"Agony in the Garden"

Jesus prays in the garden after the Last Supper while the disciples sleep and Judas leads the mob in “Agony in the Garden,” a painting by Andrea Mante.

Its words were sung by Jesus and His Disciples as they journeyed from the Last Supper on their way to the Mount of Olives. It was also a favorite Psalm of Martin Luther who proclaimed it “nearest to my heart” of all the Psalms.

Luther said, “It has saved me from many a pressing danger from which neither emperors, sages or saints could have saved me. It is a friend dearer to me than all the honors and powers of the earth.” The theme of Psalm 118 is thanksgiving to God with a reliance on God rather than on human strength “for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Perhaps you have a Bible verse that’s on your mind when you wake up each day? Over the past two decades, verse 24 from Psalm 118 has greeted me every morning and, just as Luther opined, it has become a very dear friend.

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

With this daily relationship in mind, I looked to discover greater context for this verse that has become my daily companion; uncovering several reasons why Psalm 118 is a rich treasure chest capable of improving our every day. First, the author was likely a major Prophet of renown; possibly Moses, who Pastor John MacArthur names as its author, or even King David, who the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, is convinced was its human writer.

If Moses was the author, we can envision he created this Psalm of Praise to look back in worship at the historical Passover while also looking forward in wonder to the spiritual Passover we would experience in Christ. Moses said, in Deuteronomy 18:15, “the Lord will raise up another Prophet like him (Moses),” and Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “For indeed Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.”

Psalm 118 is also an intensely Messianic offering, and verse 22 is one of the most quoted prophesies about Christ, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” What a testimony that Jesus would choose this song of Praise that points to His becoming the rejected Messiah to sing with His Disciples. Especially as He was only hours away from the tests of an agonizing trial, beatings, scourging, crucifixion and finally His death upon the cross for the sins of mankind — suggesting that when we praise the Lord, even when it is difficult, even when our breakthrough has not yet arrived, that we are giving our God an offering that becomes our access point into His presence. In essence, gaining His presence as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices in worship to our Creator.

Psalm 118 provides us the opportunity to worship from the same song that many past champions of faith have chosen to exalt our Father. Glorifying Him with lavish praise so that our earthly cares give way to a peace that is priceless and beyond understanding.

Prayer: Father thank You that through worship we are transformed into a greater likeness with Jesus. We rejoice in your invitation to escape the tribulations of daily life by entering Your presence in true worship! Amen.

Jeff Anderson is Servant Pastor of SERV Kerrville, a nonprofit collaborating with community partners to empower lifelong learning. He welcomes your comments at Jeff@Leadershipinc.us.

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