VICTORY by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Words can have multiple meanings. Think about words like “bark” (on a tree or a dog’s bark) or Bolt (metal fastener or lightning bolt). Then, there are words that have derived from one or the other and they have different meanings: Express—Newspaper print but then extended to refer to the train that carried it. So also, Bureau—it was a special desk then it went to Bureau as an agency or a Bureaucrat. Last weekend, we began a 4-week series leading into the Easter season called “HOSANNA.” The word HOSANNA has more than one meaning. In our first message, we learned that it means “God Save Us.” But, there is another meaning that developed for Hosanna and that is “Victory.” In fact, that’s the title of our message today. Here’s the gist of the message: There is no victory without sacrifice. First the cross and then the crown. It’s the crucified life that is the victorious life. Please turn to Psalm 118, the psalm the crowd cheered when Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
Psalm 118 21 “I will praise You, For You have answered me, and have become my salvation. 22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23This was the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! we have blessed you from the house of the LORD.”
Question: Are you calling on God to save you through some trial? Do you understand that you may have to endure before you can be victorious? Are you carrying your cross daily? Have you come to the cross to be saved?
Context: Next weekend is Palm Sunday. If you grew up in church, you know that it’s the Sunday before Easter when Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and began what we know as the Passion Week. We’ll look at all that in detail next weekend. Today our focus is on the cheers of the crowd when they saw Jesus riding on the donkey. All the gospel writers record their cheer but for time’s sake, listen to just Matthew 21:9 “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” Where did the crowd come up with that cheer? They were chanting from Psalm 118. The question is—Why did they pick this psalm?
To start with, you may not know it but Psalm 118 is the most quoted psalm and maybe even the most quoted and alluded to Old Testament chapter in the New Testament. We have no superscription on why it was written but we do have information on how it was used through the centuries. Basically, 2 major reasons and they are connected. First, according to the Talmud (Jewish writings), Psalm 118 was sung at the Feast of the Tabernacles. Second, it became a Messianic psalm. Let’s look at both these uses closely:
First, this psalm was sung at the Autumn Festival of the Jewish people known as the Feast of the Tabernacles/Booths. Keep in mind that the Jewish people had many feasts but only 3 of them were the pilgrimage feasts (one had to go to Jerusalem to keep it): Feast of the Passover/Unleavened Bread, Feast of the Weeks/Pentecost/First Fruits, and the Feast of the Tabernacles/Booths/Sukkot. This last one was a seven-day feast starting on the 15th day to the 21st day of the seventh month (our September-October). According to God’s command to his people in Leviticus 23, they were to make simple tents out of leaves and branches, and live in them for 7 days. This was to remind them of their time in the wilderness when they lived in booths and made their way through the dangerous desert. It was not a safe or comfortable time but God had protected them from the constant threats of natural hazards, wild animals, and enemy tribes from every side and He had brought them safely to the land that he had promised them. In other words, God had been faithful to them, and he wanted every generation to remember that each year and be grateful. Not only that but it was also a time to give thanks for the harvest.
Principle: In some ways, God is making us live in booths these days. All our security and comforts have been stripped away. Could it be that God wants us to give him thanks for where he has brought us from as a nation and as individuals?
Now, where would Psalm 118 fit in all of this? This was the psalm they would sing at the feast of the Tabernacles. They would start singing it outside the gates of the temple. Listen to the opening lines of the psalm: 1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 2 Let Israel now say, “His mercy endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron now say, “His mercy endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the LORD now say, “His mercy endures forever.” 5 I called on the LORD in distress; The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? …God understands our fears but he rejects our doubts. 14 The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. 15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly…17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. God’s people need to claim this promise in these days. 18 The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Now looking towards the Eastern Gate of the temple they would say—19 Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD. These gates were the Eastern Gate of the temple because they were a double gate with two sections. By the way, according to Ezekiel 44 and 46, the prince has a special access to this east gate. Now they would march into the temple singing the psalm—20 This is the gate of the LORD, through which the righteous shall enter. 21 I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. Then, seeing the temple before them, they would say—22“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This was the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” So much is packed in here that we don’t have time to get into. This was a reference to King David being rejected as the shepherd boy typifying the rejection of the Messiah one day in the future.
Now comes the verse that the crowd used in cheering Jesus as he entered Jerusalem from the Eastern Gate. 25 Save now (Hosanna), I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” What were they waving in their hands? Palm branches. On the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles, the seventh day, also known as Hoshana Rabba (Day of the Great Hosanna), the priests blew the trumpets and the Levites and the people waved the lulavs (palm branches).
Question: What Feast was coming up that week? Not the feast of the Tabernacles or Booths but the Feast of the Passover/Unleavened Bread. The Feast of the Tabernacles was still 6 months away! Why in the world were the people cheering Psalm 118 and waving palm branches when it was not time for the Feast of the Tabernacles? By the time of Jesus, shouting Hosanna and waving palm branches had become symbolic of the coming of the Messiah. The crowd had decided that Jesus fit the bill of the Messiah. Their Messiah was going to free them from the Romans. When they were shouting “Hosanna,” they didn’t mean “Save us.” They meant “Victory” over the Romans and maybe even the corrupt priesthood and temple leaders. How do we know they didn’t understand? Matthew 21 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” The crowd should have read the rest of Psalm 118. Listen to verse 27 “God is the LORD, and He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” Jesus still had to give his life as a sacrifice for our sins.
Please listen carefully: There is no crown without the cross. There is no victory without sacrifice. If we lose sight of the cross, it’s nothing but self-will and human effort. It’s his sacrifice on the cross that gives me the power and the courage to live. The Cross gives me the victory. Amazingly, Jesus did not condemn the crowd. He accepted their praise and even defended them against the temple authorities but he did not commit himself to them. They were not ready for him. They had to first receive him as the Passover Lamb. Once they did that, then they could celebrate victory with him.
How are we going to get through these tough days? Keep your eyes on the cross. First it saves us and then it gives us the victory to live in this life.
Colossians 2 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
How about the empty tomb? The tomb will give you power to live but the cross gives you the perspective to live. First the cross and then the tomb.
Next, pick up your cross and follow Christ.
Mark 8 34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Invitation: Are you just the crowd? Do you understand that the cross gives us the victory to face whatever comes our way? Do you know Jesus as your Savior and King? Are you trusting him through this crisis? What will people say about you when all this is over? Are you giving the cross to those around you?