Does God want us to be joyful and happy? In my last post, I confided to you that I think He does, and I promised to support my beliefs in this post. So let’s get right to it with some passages from the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is full of “joy” passages. The Book of Psalms is loaded with them. In Psalm 5:11 we read:
But let all those rejoice who put their
trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because
You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.
In this passage, the psalmist sings that those who trust in God should be always and forever shouting for joy. Shouting for joy. Not just smiling, but SHOUTING! The word joy in this passage is glee or exceeding gladness, mirth, pleasure, rejoicing. And the “joyful” can be translated as “jumping for joy.”
This is an ecstatic kind of joy. And what is the reason for it?
God. We are giddy and celebratory, because God is our defender.
Can you imagine what the world would think if all believers in God walked around celebrating, shouting and rejoicing about Him!? I think they’d be stunned, because right now the world sees us as judgmental, argumentative, narrow-minded, and definitely not much more joyful than the rest of the world. In some instances, many of us maybe even act more severe and morose than the general population. We really need to seriously ask ourselves: If God is for us, why are we not ecstatic?
In Psalm 16:11 we read:
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures
Again we see that when we are “practicing the presence of God,” as Brother Lawrence so beautifully worded it, our communing with God makes it impossible not to be joyful! Fully joyful. If that is true, then I think all we have to do is enter into His presence to experience that kind of joy. And if we’re not experiencing it, maybe we need to ask ourselves if we lack joy because we have not asked and we have not been spending critical time that we need with Him to be filled up with that joy. And why wouldn’t we be driven to spend that kind of time with Him if His right hand extends eternal pleasures to us?
In Psalm 21:1, King David says:
The king shall have joy in Your
strength, O LORD:
And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
Joy in this passage means to “brighten up, cheer up, be made glad, making merry.” And why does David make merry? He’s reveling in God’s strength (not his own); and he rejoices in God’s salvation. Knowing that we have salvation, and being secure in that knowledge, should be a cause for celebrating! And how do you rejoice? The definition of rejoice in this passage evokes quite a word picture. It stems from the root word that means to spin around, the way you would when you are “under the influence of any violent emotion.” I’ve seen thousands of sports fans do that when their beloved athletic team wins big, but I don’t see too many believers spinning around, shouting and carrying on about God and His salvation. People would probably think we were not quite right.
For me, it brings back memories of the Jesus movement in the late sixties and early seventies, when young Christians in the United States gathered together as a hippie countercultural movement, in an effort to draw believers back to the early church model. The movement started on the West Coast. Those passionate, rejoicing, giddy, exuberant and vocal followers of Jesus were dubbed “Jesus freaks.” They stood out for their passion, love, purpose and focus. They carted their Bibles around with them and weren’t afraid to identify with their Savior. They were “sold out” for Jesus, and they let everyone know about it. As a high school junior, I attended one of those revival meetings in a tent in California, where Pastor Chuck Smith—the founder of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California—drew thousands of California teens. (My Chemistry class lab partner, Georgia, invited me to attend with her.) While I didn’t have enough guts to venture down front so everyone could see me, it changed my life. After that, I couldn’t get enough of Jesus and His word, and I was HAPPY!! JOYFUL! Changed. In a heartbeat. I’ve berated myself a thousand times for letting others “steal” that joy from me. For giving it away so easily. How could I forfeit something so precious?
Moving on to Psalm 26:7, we find David once again talking about joy. And this time he’s offering sacrifices of it.
And now my head shall be lifted
up above my enemies all
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy
in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to
Joy. A "battle cry, an alarm, a clamor of trumpets, a shout." Nothing silent here. It’s another jubilee moment for David, when he wants everyone to hear his happiness and understand why he’s so joyful. While it’s true that the sacrifices in this passage involved the Old Testament animal sacrifices, we don’t need to offer those anymore. Jesus took care of that on the cross. He was the eternal and final sacrifice for which we now offer to Him our joy. So now we can offer different sacrifices of joy. Have you ever considered your joyful worship and celebration something that God considers a sacrifice? Something that He finds immensely pleasing?
When I read this passage, I imagine David offering sacrifices of joy for two reasons: First, because of what He knows God is going to do for him in the future; and then after what God ends up doing for him. There is joy both before and after the event. Joy. Always joy!
We’ll end it right there today. We’ll cover more passages in the next several weeks, leading right up to the United States’ holiday of Thanksgiving. When this entire nation responds with joy and thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving in America was initiated by my ancestors, who were members of the sect of Pilgrims who left England due to religious persecution. And they organized this Thanksgiving celebration for one purpose: To thank God for His blessings and harvest, for the new Native American friends they had met, learned to live with, and with whom they had established a covenant.
Did they overflow with joy because life was easy, and because after sailing to the New World everything went perfectly and all of the immigrants had made it safely through the first year? No. They celebrated in spite of heavy losses. (Many, including my great, great, great, great….grandparents and uncle died in that first winter due to bitter cold, lack of food, and disease.) They celebrated in spite of their struggles and frustrations because they knew that the only reason any of them survived, and were able to become established in this new land and reap any kind of edible harvest, was due to God’s goodness, mercy, blessings, and His defense.
Yes, God does want us to be happy. And we have so much for which to be joyful and celebrate!
So as we go through this week, take heart, and be joyful, because you know:
1) God is your defense.
2) He is strong and provides you with salvation.
3) He does lift up your head when life seems as dark as it can possibly get.
Joy! It’s our battle cry! Join the celebration parade. Be happy, be giddy, rejoice, for that demeanor and emotion is a pleasing sacrifice to God!
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me!
With great joy,
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