Many a church kid memorized Psalm 118.24 in children’s choir. It was a catchy tune that still causes foot-tapping. God be praised for those children’s workers who helped seal Scripture in our minds and hearts (even if I scowled my way through it). As we get older we cannot help but wake up applying Psalm 118.24 to the day.
But is there more to Psalm 118.24 than meets the eye (or ear)? In what day exactly did the psalmist consider worthy of rejoicing? By “this” did the psalmist mean “today” and therefore any and every day? Or did he mean a specific day unlike all other days?
Psalm 118 was part of a selection of psalms sung particularly at Passover (Pss 113-118). They are majestic, transcendent, glorious songs of God’s salvation and the anticipation of the ultimate deliverance if his people. Psalm 118 might well be the crescendo of these songs.
Psalm 118 called Israel to worship God for his tireless, inexhaustible mercy (vv1-4). As puny as Israel was in the world’s eyes Yahweh was still her warrior (vv5-9). Time and time again God exalted Israel over bully nations. No sort of earthly leader could ever protect like God protects. Israel and her king were goners, surrounded by the world’s finest of armies (vv10-14). But God helped and saved. Whatever discipline God inflicted on Israel and her king it was for the purpose of worship (vv15-18). With Jerusalem secure the gates of righteousness were open to God’s people (vv19-21).
Now, we come to the context of v24. We find the psalmist referring to “this” day as the day when man’s rejected cornerstone became God’s chief cornerstone (v22). The day in which we rejoice is the day in which Israel’s king was rejected by men, but who was marvelously saved and exalted by God (v23). Though no nation thought Israel or her king worth their snuff, God proved his love for them by delivering them. The day the Lord has made is the day when his people are saved through the ministry of the despised but exalted cornerstone. It is the day when God himself comes to finally deliver his oppressed people from the tyranny of their sin. Jews would not sing this about any or every day, but of the day when God comes to forever destroy their enemies and mercifully and finally save them. It was The Day to which the Passover looked, The Day above all days. It was the New Exodus to rival and surpass the Exodus celebrated at Passover (see Lk 9.31).
Psalm 118 is popular in the life and ministry of Jesus. The NT quotes v22 repeatedly in referring to Jesus (Mt 21.42; Mk 12.10-11; Lk 20.17; Acts 4.11; Eph 2.20; 1 Pt 2.7). As Jewish families welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, they sang to/about him the familiar refrain in v26: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD” (Mt 21.9; 23.39; Mk 11.9; Lk 13.35; 19.38; Jn 12.13). God had finally come for them in that Jesus had humbly come to them. Jesus was the Light of the world (Jn 1.4-5; 8.12; 9.5) who had come to give us light (Ps 118.27) and lead us out of darkness (Lk 1.78-79).
God has certainly orchestrated every day for our worship,but there is one Day that stands above all the rest. In fact, there would be no reason to rejoice in any day if not for “this” day. The day in which the psalmist rejoiced was the day when God would come to his lowly, weak, disregarded, sin-ridden people and gloriously bring them through the gates of righteousness into his kingdom. We find “this” day to be fulfilled in the Passover day to end all Passover days: the day the Lamb of God was slaughtered for the salvation of sinners. The Marvelous Day was the day when men rejected Jesus as a pathetic criminal but in so doing God made him the capstone of his true temple.
There may not be a better way to memorize Psalm 118.24 than the snappy children’s tune. Let’s teach and sing it with great joy. But let’s also do it with the same purpose for which the psalmist wrote it. The day the Lord has made is not Sunday, with all due respect to the musical call to worship in many churches. It is not any other day simply because we can cross it off on a calendar. It is not simply another 24-hour period of breathing.
The day the LORD has made is not any old day the sun rises (albeit a gift from God), but The Day when the Son rises. “This” day is not one defined by astronomical revolutions or lunar cycles. God made this Day especially to be The Day above all other days – the Lord’s Day that dawned on an empty tomb.