Psalm 118 contains an intoxicating verse, which will give great joy to those who drink it deeply into their heart. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). There are seven things that I want to point out.
First, we learn that God has a job: God is the Maker. He is the only one who made this day. This day would not have spun into existence were it not for him. Neither you nor I invented, manufactured, initiated, or fastened together this day. God made it and it’s here only because of his will. He wanted this day here and that’s why it’s here. Were it not for God, then this day would have never happened. “This is the day that the Lord has made.” He is the visionary, architect, and builder of all life, especially today.
Second, we learn that we have a job. If God’s job is to make this day, then our job is simple (though not always easy): to react. Actually, the verse specifies not only what we are to do, but also how we are to do it. We are to react with joy and gladness. To be happy, in other words, is our job. “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” You and I both know that we always seek happiness, all the time. We never veer from this path. According to this verse, we never ought to stray from this course, either. Our job is to rejoice and be glad.
Third, we learn the pattern of grace before works. Most of us have this backward, getting us in all sorts of spiritual and existential trouble. Our default line of thought is: works before grace. We think that we have to do good deeds in order to get good things. So it is with everything else in our lives. We work really hard, we get good pay. We study really hard, we get good grades. We practice really hard, we make the team. We make all of the sales, we get more recognition. Then we carry over this line of thought to our spiritual lives—and here’s where it really gets dangerous! We do enough good stuff in order to tip the balances, and God will let us in. We do good deeds and God will have favor on us. But that is not the pattern that this verse gives us. In Psalm 118:24, grace comes before works. God gives us the “day” first. God initiates first, God provides first, and God acts first. Only then are we called to “work,” rejoicing in what he has given by his grace. Whenever this pattern of grace-before-works is upset in your life, disaster will follow. We need to live by God’s pattern. He loves first and only then do we react to his love.
Fourth, you already have something to rejoice about today, so don’t miss it. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” There is something special about this day that God has waiting for you. I know that life is tough, as we’re surrounded by constant tears. I’ve walked through the valley, too, many times. But I also know that even in the valley, there is something to rejoice about. God is not overwhelmed by the trials. If he were, then the trials would be “God.” But my God is bigger than all trials and can redeem even the wickedest day. There is something about this day that is worth rejoicing over; and if we only focus on the trials then we’ll never see the triumphs. Go confidently into this day, knowing that there is something to rejoice and be glad about. Hasn’t evil done enough damage in this world? Why then should we also allow it to take away the joy that God has for us in today? I say, let us not feed the fire of sorrow, so that we might fan the flame of joy.
Fifth, we do it together. This was very profound for me to see. The verse does not say, “Let me rejoice and be glad in it.” Rather, it says, “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” In other words, it’s easier to rejoice with others than it is by yourself. Listen, it is very helpful to depend on others in your pursuit of daily joy. Having joy by yourself is good, but it pales in comparison to sharing joy with another. As C. S. Lewis observed, sharing our joys with others actually completes our experience of joy. That’s why we share good books or movies or restaurants with friends. When your faith falters, you can depend on their faith. Two are stronger than one, in this fight for joy. If you’re having trouble finding something about this day to rejoice over, then go find someone else to rejoice with. Having a joyful life is more like a potluck, where everyone brings something fresh to the feast, and less like a microwave dinner, where you eat alone, merely warming up some frozen thing from the past.
Sixth, this verse is not only the plan for your life today, but also for the rest of your life. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This verse is a microcosm of the whole thing! This is the pattern for today—and for forever! God’s pattern does not shift. He is our Maker today and forever. We are to recognize him and have joy in him today and forever. The whole of your life is to fit this remarkable pattern that God has established. In other words, this is also your life strategy for tomorrow, the next year, and the next decade after that. You will never grow too sophisticated for this life strategy.
Seventh, therefore, if you can’t find joy today, then you’ll never find it the rest of your life. All the ingredients for true joy are present today. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” If you’re waiting for something “good” to come true, then you’re seeking an inferior joy. If you’re waiting for something “bad” to come untrue, then you’re seeking an inferior joy. Don’t hear me wrong, we must strive to rid life of evil and there’s nothing wrong with looking forward to the various celebrations in life. However, these are not the source of joy and if we look only to them, then we will be crushed. If we look only to them, then we will fail to look to God. The great secret of this verse is that it gives us the roadmap to joy. Unfaltering and eternal joy is found only in God. God is the source of lasting joy. The source of joy is not contingent, but constant. Joy does not depend on how things turn out, but on God, the one who gives and retrieves each day. Look around you; joy is lurking near you today. If you can’t see it, then you may never see it. God, have mercy on us; help us not to be entranced by the episodes and evils that steal our eyes from you.
© Samuel Kee, 2012