I don’t know about you, but at primary school one of the tunes we really dug in assembly went “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made…” That was always a rocking number. If you know it feel free to momentarily pause and sing it to yourself – loudly, if you’re alone in the house.
Great song. And a great theme, taken from Psalm 118:24. It’s a good thing to rejoice in every day that the Lord has made.
But this morning, reading the Psalm from whence it came, I struck a deeper well. A well whose streams tap into other wells I have drunk from before.
You see, as I say, it is great to rejoice in every day as being made by the Lord, but I don’t think that’s all that this verse is talking about here. The previous two verses stand out distinctly from the Psalm and even apparently from our traditional interpretations of verse 24 stated above. They read (my version):
“The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.”
Marvellous. Just a clue: that word doesn’t really mean “wonderful” here except in the sense that everything the Lord does is wonderful and awesome and bears marks of His otherworldly nature. But here it has to do with being unexpected. In the context of a song of praise and prayer, it is no doubt mostly metaphorical: the Lord has taken something that everyone threw out, and has made it the most important thing. It’s like if builders chucked out a worthless stone, and the Lord has taken it and made it the chief cornerstone.
For those of us who know the New Testament a bit, you will know that this Scripture is clearly applied to the Lord Jesus – indeed, He Himself applied it to Himself (Matt 21:42). He was the stone. Though many from Israel did follow Him from time to time during His ministry, and probably did come into the church again later, Israel at large rejected Him, in particular the religious leaders, who He was addressing when applying this verse to Himself.
And so these two verses from Psalm 118 that I paraphrased above are seen as prophetically speaking of a day when God would do what He does best – the unexpected. And so, when we reach the next verse, our famous “this is the day that the Lord has made…” I think there’s something else it’s saying.
Basically, God has done something marvellous in our eyes, unexpected. We do still have that today, by the way. The manifestation of the Spirit around the world in the extraordinary ways that we’ve seen, and some of the remarkable characters who have been getting saved…the bypassing of denominational boundaries by the Holy Spirit in His movement, all of these might be seen as the surprising, marvellous work of the Lord. And in particular, the scenario described here is commonly seen as the way God works in the church: through the unexpected people, the children, the servants…those who live like Jesus, the servant-king.
Now when we get situations in our lives that bypass or blow our expectations, where God works in a way that we didn’t think He does, but it’s obviously Him; when we struggle to understand and get our minds around situations in live to do with Him and His ways, often our response is to run to the pastors, theologians, books, friends and thinkers, working through things by debating theology. Especially in our Western culture this academic response I think is probably ingrained in us.
But at least in this situation (and I will argue in others too) I think it fruitful to note that when the Lord has made something out of what we thought was nothing, and blown our expectations, the appropriate response at least initially is “This is the day that the Lord has made” – He made this day in which He has surprised us, it is His making, SO: “Let us REJOICE and BE GLAD in it.”
In short, the appropriate response here is worship.
I want to stress this point, because God is not going to stop working in surprising ways. As the waves of the Holy Spirit over the last century have increased, so have the voices of the critics who say of those touched by Him, “they are full of sweet wine” – or such like. Because too often we observe the moving of a heavenly God and can’t help but critique Him by earthly standards. These critiques come from folks often not in a position of worship and reverence, instead positioned in their mind to analyse.
The fact is, you can’t know a God you don’t worship – and I mean, really worship. Worship draws you into the presence of God and brings you to a place where you can know Him more. So too worship is the place of understanding. If you’re not in a place of worship you will only be able to deal with ‘marvellous’ situations through your natural, fleshly intellect.
As I said there are other places where we can see worship as a response to lack of understanding about God’s ways, which I wrote about in the previous worship blog “When times are tough.” In those situations it was tragedy that led the worshippers to their knees, but in all cases it had to do with not understanding or at least being surprised by God’s ways or even whether something WAS God or wasn’t (because in Job’s case it was only allowed by God but was caused by Satan).
I think if we have situations which we are trying to understand – whether it’s tragedy, Holy Spirit manifestations, God’s working across boundaries you thought were off limits, or His using the lowest and the simplest, or anything else – I think we are much better positioned to understand if we acknowledge God as the Lord of the day: This is the day that He has made, so we will rejoice and be glad in it.
And perhaps next time we have a difficult theological issue, why not dare trying to take some time just to worship the Lord for who He is, before getting into debate?