This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24
The worst offense that we can commit as interpreters of the Bible is to read a foreign meaning back into a verse. Scripture can never mean what it never meant and we must constantly remind ourselves of this truth. Jesus rebuked the so-called “experts” of the Law because they invalidated Scripture with their traditions (Mark 7:13). In other words, there can be times where what we have been taught is not what the Bible teaches. I contend that if Scripture is understood in its context, it will yield truths more powerful than if taken out of its context. Such is the case as we examine the phrase “This is the day that the LORD has made.”
How Genre Helps Interpretation
The Bible has “genre.” As it pertains to Scripture, genres are the different kinds of writing i.e. Law, Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom, Gospel, History, Letters, and Apocalyptic writing. Human authors also bring their own backgrounds to these sorts of writings. Some books may have more of a Jewish tone (e.g. Matthew’s and John’s Gospel) because of the background of particular authors. Some may not because the author is not Jewish (Luke’s Gospel). Therefore, you may have to lean on both Old and New Testament to understand Scripture at times. Context is not limited to the verses lying immediately before and after the text you are studying. Context requires that you identify the genre of study to arrive at the proper conclusions.
Psalm 118:24, states, “This is the day that the LORD has made.” The rest of the verse exclaims, “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” On a basic level, you should identify the term “it” in the latter half of the verse as “the day the LORD has made.” The LORD made “it.” The LORD made that day.
Now, this passage sits in a context and in a genre. The Psalms fall into writings known as “Poetry.” There are several kinds of Psalms. There are Psalms of Lament (12, 44, 80, 94, 137). “Praise” or “Thanksgiving” are also categories of Psalms ( 8, 18, 19, 116 for example). Royal Psalms are found in this book (2, 20, 21, 45, 110 and others). A petition for God’s wrath against His enemies are Psalms called “Psalms of Imprecation” (7, 35, 40, 55, 58, and 144 are just some).
Psalm 118 is considered to be a “Psalm of Praise” though it is strongly “Messianic.” In other words, this Psalm points the reader to the Messiah. In fact, it is quoted many times by New Testament writers (Matt. 21:9, 42; 23:39; Mark 11:9-10; 12:10-11; Luke 13:35; 19:38; 20:17; John 12:13; Acts 4:11; Hebrews 13:6; 1 Peter 2:7). Ultimately, what this tells us, is that Christ is the fulfillment of Messianic expectation. It may also give us insight into why the Psalmist is praising. The importance of identifying genre cannot be overstated. Whatever “this day” is that the LORD has made, it has to do with Christ and praising God for what He has accomplished through Him, ultimately.
Hovering Over the Text
Usually, its helpful to identify themes that recur throughout a body of text. You can do this by highlighting, circling, or underlining. In this sense, you hover over the text to see the whole picture. The Psalmist mentions “salvation” several times throughout the Psalm. Notice, the Psalmist mentions the LORD as his “salvation” (v. 14, 21). He speaks of “Glad songs of salvation” (vs. 15). He prays for salvation (v. 25). From these observations we may deduce that rescue and deliverance are in view. Indeed, the LORD “helped” the Psalmist (v. 13). Praising God (genre) for His salvation appears to be the point of this Psalm.
Help from Cross References
When I took math in elementary school, my teacher always instructed the class to check our work. Cross references function as sort of a “check your work” kind of system. I do need to give a word of caution, however. Cross references have their own context. Therefore, you need to be careful how you use them. Nevertheless, when used properly, they will help you understand your text of study.
The immediate context of Psalm 118:24 states that “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Observe the language – “stone,” “builders rejected,”… “cornerstone.” This Psalm has no superscription (an inscription above the Psalm i.e. “A Psalm of David”) that tells us exactly who the author is. Moses is believed to be the writer of this Psalm. On a few occasions “the builders” (Israel) rejected him (the stone) (Exodus 2:11-15; 14:10-14; 16:1-3. 11-12, 20). In Egypt, Israel was forced into slavery as builders (Exodus 1:13-14).
In Acts 7:35, Stephen calls Moses the one that Israel had “rejected.” The setting of Psalm 118 is more than likely against that background, especially if Moses is the author. I bring this out because even Psalms that are strongly Messianic have contexts that we cannot overlook.
Biblical writers use this Psalm to point to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of it. Twice in the New Testament, Peter speaks of Jesus as the stone the builders rejected. In Acts 4:11, as he stood with John before religious leaders he declared that “Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders which has become the cornerstone.” Interestingly enough, salvation is in view (v. 12) in the same way it is in Psalm 118.
In his Epistle, Peter again proclaims Christ as the “cornerstone” that was formerly the stone which the builders rejected (1 Peter 2:6-8). For those who believe Christ is the cornerstone of the spiritual house being built up, but for those who reject He is the stone of stumbling – the means of judgment for those who do not believe. Once more, salvation is in view.
Upon examining Psalm 118:24, the theme is clearly salvation which God accomplishes. He does this through the cornerstone, the Messiah whom the New Testament writers identify as Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:6-8). “This is the LORD’s doing” (vs. 23) should be taken as a reference to the rejected stone becoming the cornerstone. “the day that the LORD has made” is more than likely that very day.
When left in context, the Scriptures are infinitely more powerful. This day (today) is not that day when Christ rejected became the cornerstone. That day is the day for which all believers should praise God and we should “Rejoice and be glad in it” (the day). Though God is responsible for the making of everyday, this is not what Psalm 118:24 means. There is a very specific meaning to this passage and we cannot make it mean what it never meant.
Finally, genre helps us identify the kind of writing we are reading. Observation aids us in pinpointing major themes in a body of text, and cross references are important when used properly because they improve our insight into a particular text. I pray this assists you in becoming a better student of Scripture. Grace and Peace