Psalm 118: Why rejoice today?

Psalm 118:1-4, 19-24, 29

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,

    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord‘s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Butterfly | Mercer Botanical Garden | March 2023

In the movie Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman plays the oldest white survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand. He is adopted into a Native American family and builds a deep relationship with his new grandfather. His adoptive grandfather, Old Lodge Skins, played by Chief Dan George provides many quotable one-liners, among which I specifically recall, “It is a good day to die.” He goes on to thank the Great Spirit, saying, “Thank you for making me a Human Being! Thank you for helping me to become a warrior. Thank you for my victories, and for my defeats.”

It is somewhat remarkable that someone who does not claim to know the God of the Universe as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth would offer such a prayer. It is more remarkable that we who do know the God of the universe as revealed in Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection don’t pray similar prayers. We who look for the vindication of Jesus and his promises at the end of time know that it is a good day to live or die – or at least we ought to. And we should pray each day,

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

This psalm helps us do just that. For we are reminded that the creative grace of God is our reason of joy. And his goodness and steadfast love are the cause for our thanks. I like to use that Bible verse when I’m visiting with someone who has recovered from surgery, or illness. It’s a good reminder that no matter the circumstance we face the goodness and steadfast love of God will sustain us and can be proper cause for thanks to him.

It is also a good reminder when we connect the call to rejoice and be glad in each day not only with God’s creative grace (he made the day, afterall), but also with the resurrection of Jesus. This is an Easter psalm. And as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the grave it is much easier to give thanks for the day he has made. Jesus’ resurrection is the great show of God’s creative power. It also  provides us with a reminder of God’s goodness and steadfast love. For Jesus’ resurrection not only vindicates him and his faithfulness to the heavenly Father. It also bring a promise since he is the first fruits of all who die in faith in him.

In Jesus it is a good day to live or to die. St Paul puts it this way, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8) For this I give thanks and rejoice. How about you?

1 comment
  1. As I listened today, I was reminded also of the fullness of the prayers of John Baillie, which i read in the more updated, yet beautiful language of our day. Thank you for introducing them! They never fail to bless me! So,Yes! this is the day the LORD has made, such creative evidence of his steadfast love for us whatever else is there to do, but rejoice!

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