The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord's doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O Lord! - Psalm 118:22-25, ESV
The Stone the Builders Rejected
In Jesus' day, Israel had three major celebratory festivals, too. Passover came first, in the early spring, celebrating Israel's deliverance from bondage in Egypt and became a kind of national independence day. Seven weeks later, in late spring, Pentecost came, the Feast of Weeks, also known as the Feast of First Fruits, celebrating the early crops coming in. Finally, in the fall came the Feast of Tabernacles of Booths, which celebrated the final in-gathering of crops before winter.
Unlike our culture's celebrations, God had ordained these celebrations in His word. God wanted His people to gather together in Jerusalem and worship Him with joy during these festivals. Over the centuries, part of the celebration of these festivals became the singing of the Hallel psalms, Psalms 113-118. These psalms became a vital part of the life of the nation of Israel as the people sang them in unison repeatedly at each festival.
The final and longest of the songs, Psalm 118, is a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from enemies. As the song crescendos, building to the finish, it contains some strange-sounding words: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." This could be seen as a reference to the people of Israel, taken from slavery in Egypt to be the blessed and chosen holy nation. It could also be seen as reference to David, rejected and hunted down by King Saul before rising to the throne. Yet the context seems to point at a much greater fulfillment.
This statement is preceded by the words "you have become my salvation" and is followed by a cry, "Save us, we pray, O Lord!" In Hebrew, "Save us" is Hosanna!, the cry of the crowds when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, during the Passover celebration. We know the crowd intentionally drew that Hosanna from Psalm 118 because they also cried, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." (v. 26)
And so we find a prophecy of the coming work of the Messiah, nestled inside what may have been the most famous song in Israel. This would be like finding a prophecy embedded in "The Star-Spangled Banner" (which also celebrates deliverance from enemies). Yet here it is, and when read in the full context of Psalm 118, it makes perfect sense: Jesus was despised and rejected by men, surrounded by enemies. The ruling authorities had abandoned Him. The spiritual builders of Israel had rejected Him. Yet all of this was the Lord's doing and was the way for God to save and deliver His people. This is truly the Lord's doing, and it is indeed marvelous in our eyes!
Today's Advent lesson is to look more carefully for God's work in unexpected places. Sometimes He hides the most clear Messianic prophecies in a national song of celebration. Sometimes He speaks through donkeys. Sometimes He places the King of the Universe in a manger. Where is He working in your life right now? What part of His word have we overlooked a hundred times, not knowing the rich treasures it holds?
Father, open our eyes by Your grace that we may see You at work around us and in us. Open our eyes to understand Your word, that we may see Christ on every page, in every psalm, in every line. Open our hearts to love the unlovely, as You have done for us. Perhaps in reaching out to the most unlikely we will see You more clearly. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Listen to a sermon on Psalm 118.