This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. . . . Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. - Psalm 118:24, 29
When the Green Bay Packers defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in New Orleans, the streets of the French Quarter were soon filled with joyous fans celebrating the victory. It was striking, therefore, at the end of the game to see Reggie White, the All-Pro defensive end of the Packers, and a number of other players kneeling in the stadium and giving thanks to the Lord. Not everybody appreciated this show of devotion; some people wondered aloud if God would have been thanked if the Packers had lost. But there is a marked contrast between those who celebrate victory with partying and those who celebrate with thanksgiving.
Psalm 118 records the celebration of a military victory. The triumphant leader has brought his troops to the Temple, and the priest calls the people of Israel to give thanks to the Lord (Ps. 118:1-3). Then the leader addresses the people: “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and rescued me” (118:5). As a result of this experience, he exclaims, “It is better to trust the Lord than put confidence in people . . . [or] princes” (118:8-9). The “strong right arm of the Lord,” says the leader of the triumphant army, “has done glorious things . . . [and] is raised in triumph” (118:15-16).
The leader asks permission to enter the Temple (118:19), and as the gates are opened, he says, “those gates lead to the presence of the Lord, and the godly enter there” (118:20). Upon this, the choirs burst into song, praising the Lord for the wonders he has done in snatching the leader from the jaws of defeat and giving him the victory. “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous to see,” they sing (118:23). This day of celebration “is the day the Lord has made.” So they proclaim, “we will rejoice and be glad in it” (118:24). The victorious leader asks for a blessing from the priests, who respond, “We bless you from the house of the Lord” (118:26). The psalm ends with the leader honoring the Lord by encouraging the people to “give thanks to the Lord” (118:29).
Most men will never win a battle or even play in a Super Bowl, but all men can win smaller victories in life. What they do then speaks volumes about the kind of men they are. If they go out to get drunk, they lack perspective—as well as balance! If they take a knee and thank the Lord, they stand tall.
For Further Study: Psalm 118