Rejoice today (a meditation)

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

Some days seem good, others seem bad. Some days we don’t want to end, others we can’t wait for them to be over. Good days, bad days, rough days, easy days—through them all, God commands our joy.

Joy can sometimes be a difficult thing for us to grasp, because the world looks at happiness primarily through the lens of pleasure. If it makes me feel good, then it must be good. There ensues a struggle—because what might bring momentary happiness might later bring lasting pain or destruction, if we do not approach the situations with wisdom.

But the Bible looks at joy differently.

Joy is a happiness focused on God—a happiness that looks not only at the momentary pleasures but also at the lasting, even eternal, outcomes. Seeing happiness through the lens of scripture we discern that some momentary pleasures will be fleeting in the long run (Hebrews 11:25), and we discern that some momentary pain will result in lasting happiness. We see this lesson even in an act such as childbirth—where there is pain in the labor but joy in holding new life.

This is why in John 17, Jesus could pray about us having his joy fulfilled in our lives and quickly follow with the pain of persecution for being faithful to him (17:13-14). This is also why Paul could say that the sufferings of today aren’t worth comparing to the glories to come (Romans 8:18) and James could tell us to take joy in our trials because of the good result they are producing (James 1:2-4).

Psalm 118 provides for us a two-fold reason as to why we can have such joy, even on the difficult days. First, God is in control of the good days and bad. The sun has come up, the earth has completed another rotation on its axis, and you have opened your eyes and taken another breath.

You have begun a day—this day, today. “This is the day that the Lord has made.” It’s God’s day, God’s plan, and he has graciously included you in it. Yes, because of Genesis 3 and mankind’s fall into sin, evil very well could (and likely will) happen throughout the day. God doesn’t clue us in as to why he allows certain acts of horrific evil to occur. God doesn’t promise that such evil will not bring pain into our lives. God does promise that whatever such evil is and however much it might hurt in the moment, he will set all wrongs to right, he will punish all evildoers who do not turn from such sin, and he will bring ultimate good in response to that evil through Jesus and for his people.

The darkness has not escaped his notice and will not always remain. So, we can live with a forward-looking joy.

Second, it is a day to rejoice because God has saved us from our sins. A few verses before this call to rejoice, the psalmist said, “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:21-22).

Verse 22 finds a quotation in several spots in the New Testament as a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. That is ultimately how God has “become my salvation.” If you belong to Jesus, then every sin of yours on him was laid and every perfect act of his to you was given. Because of that gracious act, you are no longer a rebellious sinner but a beloved son or daughter.

As someone else has said, that means: For the Christian, the closest we will ever get to hell is the pain we experience in this life. That’s why Paul could write that the sufferings in this life aren’t worth comparing to the glories to come. What is to come is simply so much greater and better. Knowing that and knowing how Jesus rescued us from an eternal hell, we can be glad in this day no matter what it brings.

So, indeed, let us say with the psalmist: This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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