"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

This Is the Day...Wait; What?

"This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  - Ps. 118:24

Of course, fully 95% of you now have that haunting Rick Shelton chorus in your heads, and for that, I do apologize.  Try to push that aside and hope for better things.  No; the reason I bring up this verse is that we all like it, and I hope to convince you to like it still more.  First, though, we have to deconstruct a myth. 

This sort of verse is charmingly self-contained, and we quote it so often, and hang it from so many keychains, that it becomes sort of an exegetical monolith:  it seemingly stands apart from any sort of context, and we can move it about to fit within a situation.  Having an unusually good day?  Perhaps your best friend forever going through a hard time?  Go ahead and say it.  Why would you not say it?  It is certainly true enough - every day is crafted by the Lord and brought to perfect fruition, is it not?  Of course you can say it, just so long as you understand that this sort of free and easy pronouncement is not quite what the psalmist intended.

There is always a context for Scripture, and it is always profitable to explore context; it helps to fend off erroneous suppositions, and it lends us greater confidence in the conclusions of our studies.  It gives greater substance, weight, and reason.  In our present case, three verses in Psalm 118 will give us plenty to think about:  "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.  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." 

We see, then, that the day in question is not at all a random day of felicity, but instead a notable day in which someone was unexpectedly exalted by God Himself.  The broader context of the psalm shows this person to be some national hero, evidently some leader of Israel, who was beset by enemies on all sides (v. 10) - therefore Israel herself was surrounded by danger.  David himself would not be a bad guess - the circumstances fit - although he is not named as the author.  Whatever the case, this impending disaster was brought about as an act of discipline by the Lord (v. 18); however, that same Lord delivered the nation and established the psalmist in one deft move - an abrupt torrent of grace!

The Lord Jesus lays another context upon this original one by naming Himself as the corner stone in question (Matt. 21:42-44), thus injecting this passage with messianic significance.  Read those three verses from Psalm 118 once more in this glorious light.  The specific "day" in Psalm 118:24 becomes, in this case, the day that Christ, rejected by His own people, became the corner stone - the day He was resurrected into that life which all believers share with Him (cf. Acts 4:10-12).

This is the day, brothers and sisters - rejoice and be glad!  This indeed is why we gather as believers particularly on Sundays - the joyful remembrance of that day of unspeakable triumph!  In fact, we see this example throughout the New Testament, in the writings of Luke, Paul, and John - the saints gathered on Sunday, the Lord's day, to celebrate their Savior.  Let these pleasing recollections soak into your mind and heart when next you go to church.

One further note, though.  The psalmist endured the just discipline of the Lord and was graciously delivered from the jaws of death by God; how brightly does grace shine when the recipient knows that he might have rightly received death!  Contrast this, though, with Jesus Christ, who by no means deserved divine discipline, yet suffered at the hands of evil men, and indeed at the hand of His own Father, nonetheless!  Even more than this, though the psalmist did not taste death in that moment of trial, Christ felt the full weight, not only of a brutal and exhausting physical demise, but of the infinite wrath of the Father, for odious sins carried out by lesser hands and sinful hearts.  Amazing.

"This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  There is much in the context here, hidden in plain sight, specific rather than general, to command our attention and our worship, is there not?  When these words come off of our lips, may they be steeped in genuine understanding and in heartfelt joy!


Gregg Metcalf said...

Fantastic post!

Josh said...

Thanks, brother - hopefully a timely post in conjunction with your words of wisdom on the careful study of the Scriptures!

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