This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
What a more appropriate verse can there be to meditate on in these crazy times than Psalm 118:24?! There are three words of this verse that I want us to reflect on today. The first word is the word “DAY.” The Psalmist doesn’t say “this is the week the Lord has made”, or “this is the year the Lord has made,” or “this is the life that the Lord has made.” The verse calls on us to focus on this DAY that the Lord has made for us.
This year has really helped me focus on today. Because the uncertainty of everything has prohibited making long term or even short term plans. Many times things have changed by the day and so we can’t afford to look past today. While many things this year have been difficult and negative, the forced focus on today is actually a good thing. Many people have one eye on the past, which is often filled with regret (that often can’t be fixed) or with nostalgia (which often can’t be relived) and with one eye on the future, which is not guaranteed and as we know, can easily change. In living this way, we miss out on the present, on today, on that which is right in front of us.
I remember years ago I was walking from my cabin at summer camp to the ropes course with my Spiritual Father. It was about a ten-minute walk. He could see that I looked a little stressed. I told him I was nervous about the task we were about to do. Would it be safe? Would the kids learn the appropriate lesson on trust? Etc. He said to me that my stress about the future (in this instance ten minutes in the future) was causing me to miss appreciating the beautiful lake, the gentle breeze, and waiving to others who were near us. He said, “worry about the ropes course when we get down there, for now, enjoy the walk.” Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think of what is happening tomorrow or ten minutes from now. But we should be so preoccupied with the future that we forget to be present. If you have a big meeting with work today, as an example, it shouldn’t preclude you from smiling at breakfast with your family. Just like if you have a big family event planned for tonight that you can hardly wait for, that it shouldn’t preclude you from focusing at work. We can all do a better job of being present.
The second word in this verse to focus on is the word LORD. This day has come from the Lord. It is a gift from the Lord. It is really His day that He has gifted to us. If this day is His, we should make a point of honoring Him in some way in it. Regardless of how stressful, uncertain or even disappointing these days may be, or that any given day may be, it is important in our Christian lives each day to figure out how we will honor God today. As an exercise, decide each morning before you leave the house and get going, how will you honor God today. Imagine as you get up, if you say to yourself “I will honor the Lord by doing (fill in the blank) today.” Imagine how that could change your day and your whole outlook, as well as your focus and purpose, taking it off of ourselves and putting it on Him.
The third word in this verse to focus on is the word REJOICE. If we look at this day as a gift from God, a personal gift to us, we should rejoice in this gift. We don’t know how many more “gifts” of days we will receive. Thus, we shouldn’t squander our days with misery. We should find a reason to rejoice each day. I’ve worked hard in my life to be grateful. It doesn’t come naturally. Maybe it should, but I’ve had to work at it. Years ago, my first thought every morning was “darn, the alarm already.” That is not a positive thought. I’ve worked hard to change my mindset to the thought “thank You God that I’m alive.” Every morning, no matter how much or little sleep I got, no matter what happened the previous day, and no matter how stressful the upcoming day may be, I make my cross and say “thank You God that I am alive.”
The other day at Bible study, the study we are doing asked all participants to write down as many things as they are thankful for in two minutes. I came up with 18 things. Because I was really concentrating. It almost felt like a competition, how many good things can I think of in two minutes? How many causes for rejoicing can I write down in two minutes? Of course, if the question had been how many bad things can I write down in two minutes, I probably would have listed a few. I think that these lists are a matter of what we choose to focus on. If we focus on the things we have for which we can rejoice, it will be a lot easier to be joyful. If we choose to focus on the things that weigh us down, it will be a lot harder to be joyful. Thus, we should choose joy. We should choose to be grateful. We should start off our days thinking about our blessings more than our negatives.
This day is all we have—choose to rejoice in it.
Psalm 118 also includes the words to a hymn that is sung at nearly every Orthros (Matins) service. It comes from verses 26-27. The verses read: “Blessed be He who enters in the name of the Lord! We bless You from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and He has given us light.” When the hymn is sung it is as follows: “God is the Lord and has revealed Himself to us; blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.” The hymn is sung four times and there are verses in between each time it is sung. Two of them are also from this Psalm: “All the nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord, I cut them off!” (Psalm 118:10) and “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (v. 23)
Verse 22 reads: “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” This is referred to in the New Testament in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17 as the lesson in the Parable of the Tenants, how those to whom God lent out His vineyard eventually killed the Son He sent to collect the fruits from the field.
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 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. With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! They surrounded me like bees, they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. Hark, glad songs of victory in the tens of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, the right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!” I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The Lord has chastened me sorely, but He has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank Thee that Thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech Thee, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech Thee, give us success! Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and He has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar! Thou art my God, and I will give thanks to Thee; Thou art my god, I will extol Thee. O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 118
This is the DAY that the LORD has made; let us REJOICE and be glad in it. Honor God today in some way. Rejoice and be grateful for the day He has gifted you!