Psalm 118 opens and closes with “Oh give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” The three divisions of the Old World – Israel, the Priests, and Gentile God-fearers – each in turn take up that refrain. Though the psalmist is distressed by what is going on around him, he consistently looks to God as his only sure help. There is no security, no sure refuge in even the greatest men. He declares that in the name of Yahweh, he will cut off all the nations that surround him. This word “cut off” is not the usual Hebrew word karath which means literally cutting something off or figuratively putting someone to death or excommunicating. The word here is the word used for circumcision. “The nations surrounded me; in the name of Yahweh I circumcised them!” This seems to have close ties with the great commission – go disciple the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
Though sometimes it appears that the wicked are gaining, or that the righteous are falling, it is the hand of God that is behind it all. He says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Just as in the Exodus, when it becomes clear that the attack of the wicked is specifically against God and His people, God lifts His right hand and crushes them so that the world will know that He is God. At the center of the Psalm is the threefold song of the saints. While we sing, God vindicates His name against His enemies.
The fall of the righteous or the reign of the wicked is often discipline from the Lord. The saints are disciplined, but not given over to complete destruction. Though it is never pleasant, it is for our good. It calls us out of sleep and into repentance. It brings us to the gates of righteousness and we give thanks to God for what He has done. We find rest in His city and a solid foundation on the chief cornerstone.