27] Acts 4:12.