Psalm 118

This Is The Day The Lord Has Made

Have you ever awoke to a day that cries out for praise to God? How did you respond to the day? How did God act in your life that day?

Some days are just so glorious they shout praise to God. Springtime or early summer seem to have their share of those days. The sunshine spreads everywhere. The cool morning feels good to the skin. The colors of foliage and flowers seem overwhelming. These are days of hope. On these days, it feels good to be alive.

Some psalms were written for these days, especially Psalm 118. Some of the most famous lines in Scripture come from this song of praise. "This the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad." "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was done by the Lord, so it is not wonderful in our sight?" The psalm is most appropriate for Eastertime because of its praise imagery.

In the book of psalms, 118 ended a cycle of praise psalms (113-118). It was recited with the fourth cup of wine during the Passover and could have been used at the Feast of Tabernacles (the fall feast of Succoth). Stylistically, many verses repeat as "hooks" to encourage a communal participation. Thematically, however, the psalm was a royal prayer of thanksgiving for victory over the nation's enemies.

1 Give thanks to YHWH, for he is good,
for his loving kindness endures forever.
2 Let Israel now say
that his loving kindness endures forever.
3 Let the house of Aaron now say
that his loving kindness endures forever.
4 Now let those who fear YHWH say
that his loving kindness endures forever.

World English Bible

In 118:1-4, the psalm's introduction addressed the nation with an imperative to praise. The nation (house of Israel), the priests (house of Aaron), and the gathered faithful (those who feared the Lord) were to honor YHWH because of his covenant (endless love).

5 Out of my distress, I called on YHWH.
YHWH answered me with freedom.
6 YHWH is on my side. I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
7 YHWH is on my side among those who help me.
Therefore I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in YHWH,
than to put confidence in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in YHWH,
than to put confidence in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of YHWH, I cut them off.
11 They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me.
In the name of YHWH I indeed cut them off.
12 They surrounded me like bees.
They are quenched like the burning thorns.
In the name of YHWH I cut them off.
13 You pushed me back hard, to make me fall,
but YHWH helped me.
14 YHWH is my strength and song.
He has become my salvation.
15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous.
"The right hand of YHWH does valiantly.
16 The right hand of YHWH is exalted!
The right hand of YHWH does valiantly!"
17 I will not die, but live,
and declare the works of YHWH.
18 YHWH has punished me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness.
I will enter into them.
I will give thanks to YHWH.
20 This is the gate of YHWH;
the righteous will enter into it.
21 I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me,
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.
23 This is YHWH's doing.
It is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that YHWH has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it!
25 Save us now, we beg you, YHWH!
YHWH, we beg you, send prosperity now.

The next section turned personal for the king. His prayer (118:5-9) was one of confident hope; with God at his side, whom should he fear? Faith in God was better than faith in his army (mortals) or its commanders (princes). The answer to his prayer (118:10-14) rejoiced in the realization of that prayer. The nation (or capital, Jerusalem) was surrounded, but the nation prevailed because of divine providence, not because of the strength of the army. The response to God's intervention was a victory shout by the Israelite army despite the looming disaster (118:15-18) and the victory parade through the entrance to the Jerusalem (118:19-25); the Lord raised his hand and saved the nation. "The day the Lord made" could also be interpreted as the "day of the Lord," a time of judgment against the nation's enemies.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of YHWH!
We have blessed you out of the house of YHWH.
27 YHWH is God, and he has given us light.
Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar.

In 118:26-27, the faithful responded to the king's monologue with acclamation; they praised the king (blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord) and followed the celebration right into the Temple.

28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you.
You are my God, I will exalt you.
29 Oh give thanks to YHWH, for he is good,
for his loving kindness endures forever.

The king ended the psalm with a song of praise (and a sacrifice?) and a refrain to praise the Lord (a repetition of 118:1).

We cannot leave the psalm without noticing the number of times the divine name was invoked. This fact added emphasis to the imperative of praise. Praise the Lord for what he has done for the nation. Despite the near calamity, YHWH saved his people again (and again). The repetition of the divine name tried to match the number of times the Lord acted on behalf of the king and the nation.

The imperative to praise for the Lord's activity in life should give us pause. How many times has he acted in our lives to save us from near disaster? How many times has he given us second chances? If we gave praise to God for as many times as he intervened in our lives, we would spend most of our time in prayer.

Not a bad thought, is it?

Take time to praise God for the day, for his presence in your life, and for his blessings. Make a list if necessary. This praise will help you realize the goodness of God in your life.