What “day” is Psalm 118:24 referring to (“This is the day the Lord has made”)
Unfortunately, people use verses from the Bible totally out of context and with the wrong application and this is a good illustration. There is the popular chorus, “This is the Day” and it is usually understood as referring to the new day, i.e, today, that God has given us, and so we should rejoice in it. That’s true, but Psalm 118 is talking about the work of God in Christ and the future day when God will lay the foundation Stone that will bring salvation. Please note the comments on this Psalm from The Bible Knowledge Commentary.
C. Significance of the triumph (118:22-29)
118:22-24. The psalmist explained that the Lord had taken the stone that the builders rejected and had marvelously made it the capstone of the nation. Therefore the people should rejoice. In those days great empires easily set up and removed kings. Perhaps those great nations discounted Israel as a nation. Yet the Lord took that “stone” and made it “the capstone” of His rule on earth. The image of the stone may have suggested itself from the temple construction work going on in the postexilic community. The psalmist, perhaps the congregation’s leader, may have thought of his king as the stone, for in Israel kings often represented the nation. Certainly in Jesus’ Parable of the Landowner and the Tenants (Matt. 21:33-44) He applied the psalm in that way. Jesus is the Stone and the Jewish leaders, the builders of the nation, had rejected Him. But God made Him the Capstone. Thus the kingdom would be taken from them and given to others (Matt. 21:43). The fact that this psalm was probably popular at the Passover festival made Jesus’ use of it all the more forceful.
118:25-29. The psalmist prayed then for his people’s salvation and prosperity. The words save us (v. 25) and Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord (v. 26) were proclaimed at Jesus’ Triumphal Entry (Matt. 21:9; “Hosanna” translates the Heb. for “save”). The people believed that Jesus was the Coming Savior. In fact the phrase with boughs in hand (Ps. 118:27) may have prompted their putting the branches down for Jesus (Matt. 21:8). The second half of Psalm 118:27, though difficult in the Hebrew, probably refers to the custom at the Feast of Tabernacles of waving branches before the Lord. Then later, when the psalm was used in all the feasts, this part of verse 27 became simply an expression in the hymn without boughs literally being in people’s hands. But the people in Jesus’ day knew that He claimed to be the Messiah, and that this psalm spoke of the Coming One. So they appropriated its message for the occasion. Fittingly Jesus identified Himself as the Stone who would bring salvation to those who prayed to Him, “Save us.”
Because the psalm is typically prophetic of the Messiah, the earlier references to “cut off” (vv. 10-12) may also have a higher significance in relation to the work of Christ. In the Old Testament, circumcision was the means by which a male Israelite was identified with the covenant, but circumcision came to signify “inner circumcision” (cf. Deut. 30:6), belief that set one apart to God. Paul wrote that a true Jew is one whose heart is circumcised (Rom. 2:29).
Perhaps Psalm 118 anticipated the time when the Stone, Jesus, would turn to the nations who would receive Him (cf. John 1:12). If so, His triumph is in a sense different from its meaning when it was historically recorded in Israel. For the psalmist, Psalm 118:25-29 spoke of the procession coming to the temple to worship, and the one coming “in the name of the Lord” was the worshiper. At the altar the worshiper would give…thanks (cf. vv. 19, 21) and acknowledge the Lord God for His goodness and loyal love. In Jesus’ Triumphal Entry this psalm, sung by the people as they moved in the procession to the temple, was most appropriate as He entered Jerusalem to begin His work of salvation for those who would believe.