Matthew 21:1-11 Part 3

Psalms one hundred thirteen through one hundred eighteen form a set of six Psalms which are very special; and they are so for a number of different reasons.  For example, Martin Luther’s favorite was Psalm one hundred eighteen.  It was, appropriately, his favorite because it has much encouragement for those who are involved in making a stand for the Truth against higher authority – especially if that authority has the power, and the will, and the demeanor, to do very damaging and hurtful things!

And the other five Psalms are very useful, individually, for certain times and events as well.  If we were to spend some time preaching through all six, you each would probably grow to love one or more of them for your own peculiar reasons.

But these six very special Psalms were, at some time in the past, grouped together in the Psalter for other than their “individual” usefulness in special circumstances.  In fact, they were grouped together this way long before the time of Christ; and they were called the “Hallel”.

Now, “Hallel”, in Hebrew, means praise.  And it is the first part of the Hebrew term “Hallel-u-jah”.  Hallelujah.  The last sound in the word is “Ja”, which is the personal name of God!  “Jah” – as in Jahveh.  And the “U” sound in the word is the second person plural.  So, “Hallelujah” is an outcry for all the people, and of all the people, to praise God!

In the New Testament, the Greek leaves off the rough breathing sound at the beginning of the word; and it is pronounced “Alleluia” rather than Halleluia – almost an exact transliteration of the Hebrew – meaning precisely the same thing!  (We’ll see an instance of that in a little while.)

But while I’m on the word itself, let me say that in those instances in which this Hallelujah word is used in a flippant manner, it is a gross violation of the third Commandment having to do with the Name of God!  It is an empty and vain expression of disdain for our Sovereign God to use His Name in a free-and-easy, devil-may-care manner!

There are, of course, many other ways of being impertinent and arrogant with God’s Name (since the Commandment is inclusive), but uttering a “halleluia” as a common, every-day expression is certainly to be included in those things that we should be very careful about.  Our God’s Name ought to be “awesome”; it ought to be revered.  In other words, it ought to be held in such regard that we refuse to do or say anything or approve of anything which would cause Him or His Name to be made “common”.

As Christians we bear around the Name in our persons, and the Person of Christ.  So to attend an event where God’s Son isn’t honored is a violation of the Commandment.  The enjoyment of entertainment in which the Person or the Attributes and the Name and the honor and the reputation of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are bandied about in a vain and empty way is a violation of the Commandment!  For example, the movies, our music, and TV shows.  God is sensitive about these things; so we, too, ought to burn hot with jealousy and anger for His Honor and Reputation.

So to use a term like “halleluia” in a common way is to celebrate a “commonality” of God.  And that doesn’t exist.  So leave it out of your language until you’re ready to give Him praise – because that’s exactly what the word means:  Praise God!

Back to the Hallel.  These six Psalms – one thirteen through one eighteen – are grouped together in the Psalter for a reason, as I said.  And the reason is that they were used together in special situations of worship and celebration.

I’m not going to take the time to relate them all, but one of those special celebrations was Passover!  It wasn’t written in the Law that they were to be used like that, but the Psalter is put together like it is for a reason.  The Psalms aren’t in some alphabetical or chronological order.  Neither are they at random.  These six Psalms are grouped together because they were deemed, by the Old Testament Church, as useful being grouped together!

For example, at the family Passover celebration, as the individual household drank the wine and ate the bread and the lamb, portions of Psalms one thirteen and one fourteen would be recited at certain times.  And then, later on, parts of the other four would be used – especially Psalm one eighteen.

In Psalm one hundred thirteen Yahveh exalts the lowly (humble) in His redemption.  The song of Mary, as she contemplated the coming birth of Christ, quotes from this Psalm, because God the Father would exalt His Son Who was born in a meek and lowly condition.  And this one, as well as all the others, ends with a “Hallelujah!”

Psalm one fourteen is the historical Hallel, because it relates the deeds of God at the Exodus of His people – and ends with “Hallelujah!”

Psalm one fifteen says, “Blessed the Name of Yahveh”.  And it calls upon God to rescue the honor of His Name.  Pagan idols are dumb, but God will bless those who fear Him.  “Hallelujah!”

One hundred sixteen is a Psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from death.  Yahveh has “loosed” the bonds, and the cup of celebration will be drunk for praise of the Name of Yahveh.  “Hallelujah!”

Psalm one seventeen is a very short and intense call to all the nations.  God’s Truth and His Lovingkindness are displayed to all the earth – abundantly covering sin and infirmity.  “Hallelujah!”

And Psalm one eighteen (Luther’s favorite) gives thanks to Yahveh for His mercy in the coming Salvation!  And this Psalm was used in a special way at the public celebration of Passover.  On the sixth day, at the time of the temple sacrifice (the whole burnt offering sacrifice) the people would gather together in a certain place.  And they would recite, or sing, verses one through four as they set out toward the temple.

And on the way they would sing verses five through eighteen.  Then at verses twenty through twenty-seven the priests at the temple would receive the procession; and the people would answer (antiphonally) with verse twenty-eight.  And everyone (priests and people) would sing the last verse (twenty-nine).

Now.  Keeping in mind that all the people are gathered together, in a large crowd, coming to the temple for the sacrifice, let me read this last portion of the Psalm for you; because this is recited in our text this morning.  As the people are entering the gates of the city and of the temple, this is what they recite – from Psalm one hundred eighteen, verse nineteen:


“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter into them, that I may give thanks to Jah!”


Then the priests would recite (from verse twenty):


“This is the gate of Yahveh; the righteous may enter there.”


And then the people would flow by the thousands into the temple area, and there would be singing and reciting of the rest of the Psalm.  Listen to it:


“I give thanks unto You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation.  The Stone, which the builders despised, is become the corner and head stone.  From Yahveh is this come to pass; it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day which Yahveh has made; let us exult and rejoice at it!  O Yahveh I beseech You, save now!  O Yahveh I beseech You, prosper now.  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of Yahveh; we bless You from the house of Yahveh.  God is Yahveh and has given us light; bind the festive sacrifice with cords – even up toward the horns of the altar!”


And the last two verses are praise and thanksgiving for God’s goodness in salvation.  But it is obvious – even at first reading – that this is concerning the Christ, isn’t it?  The “head stone” that the builders despise; the One Who comes in the Name of Yahveh; bind up the sacrifice with cords – all the way to the horns of the altar (for His sacrifice!).

And in our text we see the multitudes coming toward Jerusalem and the temple, with the sacrifice Himself (bound in meekness to the will of God)  to be sacrificed as the ransom for many!  And they’re singing from this Psalm!

Just as the people of old, at the Passover celebration, sang from this Psalm on the way in to the temple, these multitudes in our text, coming into Jerusalem and the temple, are singing from this Psalm.

Just as the people of old sang “Ana Yahveh Hoshiana” (I beg You Yahveh, save now), verse twenty-five of the Psalm; so in our text the multitudes are singing “hosanna” to the Son of David!  (Hosanna meaning “save now”.)

Just as the people of old, coming toward the temple, would sing “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of Yahveh” (verse twenty-six of the Psalm), so, in our text, the multitudes, on the way toward the temple, were singing (verse nine) “Blessed is the One coming in the Name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highests!”

The Lord Jesus Christ was coming as the “bound” sacrifice; bound all the way to the horns of the altar – fulfilling all that was said and done in the Hallel!  Only, now, all that the old Passover signified for centuries since the Exodus, was now coming to pass in actuality!  And the Pharisees and priests didn’t know it; and this great crowd of people didn’t know it; and, as the apostle John later admitted in His Gospel, the disciples of Jesus didn’t know it!  All this great multitude of people, singing from the great Hallel at Passover, and none of them knew what was actually happening!  They didn’t know that the real Passover Lamb was here, and He was proceeding – bound – toward the horns of the altar of whole burnt offering!  None of them understood that they were participating in the actual fulfilling of all the Old Testament prophecy with regard to the salvation of God!

The Ransom was to be paid – One for the many – and Christ would be given a Kingly inheritance for His obedience.  But the multitudes thought they were going to install Him as King over Israel!

But as far as the Scribes and Pharisees and priests were concerned, they considered Him as neither a Ransom nor a King!  They were looking for one of their own (as they still are today) to emerge as God’s Messianic King!

But enough of that.  We have to go back to the text, now, and look at this word “Hosanna”.  As verse nine says, “Hosanna to the Son of David… Hosanna in the Highests”.  And as I said before, the “Hosanna” comes from verse twenty-six of Psalm one eighteen which says, “Aha Yivah Hoshia Na”, which means “I beg You, Yahveh, save now.”  Hosan na!

And as the crowds cried out to Jesus to “save now”, the term Hosannah had become almost like a “Hail” to the Messianic King who would come and restore Israel and cause them to prosper.  So the salvation anticipated was not one in which, by the ransom, they would be “loosed” from the bonds of sin and the curse, but that they would be restored as a nation and freed from the oppression of Rome and returned to international prosperity!

But there is even another connection here to “Hosanna” – save now – which we must see; because these great crowds were cutting branches and strewing them in the way, and stripping their clothes off and covering the beast and the road with them!

Now, the boughs that were made were of the common trees of that time, which included palms, myrtles, figs and apples and pomegranates.  But a flowering branch, such as a myrtle, would be tied to the stalk of a palm branch; and, remarkably, it was called a hosannah!  It resembled the gilded carvings on the doors and windows of the temple and the walls of the holy place (prescribed in God’s Law).

In Ezekiel we read the description of the inside of the temple, and in many places there were palm trees and cherubim alternating.  A palm tree and a cherubim – then another palm tree; and so on.  And underneath there was apparently a row of flowering branches!

So when the crowd cut flowering branches and attached them to the palm trees, they looked like the gilded carvings in the temple!  And these were what the crowds strewed all along the way from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem.  They were shouting and singing Hosannas to Jesus, and strewing hosannas in the road!  “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!”  Hallelujah to the “coming One”.  “Hosanna” – save now – in the highests.  God has sent His Messiah to save Israel.

But none of them remembered the prophecy of Joel, which begins with the worms and the withering and the rotting of all the flowering and fruit-producing trees of Israel; that all of it would become a desert wasteland.  And the rest of Ezekiel’s prophecy of the filth and desecration of the inside of the temple.  And Isaiah’s prophecy of the temple’s destruction.  All the hope and rejoicing and anticipation for Israel’s restoration would be dashed by the crucifixion of Christ.  What despair and fear and darkness and hopelessness there must have been while Jesus was dying on Golgotha.

And all those boughs of hosannas laying withering in the road all the way down the mountainside and up into Mount Olivet. 

And the garments.  The “himation” – the clothes.  What’s the significance of the garments?

Surely, the use of the garments for the new King to trod upon and to sit upon is a means of honoring the Coming King.  But there is much more here than that.

In Jacob’s blessing upon his sons, in Genesis forty-nine, it is Judah who receives the special blessing of his father.  He will be supreme over his brothers; and, before the time of the Messiah, he will bind his ass and its colt to the vine and strip his filthy garments and wash them in the blood of grapes.  The blessing on Judah is clearly Messianic – having to do with the binding and loosing of the colt and washing of filthy garments – all leading to the obedience of the nations to God’s Messiah!

And after a series of prophetic passages among the prophets concerning putting off the filthy garments, we come to Zechariah again, who speaks to the “Daughter of Zion”!  And he prophesies the stripping off of the filthy garments of Israel, which signifies the passing of iniquity and a change into new garments because of the work of Messiah!

So you see, the stripping off of the garments of the remnant of Israel has much more significance than merely a gesture of honor for the King!  For it is a prophetic sign of regeneration for Israel!  All prophesied by Jacob more than three hundred years before the Exodus from Egypt!  Messiah would “loose” the colt which had been “bound” to the vine by Jacob, and ride into Jerusalem, to the Hosannas and Hallelujahs of the multitudes, in order to provide the ransom; and the filthy garments of Israel and the nations would be washed in His blood; and they would receive rich garments of pure, white linen.

As usual, we all love to see the fulfillment of all of these prophesied things – as John the apostle saw them.  So as we complete the preaching of this passage, I read to you from Revelation nineteen.  Listen carefully to the hallelujahs and hosannas of the great multitudes, and the fine garments of linen – signifying the purchased righteousness of the saints; because the Lord and Son of David has given His life a ransom for many:


“And… I heard as a loud voice of a great crowd in the heaven saying, ‘Hallelujah – the salvation and the glory and the power of our God; because true and righteous are His judgments.  Because He judged the great whore who defiled the earth with her fornication, and He avenged the blood of His servants out of her hand.’

And secondly (the great crowd) said, ‘Hallelujah, for her smoke goes up unto the ages of the ages.’

And the twenty-four elders and the four living beasts fell and worshipped God sitting on the throne, saying ‘Amen.  Hallelujah!’

And a voice came out from the throne saying, “Praise our God all His servants – the ones fearing Him, the small and the great.’

And I heard a sound as of a great crowd, and a sound as of many waters, and a sound as of strong thundering, saying ‘Hallelujah, for the Lord our God the Almighty has reigned.  Let us rejoice and exult, and we will give Him the glory; for the marriage of the Lamb came; and His wife, Daughter of Zion, made herself ready; and it was given to her that she might be clothed with bright, clean, fine linen (stripped of her filthy garments); for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.’”


May God give us clarity of insight into the prophecy and fulfillment of these majestic things which He has done for His Own glory and for our benefit.  Hosanna in the highest.  Hallelujah!  Amen.