Read Psalm 118:1-4, 5-16
The real title of this Psalm is the "Passover Hosanna Psalm," and its theme is faith unto enlargement through adversity. Martin Luther called this Psalm his Psalm, and I think his life is a very good commentary upon it. We know why he made it his Psalm. He might well have been the originator of it, so true was his life to all that is here. It is just an explanation and a summing up of all his experience. "This is my Psalm," he said.
This Psalm was really born out of experience, and it is that that makes it live. There lies behind it very deep history, especially in two particular connections.
The Background of the Psalm
In the first place, this Psalm, whose composer no one seems to know, was at least adapted to, if not composed for, the Passover after the dedication of the second Temple. You are probably acquainted with the history of the second Temple. You have to turn, of course, to the Book of Ezra, and alongside of it to the Book of Nehemiah, and then to the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah; and when you have read those four books, you have the setting of Psalm 118. Read again verses 5 to 16 of the Psalm in the light of that, and you will see what light is thrown upon these verses. Or take a fragment - verse 10: "All nations compassed me about: in the name of the Lord I will cut them off. They compassed me about ..." And turn to the Book of Ezra, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10. Here you have a whole host of nations all gathered against Ezra and the building of the second Temple. They compassed him about - all these nations compassed him about - they compassed him about like stinging bees. Thus this description of adversity, of opposition, gives this Psalm a very real practical application: for the remnant which had escaped from captivity had returned to the land with the building and dedication of the Temple in view, and if this Psalm is a description of things as they were then, it is indeed the story of life out of death.
(continued with # 2 - (Life Out of Death)