Psalm 118: A Psalm of Remembrance and Anticipation
When I first heard the term, Maundy Thursday I thought maybe someone couldn’t make up his mind. Is it Monday or Thursday? I don’t know how long afterward that I learned that the term is from the Latin, mandatum, which means commandment. It takes its name from Jesus’ mandate to love one another in the same spirit of humility and servanthood that he had shown them when he washed his disciples’ feet. That loving service would be fully shown in Jesus’ suffering and death for the sins of the world.
We will gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ tonight for a more solemn service (compared to Easter) as we reflect on Jesus’ gift of the Lord’s Supper, remembering his humility in washing his disciples’ feet, and pondering the coming events when at the end of the service the altar is stripped in anticipation of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus’ arrest, suffering, and crucifixion.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
16 the right hand of the Lord exalts,
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”
These words echo the Psalms and hymns the disciples would sing after the celebration of the Passover meal. Those psalms, (113-118 and 136) express the joy of God’s deliverance 1400 years previous to Jesus in the Exodus from Egypt. God had saved them. Salvation had come. There was much to celebrate.
I’m sure Jesus’ mood may have puzzled the disciples. He had to be a bit restrained in his praise. The weight of the sins of the world were on his heart. They would soon be adding to his weight on the cross. He would be praying that evening in the Garden as sweat like drops of blood poured from his brow.
This is a Psalm of remembrance and of anticipation. That the right hand of the Lord has done valiantly is history. But it is also prelude. And singing it implies that we are thankful for God’s past deliverance and that we are looking for God’s future salvation.
We have been saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We are being saved by the Holy Spirit’s continuing work in our hearts.
We will be saved on the Great Last Day when Jesus returns and takes his own to be with him in heaven.
Until that day we sing our praise to God for his past blessings, and in anticipation of even greater things to come!