by Eugene Higgins
This is the day …
Although a high fever is one of the symptoms of the Wuhan virus, there is another kind of fever spreading wildly as this government-mandated period of immuration seems to roll on endlessly: Cabin Fever. Those who were accustomed to going out to work are staying home. Those who were used to staying home to work, suddenly wish they were going out. Many married women now have their husband home 24/7 and are frantically trying to remember whether they really did promise “for worse” as well as “for better.” Throw into the mix restless, wall-climbing, couch-jumping, sibling-teasing children, now home all the time, and you have a powerful prescription for tension, aggravation, and that strange thing called Cabin Fever.
I am reminded of the question that supposedly was asked of a number of people: If you were stranded on an island, marooned and isolated, and you could choose just one book to have during your lonely stay, what book would you choose? You’ll be happy to know that one of the answers was, “The Bible.” Someone else suggested the complete works of William Shakespeare. I think someone else actually suggested “Pilgrim’s Progress.” One extremely practical thinker said the book he would want is, “How to Build a Boat.”
Our pragmatic Robinson Crusoe chose that book because what he would want was not something to make his isolation more bearable; he wanted something that would help him end it – help him build a boat to escape the situation in which he was. That is probably something we often have wished for – getting out of the difficulty, getting off the island, or, just now, for most of us land-based folks, getting back to normal.
While we might attribute our present situation to “our State Governor,” “our Prime Minister,” or “our Town Mayor,” surely, as Christians, we can look beyond and above these earthly officials and realize that, “The LORD hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth over all” (Ps 103:19). The painful experience through which Nebuchadnezzar passed, recorded in Daniel 4, was so that he would learn that “the heavens do rule”; that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men.” In 2020 (or 2019 by some calculations) God was not caught by surprise and did not suddenly have to spring into action because of COVID-19. If we are certain that He is Sovereign, then we can be sure that despite what the virus has done, and despite what mankind has done in response to this crisis, He is able to bring good out of the bad and blessing out of the curse. Peace comes when we remember that “our times are in His hand.”
As in every other grace, the Lord Jesus is our Exemplar and Example. I am told that part of the Passover supper involved singing the Hallel Psalms. John sets the scene in that upper room with these words: “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). John is the one who tells us that in the garden, as they came to arrest Him, “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth, and said unto them, ‘Whom seek ye?’” (18:4). John also tells us that even amidst the sufferings of the cross itself, “Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, ‘I thirst’” (19:28). So it was with a full knowledge of what was coming that the Lord Jesus, as recorded by Matthew and Mark, “sang a hymn and went out into the Mount of Olives.” What did they sing in the Hallel Psalms?
- Only the Lord Jesus would understand the deep meaning behind the words of Ps 118:27, “God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.”
- Only the Lord Jesus would know the true interpretation of the words of Ps 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”
- And yet, knowing all things, He sang, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it … O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever” (Ps 118:24, 29).
“This is the day which the Lord hath made.” That the Lord Jesus calmly sang those words that dark night, within sight of Calvary, and with the roar of the coming storm in His ears, is cause for worship. Maybe if we have to spend another day in our houses, we could say to ourselves, “This is the day which the Lord hath made.” Perhaps if the children are becoming hard to keep amused, or parents’ nerves are being frayed, or the level of aggravation is building, we could take a deep breath and remind ourselves that “This is the day which the Lord hath made”; that God chose this path for us and is with us every day. We naturally do not like things that are beyond our control. This is where the fear, worry, angst, and foreboding come from. But it might help us to look up, instead of looking around, and realize that God is in control and, because of that, we should “rejoice and be glad” even “this day.”
Years ago I read about an experience that the well-known preacher F. W. Boreham had. He was staying in a cottage and had been given the best room in the humble abode – the elderly woman’s own room. In the morning, when he pulled up the window blinds, he saw these words etched in the pane of glass: “THIS IS THE DAY.” Curious, he asked her about it at breakfast. “Everybody asks about that!” she said with a laugh. “I never thought when I wrote it there that it would lead to so many questions. But, you see, I have had a lot of trouble in my time, and I am a great one to worry. I was always afraid of what was going to happen tomorrow. And each morning when I woke up I felt as though I had the weight of the world upon me. Then, one day, when I was very upset about things, I sat down, and read my Bible. It was his Bible once,” she said reflectively, glancing at a photograph of her late husband. “It happened that I was reading the 118th Psalm. When I came to the 24th verse, I stopped. ‘This is the day that the Lord has made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.’ I looked again to see what particular day was referred to. But I could not find it. And then it occurred to me that it means any day, every day – this day! ‘This is the day that the Lord has made.’ And why should I be afraid of the days if He makes them? It flashed upon me like a burst of sunshine on a gloomy day. I happened to notice that Tom, who was apprenticed to a glazier, had left his tools in the kitchen. I snatched up his diamond, ran upstairs and scrawled the words as well as I could on the windowpane. There!” I thought, “now I shall see that little bit of Bible there every morning when I draw up the blind, and I will say to myself, ‘this is the day! This is the day! This is the day that the Lord has made!’ And many a time since, when things were looking black, I have been glad that I did it. Somehow, you don’t feel afraid of the day if you feel that He made it!”
Samuel Rutherford said, “Duties are ours, and events are the Lord’s.” Whatever “duties” come to us today – however onerous or demanding – it will surely help us to approach these tasks, and the day itself, with this submissive yet cheerful attitude, an attitude that marked our beloved Lord in the darkest days of His earthly sojourn: “This is the day which the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”