The psalmist writes these words, "Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment and His favor for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5. Joy comes in the morning. There is nothing like seeing the sun beginning to rise after a long night of pain or grief of anxiety. That brings great joy. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, the second fruit listed. Joy is one of the marks of a faithful heart. But what exactly is this joy? And what is the joy of the Lord. Scripture tells us this is our strength...the joy of the Lord. This Bible verse comes from the book of Nehemiah, chapter 8. Here we find the story of God's people who have returned to Jerusalem after their Babylonian exile. They have discovered Jerusalem is a wreck, the walls torn down and the temple destroyed and the city vulnerable those who want to take the city for themselves. The wall has just been completed and the people are grateful to God. They ask Ezra the scribe to get out the book of the law of Moses...the Torah.
God's people stood in the open square and Ezra read from the book of the law from morning to midday, about six hours. Picture yourself standing in the sun listening to someone read aloud the Book of Leviticus. The people stood in reverence for hours as God's Word is read and as they began to understand the Word, they began to weep. Nehemiah dismissed the people and said "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy off the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:9-10.
The joy of the Lord might refer to the joy that God has but here the joy is something the people have experienced. The joy of the Lord is the joy...happiness and contentment...that springs up in our hearts because of our relationship with the Lord. It is God given gladness found when we are in communion with God. When our goal is to know more about the Lord, the by product is His joy. And His strength here means a place of refuge or safety. Psalm 46 tells us God is our refuge and strength. This joy is not something we can conger up by ourselves either. And what is even more amazing is that God's joy centers around us! Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that we look to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith and ”Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God.” Jesus has done everything necessary for us to endure in our faith. He is our example because He focused not on the agonies of the cross but the crown that we will all receive one day. He was focused on a relationship with us!
Knowing that our being in a relationship with God makes Him happy ought to spark a flame of joy within us as well. And how cool is it that we as believers have access to God's immense joy, joy that does not come from us...either our circumstances or from within. God's joy does not depend on us...not how spiritual we are, not how strong we are, not how hard we work. This joy comes from God and God alone, and our relationship with Him.
Think about this, the word gospel means good news, which coming from God brings great joy. There are many verses in scripture that speak of joy. Here are a few of them. In Luke 15 Jesus tells several parables about things that are lost...coins, a son (the prodigal) and sheep. He tells of the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to look for the one that is lost. And there was great joy when the lost sheep was found. Sheep were valuable property in Jesus day, so it was important to keep track of them all. Jesus compares the lost sheep to a sinner who repents.” I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7. What an amazing picture here of how much God wants to spend eternity with all of us, that He would. One after us when we are lost. Our God is a forgiving God and that brings great joy.
When we read the accounts of Jesus birth, we see great joy. In Matthew 2:9-10 we see the wise men following the star as it rose, and it went before them until it finally came to rest over the place where Jesus was. And when they saw the star, they didn't just experience joy, they rejoiced exceedingly, with great joy. Imagine their joy at finding the one they had traveled so far to find. And in Luke chapter two we see the angel come from God announcing Jesus birth to shepherds out in the field. "And the angel said to them, fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.” First the shepherds were terrified, and they rejoiced. Every Jew was waiting for the savior to come and once the shock of the angel and the heavenly host wore off, there was more than enough joy to go around!
And this verse is for us, here and now...today. Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you May abound in hope.” Hope and joy go hand in hand. We need hope right now so that we might continue to move forward. And when we know the hope we have in Jesus Christ there is out right joy in our lives.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W