This Is the Day
When the weather is warm enough, I like to take walks in my neighborhood in Springboro. Sometimes I think about specific things: things I need to do, things that happened in the past. Sometimes I don’t have anything in particular on my mind, I just enjoy the day and take in my surroundings. One day this past summer it was very pleasant, and I recited Psalm 118:24 to myself. You all know it:
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
I meditated on the verse, turning it over and over in my mind; I thought about it phrase by phrase, even word by word. By the time I returned home I had a different perspective on this verse than I had before setting out. Allow me to share some of these insights with you.
We start with specificity. While we can rejoice and be glad in the abstract, this verse is not advocating that. “This”, a pronoun, points us to “the day” and not just any day; this day, now. We are in the present tense, as “is” indicates. Yesterday has gone, tomorrow is not yet. Rejoice and be glad in your current situation, whatever it is, for surely there is something praiseworthy about it.
Again, we have a specific. The definite article “the” doesn’t allow us to be vague about which day; it is this particular day, today. Up until now when I praised God with this verse I had always thought of “day” as referring to the daytime hours or as a 24-hour period. I rejoiced because the sun was shining, or I spent the day with my grandchildren. The Hebrew word yowm is overwhelmingly translated in that way, but I learned that it also has the meaning of a longer period of time, a while or an interval or a season. The pregnancy of an expectant mother is a season when she caresses her baby bump and sings to her unborn child, rejoicing in the Lord during this time. The internship of a doctor is a difficult but necessary period in his training in order to become fully skilled; being glad for this instruction during this time is what the psalmist calls for.
The article “the” points to the specific God, “the Lord”, Yahweh, the covenant name of God. This is not a generic god, a worthless idol; this is the Lord God Almighty who in His wisdom created the universe and all that is in it. This is the God who rules over and has power over all things, including us and our situations. His love and holiness and grace are unsurpassed; we should praise Him in any and all circumstances.
The Lord who created all things planned out all things long before He said, “Let there be light.” He knew how to make rocks and oceans and trees and birds; He created the properties of electricity and magnetism; He is a Sculptor extraordinaire who formed our bodies in all their intricacies. None of this was left to chance. Our circumstances today are not random for our day is just what He ordained, our situations just what He allowed.
This phrase is not asking for permission to rejoice; this is an invitation to all of us to express our delight in all the facets of our life today. And while we can rejoice and be glad individually it is also important to rejoice together, as the plural pronoun “us” indicates. Sharing successes together, yes, even sharing failures together, draws us closer as a family, and unity is always something over which to be joyful.
rejoice and be glad
This is the heart of the verse. The psalmist could have boiled down his words to only, “Rejoice and be glad,” commanding us to always have an attitude of joy and gladness, but then we would miss the fullness of the psalmist’s thoughts, calling us to remember the Lord and all that He has done for us this day. The concept of joy is a major theme in the Bible. The word joy and various derivatives (rejoice, joyful, enjoy, etc.) are used almost 500 times in the NIV. God expects us to have joy and to rejoice always; we are commanded to rejoice. We are not urged to be grumpy or have an unpleasant disposition, we are urged to be joyful. And please don’t confuse joy and happiness. Joy is the delight and pleasure we have regardless of our circumstances; happiness is the good feeling we have when things are going well. God allows both good and bad to happen in our lives, but the Holy Spirit gives us the fruit of joy to carry us through any situation. Having joy and being glad are very similar to me, but the word “rejoice” in this verse is an active verb; there is some physical activity associated with it: singing, praising, dancing. Being “glad” is the state of having joy; I think it is physically passive: contentment, peace, blessedness. So rejoicing is active and external while gladness is passive and internal; the psalmist calls for us to have both.
Here we are back to “the day.” The psalmist wanted to keep us in the context of this day, its particulars, and the Lord who made it so we don’t forget where we are and Whose we are