Psalm Saturday | Hallelujah!!!

Last month, we began exploring what is commonly known as the “Hallel Psalms.” An ancient Hebrew word, Hallel is simply a command to praise. This week, we examine and meditate on the final entry of what is historically referred to as the “Egyptian Hallel.” The Egyptian Hallel is the first portion forming a trilogy of Hallel psalms that is broken down into a) the Egyptian Hallel, consisting of Psalms 113-118, b) the Great Hallel, comprised of Psalms 120-136, and c) the final shouts of Hallel praises found in Psalms 146-150. These psalms serve as a foundational element of the worship for ancient Hebrew and early Christian cultures, similar to how hymns shape our more modern modes of worship today.

We began our journey with Psalm 113, and today arrive at Psalm 118. The “Egyptian Hallel” is a series of psalms focusing on the Israelites’ experiences in Egypt. The psalms comprise part of two collections sung at three annual festivals that all Jews were expected to attend. These three festivals were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. In addition to serving as an integral part of worship at the three major festivals, they were also sung on other holy days, including new moon festivals.

Psalm 118 paints a picture of a celebratory processional journeying to the temple to sing praises and present sacrificial offerings to the Lord. Describing the experiences of the nations in relation to a unique person, the psalm is often used to interpret the work of Christ. The psalm is believed to have been sung antiphonally, alternating between two groups of singers. Antiphonal singing dating back to the most ancient of times and can be found in the folk and liturgical music of multiple cultures. The antiphonal singing of psalms is a tradition of ancient Hebrew and early Christian worship, with choirs of worshippers alternating in a form of call and response style singing of half-lines of psalm verses. Alternating singing has a rich tradition and is seen African and African-American folk music, as well as European folk songs.

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According to renowned biblical scholar Dr. Bob Utley, the exact historical setting of this Psalm has been disputed. It is clear, from reviewing the narrative of Exodus 15, that the Moses’ song of victory at the Red Sea is the likely source of the metaphors found in the psalm. The psalm readily fits the period of the post-exilic return occurring under Nehemiah. It also lends itself to an eschatological setting, making the Psalm relatable to the pressures and problems faced and shared by generations. It is an important psalm in the Jewish tradition and is quoted by Jesus making His Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday preceding Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday. It is also highly probable that it among the hymns that Jesus and His disciples sang in the Upper Room during the Lord’s Supper.

Psalm 118 is a rich song celebrating the greatness of God and His faithful watch-care over those who love Him and call Him Lord. God’s love is everlasting and He is trustworthy beyond measure. God is for us and can be counted on. We can be confident that He is always at work around us, even if we may not initially see the work of His hands during the trials and tribulations we encounter as part of daily life. Psalm 118, as it did for the ancient Hebrews and early Christians, reminds us that we have much to be thankful for, even in the light of our dark, desert moments. When things seem the bleakest, God shines the brightest.

I have much to be thankful for. God has been gracious and merciful to me. This past week, I experienced the overflowing goodness of God as He revealed Himself to me through the words and actions of others. He lovingly reminded me to trust in Him, that He is faithful, and that I can be confident that He is at work in my life and all around me. What an incredible joy it is to serve a great God who is both Almighty beyond measure and knowable on an intimate, personal basis.


Devo Guy

A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.

                                    ~Roma Downey, actress

How about you?

Is your heart overflowing with joyfulness and thanksgiving? Are you grateful today?

As always, thanks for reading.


The Devotional Guy™

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Psalm 118

1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

2 Let Israel say,
His steadfast love endures forever.
3 Let the house of Aaron say,
His steadfast love endures forever.
4 Let those who fear the Lord say,
His steadfast love endures forever.

5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
7 The Lord is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

10 All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
they went out like a fire among thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the Lord helped me.

14 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!

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.

19 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!


Blackaby, Henry and King, Claude A. (1994). Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Broadman and Holman Publishers. Nashville, Tennessee.

Lockyer, Herbert (1966). All the Books and Chapters of the Bible. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Randel, Don Michael (2003) The Harvard Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tomlin, Chris and Whitehead, David. (2017). Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way You Worship. Thomas Nelson Publishing. Nashville, Tennessee.

White, James F. (1993) A Brief History of Christian Worship. Abingdon Press. Nashville.


Bob Utley’s Free Bible Commentary

Constable’s Notes

Thank you to the artists and talented editors providing images and tools at Pixabay and Pixlr.


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