Friday, February 20, 2015

The Joy of the Lord

I recently read a book, Mastering Life Before It's Too Late, by Robert J. Morgan.  I'll be reviewing the book as a whole soon, but today I'd like to share a small bit of Scriptural truth he pointed out that has changed my outlook.  "The perception that God is akin to a grumpy old man is a satanic lie that casts a depressing shadow over our spirits." His point is that when the Bible talks about the joy of the Lord, it isn't only the joy that He gives us, but the joy He has within Himself.  We should be joyful, not only because he told us to, but because our God is a God of joy!  

Mr. Morgan recommends memorizing verses about joy to help us during times when joy might not be easy.  I thought I would share some of them with you, along with my own thoughts about how to apply them.

Let the glory of the LORD endure forever; Let the LORD be glad in His works; He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Psalm 104:31-33

In this Psalm in praise of the Creator, we see that God takes joy in what He has made.  As I write this, I have been stuck in the house for two days due to an ice storm.  I don't like precipitation of any kind, and I really despise snow and ice.  Even so, I can learn to be joyful in creation too.  When I look outside, instead of seeing the frozen roads and icy cars, I can see the beauty in tree branches sparkling in the sunlight or the birds delicately hopping on the white ground. 
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows. Psalm 45:7
The Hebrew writer quoted from this Psalm when he spoke of the supremacy of Jesus. (Hebrews 1:9).  Not only is God a God of joy, but he anointed Jesus with that same joy because of Christ's love for righteousness. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his followers that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6).  As I strive in the Spirit to be more like Jesus, loving what is good and hating what is evil, I can have more joy too.
Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:9-10).
The people of Israel had messed up badly, and after the reading of the Law, they knew just how badly. Although godly sorrow that leads to repentance is good, we, like the Israelites, don't need to wallow in guilt. How do we find the strength to get back up when we've messed up? In the joy of the Lord. I can be joyful after I've sinned, knowing that God has forgiven me and gives me strength to continue following Him. (David knew this too; check out Psalm 51 for another example of joy after sin).
Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.  The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds' feet, And makes me walk on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Sometimes Satan tries to steal our joy through bad things that happen that we can't control.  Habakkuk was suffering from something he had no power to stop.  At the end of his short book, he declares that despite it all, he will exult and rejoice in God.  He specifically rejoices in "the God of my salvation."  No matter what else happened in the world, Habakkuk knew who had saved him.  Jesus echoed this when he told his disciples to rejoice that their names were recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20).  Bad things are going to happen.  Things we can't control. Things that give us grief. Despite it all, we can have joy knowing where our salvation lies.  Like the hymn writer, we can declare that, "It is well with my soul."

I hope this small look into Biblical joy has been as helpful for you as it was for me. These are only four verses that include joy, rejoice, or gladness.  There are over 400! God is a God of joy, and he wants us to be a people of joy as well.  Share in the comments your favorite verses about joy!


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