Nothing reminds us that this is the day the Lord has made, like watching a sunrise. A hope-tinged horizon colored in golden pink hues points to a creator. This perfectly distanced fireball’s daily performance awakening our world is nothing short of praiseworthy.
I don’t normally sing when I watch a sunrise, but many of us grew up singing, “This is the day that the Lord has made.” When our turn came, we clapped our hands and sang our round at the top of our lungs. This memory brings back the smell of musty church basements, cookies, and fruit punch. Good memories.
What Bible Verse Says, 'This Is the Day that the Lord Has Made'?
Though many of us know these words from songs in vacation Bible school, this familiar tune comes from scripture. The Bible verse “This is the day that the Lord has made” appears in Psalm 118. It’s not a psalm sung while watching the sunrise, nor is it about each new day. This verse glorifies a specific day—a day of salvation. Look at the context of this verse.
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:22-24 NKJV)
Though Israel considered itself the stone the world had rejected, Jesus pointed to himself as that stone when facing opposition from the Jewish leaders. In his parable of the tenants in Matthew 21:33-44, Jesus warned the religious opposition quoting this portion of Psalm 118. As Jesus unfolded the parable of the tenants who killed the servants and the landlord’s son, it became clear to the Pharisees that he was claiming to be God’s Son. Of course, this fueled their rage.
In Peter Cohen’s article on Psalm 118, he explains a play on words Jesus used. He refers to a quote from N. T. Wright’s book Jesus and the Victory of God, where Wright reveals the closeness of the Hebrew words stone (eben) with son (ben). Wright explains, “the rejection of the stone (eben) is also a pun – as it quite clearly also implies the rejection of the Son (ben).”
What Is the Context of Psalm 118:24?
The religious leaders had sung Psalm 118 their entire lives. It had always played an important role in their religion. According to the Enduring Word commentary on Psalm 118, this psalm has been recited during The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) and the Passover Seder for thousands of years.
The Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated at the end of the autumn harvest, was a God-ordained celebration commemorating the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt (Leviticus 23:33-44). The Lord instructed them to live in small huts during the week to remember their forty-year journey in the desert, where God “tabernacled” with them and provided. People made huts for this weeklong festival, with roofs covered in limbs of trees and palm branches. At the end of this festival, the people would wave their palm branches as they paraded to the Temple, reciting Psalm 118.
“O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (Psalm 118:25-27 NIV)
This psalm is also read from the Haggadah during the Passover Seder. The Haggadah is a guide read throughout the meal, a celebration ordained by God for the Israelites to remember their salvation from slavery in Egypt.
What Connects Psalm 118 to Palm Sunday and Passover?
On the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey before the Passover, the crowd’s reaction (waving palms and begging for salvation) resembled the ceremony of Sukkot. We Christians call that day Palm Sunday because the people were waving palm branches as Jesus rode into town on a donkey’s colt.
I remember teaching about Palm Sunday for a children’s sermon years ago. I sat on the front steps of a tiny Methodist sanctuary. A handful of adults sprinkled the pews, and five sets of eyes and little hands and feet sat around me as I told this story.
I instructed the kids and the congregation listening to put on their imagination caps and envision Jesus walking into our church and down the center aisle toward our little gang. I encouraged them to clap and yell as he walked in. The small crowd clapped, whooped, hollered, and gave Jesus their most exciting welcome and praise.
I taught this story as the one time when all the people recognized Jesus as the Messiah and worshiped Him. But it was so much more. Not only did they recognize him as Messiah. They also fulfilled the messianic prophecy of Psalm 118.
Though many of our Bibles now translate the people’s praise as Hosanna, the word Hosanna means “save.” The people weren’t worshiping. They were crying out to Jesus, “Save us! Save us!”
Just as God had brought them out of Egypt and into the Promise Land, they were begging for their own land. But Jesus rode on a donkey, a symbol of peace, rather than a war horse. We know his salvation was much greater than what the people wanted. Their request was temporary. His actions were eternal.
Is Every Day One that the Lord Has Made?
In his gospel, John wrote about Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus is the eternal creator who formed the sun, moon, and stars. We do owe thanks to him. His brilliance is brighter than the morning sun. But though we rejoice in each new day, not only because we’re given another day to breathe, to love, and proclaim his goodness, we rejoice because of the incredible gift of salvation made possible by Jesus.
How Do We Rejoice in the Day the Lord Has Made?
Jesus is coming back. When he does, he’ll be riding a war horse, a white horse rather than a colt of peace. He will dwell among us, and we will celebrate Sukkot as the people did the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. Read this scripture in Revelation:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, and crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10 NIV)
The next time you hear the words, “This is the day the Lord has made!” let the proclamation stir your thankfulness and hope in Jesus. Use this Psalm in prayer, proclaiming his faithfulness and salvation. They aren’t words about the sunrise but the rise of the Son of God. May he save us. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Bible Commentary on Psalm 118:24
This [is] the day [which] the Lord hath made
Famous and remarkable for the above events. Meaning either the day of Christ's entrance into Jerusalem, in order to be delivered up to the Jews, and suffer and die in the place of his people; to which the following words agree: or the day of his resurrection from the dead; when God gave him glory and was matter of joy to those for whose justification he rose; or the Lord's day, kept in commemoration of it: or rather the whole Gospel dispensation, made a bright day by the sun of righteousness; and which is the now present day of salvation;
we will rejoice and be glad in it;
because of the blessings of grace, peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation, which came through the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, and are published in the everlasting Gospel.
(Excerpted from John Gill's Exposition of the Bible)
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