This is the Day

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

     It had been a long day.  We saddled up early in the morning and took the horses up above timberline to a remote Colorado Lake.  The three of us fished, and spent most of the day near the summit of the mountains in the region.  In the late afternoon a sudden thunderstorm accompanied by lightning, hail and drenching rain descended upon our camp.  The horses spooked and it took quite a while to get them calmed down.  About one hour later, having been drenched and pummeled by the hail, we made our way down the slippery trail to base camp at 9,000 feet from above 13,000 feet.  The footing was tenuous for the horses and we were often in fear of falling off the ledge.  When we finally reached a plateau some several thousand yards from the corral, my horse bolted for the barn and I was fortunate to hang on, but was hit by a number of branches of the trees in the path the horse had chosen.  When I staggered from the horse at the corral, I mentioned a complaint about the weather to the wrangler.  He calmly took care of the horse while I wobbled to a nearby fence.  His only comment to me was “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  My immediate thought was “You take this horse for a ride in this hail and let me see you rejoice in this day!”

The definition of a day in which we typically would rejoice is found in a song which is  in the movie entitled Oklahoma.  It goes like this.  “Oh, what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day.  I’ve got a wonderful feeling.  Everything’s going my way.”  Or, like the one Uncle Remus tells us about in Songs of the South.  “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a- dee-day, my, oh my, what a wonderful day.  Plenty of sunshine heading my way.  With a bluebird on my shoulder, everything is satisfactual.  Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-day.” This is the type of day in which it would be natural to rejoice.  In the scriptures, however, we find rejoicing under different circumstances than these.  We read in Acts 5:41 that “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”  In I Thessalonians we are admonished to “rejoice evermore.” (KJV)  In Philippians 4:4, we see that we are to  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!”

The above account of the Colorado adventure was the first time to my knowledge that I was aware of this verse in Psalm 118.  Although familiar with it, I had not thought a great deal about it until earlier this year when I awoke, saw the sunlight streaming through the window and the first thought that was impressed upon my mind was this verse.  “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Frankly, it was not a day for rejoicing.  The previous four days had been spent in the hospital with recurring abdominal pain, and the loss of one third of my blood volume which had weakened me to the extent that I was not able to get out of the bed and walk.  The previous day, the surgeon that had performed surgery earlier had reported to me that this malignancy was aggressive, had penetrated within a few millimeters of spreading throughout the body from the bladder muscle, and had features which made it hard to treat.  Three times he reported that this was indeed a poor prognosis, and that treatment might not be beneficial.  If it did not make a difference, there was a 22% likelihood that distal spread of the malignancy would occur in the near future.  Yet, the Lord had awakened me with this verse.  I think that the Lord wanted me to know that He was in charge, that He knew each cell of my body, that ultimately He was the one who determines and leads us through each day of our lives, and that I could rejoice in Him, regardless of the outcome of the cancer.

Only recently have I come to realize the context of the verse quoted above.  It is not a verse in isolation, but one which is closely related to the preceding two verses.  Verses 22-24 are as follows.  “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  The day which should cause us to rejoice is the day that our Lord has become the capstone!  As the last Adam, He became a life giving Spirit.  He has taken away all sin, our sin nature, and grants us His very life to live in and through us.  Because of His triumph on that day, He now brings meaning and purpose to every other day.  He charts the path ahead of us, lays His hand of blessing on our heads, and when our way is difficult to our understanding we hear the words given by Him to Asaph in Psalm 73.  “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”   The apostle Paul addresses our difficulties in II Corinthians 4:16-18.  “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

One of our associate pastors retired about eleven years ago and we attended the reception given in his honor.  One of the ladies in our choir sang one of his favorite songs for him, and as she sang I also realized that it was meant for my wife and myself as well.  The previous week, I had been tested and found to have an elevated PSA, and  the results were to be returned the next morning after the pastor’s reception.  We were fearful of the result and knew that the following morning might bring news about a malignancy that we would need to deal with.  As she began her song, I knew immediately that the diagnosis was cancer of the prostate, and I also knew that the Lord was going before us to let us know of His care and presence for the future.  Her song was as follows:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.  Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future, life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

When our Lord became the capstone, our future was changed forever.  Every day is given to us with His infinite love, His perfect knowledge, and His perfect control.  Because He lives, we can face our todays and our tomorrows and by His Grace, learn to rejoice in them.

In Christ, Richard Spann

 

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