Psalm 118: The Cornerstone

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
This is the LORD’S doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:22–23

If you look in the Gospels, you’ll find records of Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees during Holy Week. After telling the parable of the vine-growers killing the son of the vineyard owner (cf. Matthew 21, Mark 12 and Luke 20), Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22–23:

“Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” They *said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”

“Jesus *said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,

‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief cornerstone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

“When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.”
Matthew 21:40–46

Jesus knew Psalm 118 referred to Himself, and not only that, He told the Pharisees this through His use of this psalm. Leslie M’Caw and J. A. Motyer pointed this out about Psalm 118:22:

“Isaiah (28:16) uses identical terminology about God’s promises to David: it was the error of Hezekiah at that time to seek military security rather than the security of trusting the promises. In standing by His promises, God chooses the stone which the worldly-wise rejected. Cf. Dn. 2:34, 35, 44, 45; Zc. 3:9; 4:7. Stone was obviously in common use as a symbol of Davidic monarchy and a Messianic term.”1

Now think about that for a moment. Jesus knew this. The Pharisees and other religious leaders knew this. He was clearly telling them He was Messiah, and they knew this.

At the end of His formidable indictment of the Pharisees Jesus again laments over Jerusalem and then quotes Psalm 118:26, the very words the multitude had cried out as He entered the city a few days earlier:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
Matthew 23:38–39


_________
The Corner Stone (Le pierre angulaire), James Tissot, No known copyright restrictions.
1Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 526.

*The NASB Explanation of General Format has this explanation of their use of an asterisk in translation:
“ASTERISKS are used to mark verbs that are historical presents in the Greek which have been translated with an English past tense in order to conform to modern usage. The translators recognized that in some contexts the present tense seems more unexpected and unjustified to the English reader than a past tense would have been. But Greek authors frequently used the present tense for the sake of heightened vividness, thereby transporting their readers in imagination to the actual scene at the time of occurrence. However, the translators felt that it would be wiser to change these historical presents to English past tenses.”

Original content: Copyright ©2011–2020 Iwana Carpenter

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