Mark's Gospel tells us that after Jesus had taken the Passover with His disciples "they sung a hymn" and went out to Gethsemane (Mark 14:26).
In all likelihood, the hymn came from the collection of six psalms known as the Hallel (praise), Psalms 113–118. These psalms were traditionally sung by a Jewish family as it partook of and completed the Passover meal.
Thus, if you want to know the portion of Scripture which sustained Jesus as He entered the most difficult hours of His life, you will find it here—beginning with Psalm 113.
If you were facing a garden of sorrow and a hill of crucifixion, would you have felt like beginning and ending your prayer with praise to the Lord (vv. 1,9)?
Jesus did. Why?
God on High
As Jesus entered the dark clouds of Gethsemane and Calvary, He fell back on what is always true. The seemingly out-of-control things happening to Him did not mean that God had lost track of Him.
You must learn to distinguish how you feel from what you know. You will not always feel God's presence. Your emotions may tell you God has abandoned you. You don't feel like praising the Lord. Yet, five times in the first three verses of this psalm, we are invited to praise the Lord—not blame Him, fuss at Him, or accuse Him—but praise Him.
There is a breathtaking sweep to the praise for it is: eternal—"now and forevermore" (v. 2); global—"from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets" (v. 3).
Jesus approached His dying hours in trust that what He did for us would produce a ceaseless and worldwide praise from His Church on earth.
Never project your weakness onto God. You may be powerless but He is powerful; you may be confused but He is not; you may be knocked off your feet but He sits enthroned on high (vv. 4,5).
God Bending Low
The latter half of this psalm reminds us that God above also "stoops down to look" (v. 6).
There are two kinds of looks: The priest and the Levite looked at the man lying wounded on the roadside of life but passed on without helping. The Good Samaritan looked, and his look produced the action of help. (See Luke 10:31–33.)
In Jesus Christ, God has stooped to look you in the face and help you.
Two groups benefit from the Lord's caring look:
1. The poor or needy (vv. 7,8). Jesus came with good news for the poor. (See Luke 4:18.) In fact, the kingdom of God is open only to those who say, "I need help." (See Matthew 15:25.) Jesus came not only for the poor in spirit, but also those lying on the pile of burned-out dreams and hopes, feeling worthless and used. He completely restores your value.
2. The barren (v. 9). In many cultures, a childless wife is looked upon as an unproductive member of society. Hannah represents a host of women who have cried their eyes out in anguish and grief, praying to conceive a child. (See 1 Samuel 1:8,16.)
No matter what the nature of your barrenness—these words remind you that God is committed to helping you.
Think of how this psalm must have fortified Jesus as He prepared to leave the Upper Room where He had taken the Passover with His disciples. The opening half refreshed His confidence in the greatness of His Father; the latter half deeply reminded Him of why He had come.
George O. Wood is the general superintendent for the Assemblies of God. For the original article, visit georgeowood.com.