O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people! Selah
That the Sabbath is intended for our joy is emphasized elsewhere in Scripture. For instance, look at Psalm 3, a morning Psalm historically viewed by the Church as a pattern for morning worship. Commenting on vv. 4-7, St. Basil said, “And let us not take anything into consideration before we are gladdened by the thought of God, as it is written: ‘I was mindful of God and was gladdened’ (Ps. 77:4).”1 One aid to our joy will be to contrast our lot with that of the unbeliever who does not praise God because he has no reason to. He finds no real purpose to his life and work. The very possibility of being joyful should make us happy. Our joy in the morning comes from the fact that we belong to him and that means that there is purpose to the day. The Lord’s Day morning in particular must be characterized by joy because we recognize on this first day of the week that our lives have purpose because they are centered on God.
Those who have recognized the gospel-centeredness of the Lord’s Day have experienced it with joy. Examples could be multiplied from John Calvin to John Paton to Henry Ward Beecher who gave this testimony:
. . .[W]ith all its limitations, I would rather have the other six days of the week weeded out of my memory than the Sabbath of my childhood. And this is right. Every child ought to be so brought up in the family, that when he thinks of home the very first spot on which his thought rests shall be Sunday, as the culminating joy of the household.
What is the opposite of the joy God intends? It’s the way we were living before the pandemic, exhausting ourselves 20 hours a day, seven days a week. We were imitating the kind of experiment the French tried in the Revolution. The atheist philosopher Voltaire was a major influence in the French Revolution. The idea was to throw off those hindrances to the progression of enlightened culture, including Christianity. Voltaire hated Christianity and said that it would never be destroyed unless the Sabbath was destroyed. Under his influence, the French went from a seven day week to a ten day week. It almost killed the work force. When Voltaire died in 1787, they reverted to the seven day week. As for Voltaire, his former house is now used for the international distribution of Christian literature.
It may seem somewhat counterintuitive to talk about joy from a psalm of lament like this one. However, as Christians, we know that we can have joy despite adverse circumstances. Why? David shows us in the way he concludes this psalm: "Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people" (v. 8). Despite the immense difficulties he faced in his life, David put his trust in the Lord. When we engage in corporate worship, even in the midst of personal challenges, we are able to have joy in the knowledge that it is not up to us to overcome life's difficulties. Salvation belongs to the Lord.
- Juan Mateos, “The Morning and Evening Office,” Worship 42 (Ja 1968): p.34.