Sermon: The Rejected Savior (Psalm 118)

Discovering Christ in the Psalms:

The Rejected Savior

Psalm 118:19-29 (ESV)

Open to me the gates of righteousness,

that I may enter through them

and give thanks to the Lord.

[20] This is the gate of the Lord;

the righteous shall enter through it.

[21] I thank you that you have answered me

and have become my salvation.

[22] The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

[23] This is the Lord’s doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

[24] This is the day that the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

[25] Save us, we pray, O Lord!

O Lord, we pray, give us success!

[26] Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

We bless you from the house of the Lord.

[27] The Lord is God,

and he has made his light to shine upon us.

Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,

up to the horns of the altar!

[28] You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;

you are my God; I will extol you.

[29] Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever!

As Jesus traveled throughout the lands preaching and healing the sick some became followers.  Many believed and became His disciples.  Some left their families and professions to follow Him.  Some left riches and property and followed Him.  In comparison to the whole population however, the numbers were relatively few.

Most of those in and around ancient Palestine rejected Jesus.  He was rejected by His hometown of Nazareth, He was rejected by the surrounding villages of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, He was rejected by many of His initial followers, He was rejected by the Sanhedrin, by the scribes, by the Pharisees and others.

What is amazing as we look at Scripture, is this rejection was foretold in the Old Testament.  This rejection of Jesus is as much a part of the Gospel as is the acceptance of Jesus.  In other words, the Gospel is the one message that has forever separated people.  The are two categories of people, those who reject the Lord and those who accept the Lord.  It’s always been that way and always will be that way.  In the case of Jesus’ home town of Nazareth, their lack of repentance and belief was the specific way in which they rejected Jesus.  By not believing and not repenting we too can reject Jesus.

Most people today reject Jesus.  People reject Him on an individual level.  People reject Him as they form various cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and others.  It’s often ok to speak about God but when Jesus is brought into the equation the tide turns, emotions run high.  The call today for us is to accept Christ through repentance and belief.

If we’re to understand Psalm 118, especially the verse dealing with Israel’s rejection of Christ, correctly then we must see it in light of Jewish history and then turn to the NT to see how the Apostles understood it.  How did the ancients understand and use it?  How did the Apostles use it?  What were the points they were making when they used it to illustrate various truths?  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and 1 Peter all make references to this Psalm and often quote portions of it to show that the rejection of Jesus was foretold by the prophets long before it happened.

In the days of Ezra the priest when the Israelites were released from captivity they began to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  When the foundation was finished they sang Psalm 118 in celebration (Ezra 3).  This little bit of history is important because in the days of Ezra the people accepted the foundation of the temple and celebrated.  However, we will see that the people would not be so accepting of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1. The Rejected Cornerstone

[22] The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

[23] This is the Lord’s doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

[24] This is the day that the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

In any ancient construction the corner stone was the most important stone in the structure.  The stones that were used for the temple were cut off site and brought to Jerusalem.  The picture looks like this:

The builders are beginning to lay out the stones for the wall.  They’re looking for flat sides and appropriate heights.  They come to a stone that just doesn’t fit in to their plan.  They cast it aside.  As they begin to build all the stones are set in place.  They come to the corner.  Here they need a stone that not only fits but all the sides match up in order to tie the structure together.  Then they remember the stone they rejected.  They go get it and set it in place and it fits perfectly.

Initially, there was a rejected stone that became the cornerstone of the temple.  Then as we can see, David fits this description.  He was rejected by everyone, His family, the nation, and everyone who saw him.  He was little and the least in his family.  However, God had something else in mind.  David would be king.

Ultimately, this text points to Jesus Christ.  He is its final fulfillment.  As the cornerstone, He’s the One that ties the wall of Jews and the wall of Gentiles together perfectly.

They are so amazed at the fit that they realize it had to be God at work.

[23] This is the Lord’s doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is also meant prophetically…David was made King by God.  Jesus Christ was sent by God.  It is God’s doing.  Our exalted Savior does not depend on man.  He has been set in place by God and has the authority God gave Him.

This is also a time God has ordained for His people.

[24] This is the day that the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This verse is referring to a time of peace for God’s people.  When Christ came He became the cornerstone and has instituted a time of peace between God and His people.  No more will God send His wrath; because of Christ we can rest and know that this is a time God has instituted and brought about.

2. The Rejected Savior

We should notice as we read our Bibles that this idea of Christ being the cornerstone is practically everywhere in the NT.

Matthew 21:28-46, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, John 15:25, Acts 4:1-12, 1 Peter 2:1-12

It is clear from the Gospels that Jesus identified Himself as the rejected stone and the rejected gardener in the parable of the unjust tenants.  Through the Holy Spirit’s leading Peter picks up on this truth.

In Acts 4:1-12 he makes things very plain.  Jesus is the rejected stone and the religious leaders are the builders who rejected Him.

Acts 4:8-12 (ESV)

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders,  [9] if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed,  [10] let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.  [11] This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  [12] And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Peter is very pointed and clear.  He makes a slight change to the original text.  He says “you builders”, placing the truth that they were the ones who rejected Christ.  The religious leaders rejected Jesus and yet there is no other name given for salvation.  Peter has always made this point clear.  There are two groups of people, those who reject Jesus and come to God by works and those who accept Jesus and come to God by faith and repentance.  One screams out hate and the other rejoices in the Savior.

They rejected the fact that Jesus came from Galilee.

John 7:52 (ESV)

They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

They rejected Jesus for not being taught in their schools.

John 7:15 (ESV)

The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

They rejected Jesus for breaking their rules.

Luke 6:2 (ESV)

But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”

They rejected Jesus because of who He hung out with.

Matthew 9:11 (ESV)

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

They hated Jesus mostly because He taught that they had to depend on grace and not on works for salvation and as humans we naturally want to earn salvation through our own righteousness.  When you explain to someone that they can’t…look out.

John 6:65 (ESV)

And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders and very quickly they determined that somehow He had to go.—Frederick Evans Jr (Cited from Boice’s Commentary on the Psalms).

This last reason is the main reason people reject Jesus today.  For the most part people believe they are good and that by doing a few good acts God will overlook all the sin and evil they have committed and that remains within them.  When you share that Jesus teaches everyone is a sinner and He is our only hope for salvation, people begin to get super defensive and reject Him.  He becomes the stone of rejection.

Rather than rejecting the Cornerstone, God’s call is to build on the Cornerstone.  Since Jesus is the Cornerstone of the foundation, we must build on this rock solid foundation and not on something else.

Don’t build your lives on others.  Don’t think that there are other solid foundations.  Satan would have us think that there are other solid foundations in which we can build.  Jesus is the only One.  Some have tried to build on a career or job.  Some have tried to build on a false gospel or a false religion.  Remember every single other foundation is not to be trusted only Jesus is solid an always reliable.

Do not stumble over or reject Jesus Christ and the free offer of salvation.  Do not stumble over Him because of God’s amazing grace shown in Christ.  Rather come to Christ and begin to build your life on the solid foundation He has provided.  Jesus is the living stone and we too are living stones who must settle down and take our place in the spiritual house Jesus is building.

This is Peter’s encouragement for us:

1 Peter 2:4-10 (ESV)

[4] As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  [5] you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  [6] For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,

a cornerstone chosen and precious,

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

[7] So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone,”

[8] and

“A stone of stumbling,

and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. [9] But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  [10] Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Have you built your life on Christ?

If you’ve never trusted Christ through repentance and faith, I encourage you to do that today…

Perhaps you’re a Christian but your life seems to be spinning out of control.  There’s too many distractions and it seems that you have one foot on the solid foundation but your other foot seems to always find sinking sand… Ask God to help you place both feet on the solid foundation and then to begin building a life there.

You cannot build on Christ until you are fully committed to Him and not other things.  We need God’s grace in order to overcome the other things our hearts often run to.  We are as Calvin said perpetual idol worshippers.  God must make us perpetual Christ worshippers.

The call of God is to come to Christ and find your future in Him.  Come and build a life that will last for all eternity, He alone is the Cornerstone of our salvation.

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