Primed to Have a Better Day

A Note to Readers: Technical difficulties prevented e-mail delivery of Blind
Faith the past two weeks. We believe that the issues have been resolved. You
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Culpepper

Blind Faith (No. 34, 2014)
Weekly Devotional for September 11, 2014
Primed to Have a Better Day

Too many morning news shows sully viewers’ approach to the whole
day with a barrage of mayhem, violence, crime, disaster, war, and
pestilence. Even the “self-help” segments can be depressing with
unattainable models of fashion, weight loss, or inane craft projects. In
spite of a few “feel good” human interest stories, the typical morning show
diet can sour one’s outlook and leave lingering negative expectations for
the day ahead.

Apart from comic book arch-villains and some scant few
chronically irascible downers, everyone yearns for each new day to be filled
with hope and goodness. Who wants to have a lousy day? Innumerable positive
affirmation gurus counsel starting each day with some optimistic motto.
Positive imaging of the day, many say, prepares us to see the good that is
happening all around us and to put the bad things in perspective. Few such
advisors offer any substantial foundation for assuming an optimistic
outlook. Some may refer to some ineffable cosmic energy that can be tapped
into by positive thoughts. Little truly substantive ground is offered to
buttress optimism in the face of genuine challenges along the way.

An excellent key to having a better day is to start first thing
in the morning with Psalm 118:24 setting the tone for the day. One of the
plaques hanging on the walls of my study features this Bible verse:

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalm 118:24 NRSV)

These words have anchored positive approaches to life for God’s faithful
followers for several thousands of years.

Psalm 118 provides a solid foundation for anticipating positive
experiences in each new day. It is a magnificent poetic statement of hope
that rests securely on God’s faithfulness, love, and grace. The structure of
the Psalm strongly suggests that it was used in worship in the Hebrew Temple
in Jerusalem, or in Jewish synagogue worship among neighbors. Several sets
of verses appear to be a call-and-response between a worship leader and the
responding community of faith. Interspersed among these responsive passages
are verses that might have been sung by a soloist telling about God’s
faithful care and provision.

Both the opening and closing verses of the Psalm repeat the
underlying faith that supports an optimistic outlook on all of life: “O give
thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
(Psalm 118:1 & 29 NRSV) The Hebrew word translated “steadfast love” is one
of two most often used descriptions of God’s nature in Hebrew scriptures.
The other word refers to God’s mercy. The Psalm has people in the
congregation repeat four times in the first four verses their faith in God:
“His steadfast love endures forever.” A sure starting point for facing each
day positively is faithfully recalling that the God of love and mercy
constantly cares for us. Three times the congregation has opportunity to
affirm the effect of trusting God as challenges arise during each day. Psalm
118: 10, 11, and 12 call for believers to affirm that when hostile forces
threatened their security: “Armed with the name of the Lord, I defeated
them.” (Psalm 118, 10-12 GWT) Verses 14 and 21 state that God has proven to
be more than a physical protector, that he provided all-encompassing
salvation.

Jesus and followers of Jesus have strong ties to this Psalm,
too. Both Jesus and Peter applied the psalm’s affirmations to the ministry
of Jesus. They both use the Psalm to point to Jesus as the foundation for
genuine relationship with God through faith in Christ: “The stone that the
builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. {23} This is the Lord’s
doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV. See Matthew
21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7) Another phrase from
the Psalm is repeated both by Jesus about his demonstration of God’s grace
and by the crowds who recognized God’s presence in him, especially as Jesus
entered Jerusalem the week he was crucified: “Blessed is the one who comes
in the name of the LORD.” (Psalm 118:26 NRSV. See Matthew 21:9, 23:39; Mark
11:9; Luke 13:35, 19:38; John 12:13.) Followers of Jesus found in him the
personification of God’s assurance and salvation expressed in the entirety
of Psalm 118.

A profound theological affirmation undergirds the appropriation
of Psalm 118:24 by many people as a motto for facing a new day positively.
Why would an affirmation that “This is the day that the Lord has made” offer
an especially optimistic expectation for each day? The hope is rooted in the
first chapter of Genesis. After God’s creative activity fashioning the
cosmos, the earth, plant and animal life, and all their marvelous
interactions, God pronounced each day’s creations good. After creating
humankind – male and female – in his image, he surveyed all that came into
being and was glad to see what the workdays had produced: “God saw
everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was
evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31 NRSV) When the
psalmist recalls that “This is the day that the Lord has made,” he almost
certainly would have taken God at his word that it was indeed good. His
faith in God’s goodness, his loving kindness, and his daily providence would
have inspired him to invite our approach to each day: “Let us rejoice and be
glad in it.” It really is the natural faithful response to God’s gift of a
new day and it prepares us to look in eager anticipation for God’s
fingerprints on our day.

What is your frame of mind as you begin each day? Try reading
Psalm 118 first thing each day for at least a week. Watch for any changes in
your disposition as you are primed for the day that unfolds before you.
Psalm 118:24 has transformative power to get off to a positive start, with
faith in God leading the way to a better day, no matter what happens.

- J. Edward Culpepper

Psalm 118
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures
forever! {2} Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” {3} Let
the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” {4} Let those
who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” {5} Out of my
distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad
place. {6} With the LORD on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to
me? {7} The LORD is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those
who hate me. {8} It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put
confidence in mortals. {9} It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to
put confidence in princes. {10} All nations surrounded me; in the name of
the LORD I cut them off! {11} They surrounded me, surrounded me on every
side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! {12} They surrounded me like
bees; they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them
off! {13} I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.
{14} The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. {15}
There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right
hand of the LORD does valiantly; {16} the right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.” {17} I shall not die, but I
shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. {18} The LORD has punished me
severely, but he did not give me over to death. {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 chief 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. {25} Save us,
we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success! {26}
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the
house of the LORD. {27} The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the
festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. {28} You are
my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
{29} O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love
endures forever. (Psalms 118 NRSV)

J. Edward Culpepper, Ph.D.
Huntsville, Alabama

Visit my weekly devotional blog, “Blind Faith,” at:
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