196

Give Thanks to God for All His Goodness (Psalm 118)

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The last of eight "hallelujah" psalms (111-118), 118 is a hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance from enemies. It presupposes a triumphal procession into the city and the temple of God. Psalm 118 praises God for unfailing love (st. 1) and for deliverance from many enemies (st. 2). In praise to God for bringing victory, the king leads a triumphal entry into God's presence (st. 3); the people celebrate "the day" in which God has set up his corner­stone–the stone the builders had rejected (st. 4). The people praise and joyfully salute the anointed one, "who comes triumphant in God's name." A final call to praise and thank the LORD for unfailing love echoes the psalm's opening statement (st. 5).
 
Psalm 118 closes the "Egyptian Hallel" used in Jewish liturgies for the annual religious festivals prescribed in the Torah. At Passover, Psalms 113 and 114 were sung before the meal; 115 through 118 were sung after the meal. As the last song in that liturgy, 118 may have been the hymn sung by Jesus and his disciples at the end of the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30). Jesus applied verse 22 ("the stone the builders rejected") to himself in Matthew 21:42 and Mark 12:10 (see also Acts 4:11). Stanley Wiersma (PHH 25) versified this psalm in 1982 for the Psalter Hymnal; he took the refrain from verses 1 through 4 and made it the final line of each stanza. Other settings of Psalm 118 are at 179 and 241.
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Easter hymns accomplish three functions: they recount the Easter narrative, proclaim our Easter hope, and celebrate our joy at Christ’s resurrection. This hymn is built on the professions of Easter truths that are expressed primarily in Heidelberg Catechism. Note especially the following:
  • Lord’s Day 17, Question and Answer 45 declares that Christ’s resurrection makes us share in Christ’s righteousness, raises us to a new life by his power, and is a sure pledge to us of our resurrection.
  • Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 57 comforts us to know that not only our soul but “also my very flesh will be raised by the power of God, reunited with my soul, and made like Christ’s glorious body.”
  • Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 58 says that it may be a comfort to know that while experiencing the beginning of eternal joy now, “after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever.”
In addition, Our Song of Hope, stanza 5 professes: “On the day of the resurrection, the tomb was empty; His disciples saw Him; death was defeated; new life had come. God’s purpose for the world was sealed.”
196

Give Thanks to God for All His Goodness (Psalm 118)

Call to Worship

God of life,
we praise you for the miracle of Easter.
We pray for great joy for ourselves and for all who come
to worship today to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
We pray especially for those who will join us for worship
and whose lives are filled with pain, loss, or deep sadness.
May they sense how the resurrection is a source of great hope. Amen.
[Reformed Worship 47:39]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples,
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
your faithfulness extends to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
Let your glory be over all the earth.
—Psalm 57:8-11, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
In our anguish we cried to the Lord,
and he answered by setting us free.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
The Lord is our strength and our song;
he has become our salvation.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
We will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
The Lord has done this;
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
—from Psalm 118:1, 5, 14, 17, 22-24, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

The following may be used at the beginning of an Easter Vigil service. It may also be further
adapted for other occasions of Easter worship.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ,
on this most holy night
when Jesus, our Lord, passed from death to life,
we gather, united with the church throughout the world,
to rehearse again all that God has promised
and to celebrate how all those promises are “Yes” in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
This is the Passover of Jesus Christ.
As people of this Passover,
we tell the whole story of God’s covenanting love.
We celebrate that by God’s grace this story is our story:
that God has grafted us into his Easter people,
helping us to share in Christ’s triumph over sin and death.
On this Passover night, we declare with joy:
“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
In him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
—based on John 1:1, 4-5
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
We give you thanks, great God,
for the hope we have in Jesus,
who died but is risen and rules over all.
We praise you for his presence with us.
Because he lives, we look for eternal life,
knowing that nothing past, present, or yet to come
can separate us from your great love
made known in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
[WBK, p 148, PD]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Assurance

Hear the Word of the Lord from Psalm 118:
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
In Christ, God answers us and sets us free!
In Christ, we are forgiven! Thanks be to God.
—based on Psalm 118:4-5, 14, 17, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
—1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have died.
For since death came through a human being,
the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;
for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.
—1 Corinthians 15:20-22, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

God, who is rich in mercy,
out of the great love with which he loved us
even when we were dead through our trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
and raised us up with him and seated us with him
in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the ages to come he might show
the immeasurable riches of his grace
in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
—Ephesians 2:4-7, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God;
we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
—Isaiah 25:6-9, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the foundation of our life and faith.
Even when the world rejects you, we sing your praise.
Help us to love and serve others even when they reject us and you.
In your name there is healing, in your death there is life,
in your resurrection there is hope, and at your return every knee will bow.
Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.
196

Give Thanks to God for All His Goodness (Psalm 118)

Tune Information

Name
GENEVAN 98/118/RENDEZ À DIEU
Key
G Major or modal
Meter
9.8.9.8 D

Recordings

Musical Suggestion

This psalm was a festal procession sung by the Israelites as the final psalm in the "Hallel," the group of "Hallelujah" psalms sung during Jewish liturgy at the great religious festivals. Because Psalm 118 is structured antiphonally, each time "His love forever is the same" or the equivalent phrase on each verse occurs, it could be sung or played by a different group of people. Sometimes I play that phrase on a different manual to highlight the antiphonal character of the text.
 
Organists may appreciate the following easy compositions based on RENDEZ À DIEU:
  • "Intonatie Psalm 98 (66, 118)" by Willem van Twillert (from Muziek voor de Eredienst, published by Ars Nova [1385002], Oranje Nassaulaan 25-1075 AJ Amsterdam).
  • "Bread of the World" by Henry Coleman (from Twenty-four Interludes Based on Communion Hymn Tunes).
  • "Father, We thank Thee" by Richard Peek (from Hymn Preludes for the Church Year).
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 30)
— Joan Ringerwole

A setting of this psalm composed by Eelco Vos for leadership by a contemporary worship band is available from The Psalm Project (see www.thepsalmproject.com).
196

Give Thanks to God for All His Goodness (Psalm 118)

Hymn Story/Background

The last of eight "hallelujah" psalms (111-118), Psalm 118 is a hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance from enemies. It presupposes a triumphal procession into the city and the temple of God. Psalm 118 praises God for unfailing love (st. 1) and for deliverance from many enemies (st. 2). In praise to God for bringing victory, the king leads a triumphal entry into God's presence (st. 3); the people celebrate "the day" in which God has set up his corner­stone–the stone the builders had rejected (st. 4). The people praise and joyfully salute the anointed one, "who comes triumphant in God's name." A final call to praise and thank the LORD for unfailing love echoes the psalm's opening statement (st. 5).
 
Psalm 118 closes the "Egyptian Hallel" used in Jewish liturgies for the annual religious festivals prescribed in the Torah. At Passover, Psalms 113 and 114 were sung before the meal; 115 through 118 were sung after the meal. As the last song in that liturgy, 118 may have been the hymn sung by Jesus and his disciples at the end of the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30). Jesus applied verse 22 ("the stone the builders rejected") to himself in Matthew 21:42 and Mark 12:10 (see also Acts 4:11). Stanley Wiersma versified this psalm in 1982 for the 1987 Psalter Hymnal; he took the refrain from verses 1 through 4 and made it the final line of each stanza.
 
GENEVAN 98/118 was first published in the 1551 Genevan Psalter as a setting for Psalm 118; in the 1562 edition it was also set to Psalm 98 (hence both numbers in the tune name). The tune is also often named RENDEZ A DIEU, the French incipit for Psalm 118.
 
This beloved tune is one of the finest and most widely sung of the Genevan psalm tunes (next to GENEVAN 134). Its clear melodic structure and vibrant rhythm call for firm accompaniment with bright organ registration, though some congregations may want to try unaccompanied singing on a stanza or two in the tradition of the sixteenth-century Reformers.
 
Many modern hymnals set this tune to versifications of Psalm 98 or to other hymn texts. In the 1564 harmonization by Claude Goudimel, the melody was originally placed in the tenor.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Stanley Marvin Wiersma (b. Orange City, IA, 1930; d. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1986) was a poet and professor of English at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, from 1959 until his sudden death in 1986. He attended Calvin as an under­graduate and received a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1959. His love for the Genevan psalms is reflected in the two books of poetry for which he is most widely known: Purpaleanie and Other Permutations (1978) and Style and Class (1982), both written under the pseudonym Sietze Buning. He also wrote More Than the Ear Discovers: God in the Plays of Christopher Fry and translated many Dutch poems and hymn texts into English, including the children's hymns published in All Will Be New (1982).
 
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

The Genevan Psalter is the major gift of the Reformed branch of the Reformation to the song of the church. John Calvin (1509-1564) first experienced congregational singing of the psalms in Strasbourg when serving as a pastor of French exiles there, and when returning to Geneva in 1541 he finally persuaded the city council to permit congregational singing, which they had banned entirely under the influence of Ulrich Zwingli. Just two months after returning to Geneva, Calvin wrote in his Ecclesiastical Ordinances: "It will be good to introduce ecclesiastical songs, the better to incite the people to pray to and praise God. For a beginning the little children are to be taught; then with time all the church will be able to follow." Calvin set about overseeing the development of several metrical psalms with melodies, rather than the hymns, or chorales, of the Lutheran tradition, and also in contrast to the published psalters with texts only that followed in England and Scotland. The emerging Genevan Psalter was published in instalments until completed in 1562, including the 150 psalms, the Ten Commandments and the Song of Simeon. He employed the best French poets and composers to prepare metrical settings rather than continuing to chant the psalms, since poetry in meter was the popular form of the day—and also the choice for the Lutheran chorale.
 
The publication event was the largest in publishing history until then; twenty-four printers in Geneva alone, plus presses in Paris, Lyons, and elsewhere produced more than 27,000 copies in the first two years; more than 100,000 copies were available in over thirty editions. The Genevan Psalter was extremely popular, and almost immediately translated into Dutch, Hungarian, and German. Due to the intense persecution of the French Huguenots in the 16th century, the center of activity of the Reformed branch of the Reformation moved away from France and especially to the Netherlands, and from there to Indonesia, South Africa, and North America. The most recent translation (2004) of the entire psalter is into Japanese. The most recent English translation of the entire Genevan Psalter is available with melodies from the Canadian Reformed Book of Praise, available at http://www.canrc.org/?page=23 .
Calvin’s goal was to provide a distinct tune for every psalm, so that each psalm would have its own identity. Every tune would then bring to mind a particular psalm. The psalter didn’t quite reach this goal: it contains 125 different tunes. Today, only a few of those Genevan tunes are in wide use, among them the psalm tune most widely known around the world, often identified as OLD HUNDRETH, or simply, “The Doxology.”
— Emily Brink

The music of Claude Goudimel (b. Besançon, France, c. 1505; d. Lyons, France, 1572) was first published in Paris, and by 1551 he was composing harmonizations for some Genevan psalm tunes—initially for use by both Roman Catholics and Protestants. He became a Calvinist in 1557 while living in the Huguenot community in Metz. When the complete Genevan Psalter with its unison melodies was published in 1562, Goudimel began to compose various polyphonic settings of all the Genevan tunes. He actually composed three complete harmonizations of the Genevan Psalter, usually with the tune in the tenor part: simple hymn-style settings (1564), slightly more complicated harmonizations (1565), and quite elaborate, motet-like settings (1565-1566). The various Goudimel settings became popular throughout Calvinist Europe, both for domestic singing and later for use as organ harmonizations in church. Goudimel was one of the victims of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of Huguenots, which oc­curred throughout France.
 
— Bert Polman
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