The Kansas City Royals are going to win the World Series in 2019! They won their opener yesterday (Thursday). At this rate, they’ll win 162 games this season. Let’s get excited. Let’s buy tickets while they’re still available. Let’s.
The second half of Psalm 118:24 contains a statement of intent or expectation:
. . . let us rejoice and be glad in it.
If we were to speak that idea in conversation, we’d almost certainly use the contraction “let’s.” Let’s eat. Let’s go to the movies. Let’s celebrate! Let’s get out of here. These all sound like good uses of “let’s,” but is that the sort of thing going on here?
If you read this clause in a number of different translations, you’ll find that it is almost exclusively rendered in one of two ways: “let us” or “we will.” As much as I generally appreciate the CSB, which I quoted above, I think the translators missed the mark in this case.
Think about it. What does “let us” mean? “Allow us”? Generally when we say it, like when we say “let’s eat,” we’re trying to recruit another person or persons to eat with us. I suppose that could be what’s going on here. Rather than hungry, the Psalmist is sensing the provision of God and thus recruits others to rejoice with him. Okay, but let’s try this another way.
In the KJV and a number of other translations, the phrase here is “we will.” It’s possible, if you are of a certain age or (especially) were taught English by an exceptionally old-school teacher, then you learned to conjugate that auxiliary verb “will” like this:
- I shall; we shall
- You will; You (all) will
- He, she, it will; They will
Nobody talks or writes like that any more, but a hundred years ago you would have likely been taught that way. Certainly, in 1611, when the KJV appeared, they were taught that way.
The oddity of that approach to “will” is that when you’re not simply stating something that will happen in the future but stating a settled purpose or a command, you reverse the word. Therefore, you’d say “You will have a birthday next week” but “You shall clean up your room.” Or you might say “I shall eat breakfast” but “I will lose thirty pounds!” (My italics are simply for emphasis.)
When those four-hundred-year-ago translators said “We will rejoice,” they were not saying, “Hey, let’s all get together and rejoice!” or “I have rejoicing scheduled on my day planner.” They were saying either “We have no choice but to rejoice” or “We need to make a point of rejoicing.”
The Psalmist says “let us rejoice” or, better in my opinion, “we will rejoice,” and he’s not urging action based on a whim. It’s not the rejoicing that we might–might–do when the home team starts the season well. Instead, it’s more like the compulsion that put hundreds of thousands of Kansas Citians in the streets when the Royals won the World Series in 2015. We couldn’t not rejoice.
Although I eagerly joined that mob in 2015, I recognized then that I should feel an even stronger compulsion to rejoice because of what God does every day. So let’s rejoice!