"Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance; they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness." Psalm 89:15-16
This past Tuesday night, Bill Bryan, Lay Leader of our church, and I attended the Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field. I would say that this is one of the official responsibilities of being a Lay Leader—to attend baseball games with the pastor. But I would be fibbing. We are just both baseball fans.
That Tuesday night marked a momentous occasion in Rays history because they were calling up the number one prospect in all of baseball. His name is Wander Franco and he is a mere 20-year-old. That evening he was putting on a Rays uniform for the first time and would play in his first major league game. His arrival had been long anticipated, as he is a baseball prospect that comes along maybe once in a generation.
Everyone was there to see what Wander would do in his first game. Would he have a slow start? Or would it be a memorable first game? Would he even get a hit? Well, he did. Not only was his first big league hit a home run, but a three-run homer that tied the game.
The crowd erupted. I had never experienced a din that loud at Tropicana. It was deafening as well as exhilarating. We were “high five-ing” total strangers around us. It was a joyous experience to behold.
Psalm 89 declares, “Happy are the people who know the festal shout.” “Festal shout” is a phrase you may not be familiar with. I know I wasn’t. A festal shout means an acclamation of joy or a battle cry of victory. Yet, it is not simply a shout of triumph, celebration, or joy during times of victory. Nor is it necessarily a cry going forth into battle against an enemy you are sure to defeat.
Christian author Kristen Smelzer writes, “Anyone can shout for joy when things are going their way or when triumph is a certainty. But what about when it appears all hope is lost? What about when the odds are not only against you, but victory seems impossible? What about when your unyielding circumstances are washing over you in waves, and you feel you are about to drown?” We can still cry out a festal shout.
Faith in Christ allows you to shout in faith and victory when all looks grim—when all evidence is to the contrary. The mark of the community of God is that those who can lift up the festal shout together during these times, that their hope is still in Christ. We gather as God’s people in the church because we “know the festal shout.”