While I was reading Deuteronomy this morning I couldn’t help but notice all the references to joy: Deuteronomy 12:7, 8, 18; 28:47; 33:29. There are more references, but those are sufficient. The rest of the Bible is replete with joy verses and themes, here are a few: 2 Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 1:4, 18, 25; 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:16.
My teaching experience has been that whenever you try and define joy as happiness, the happiness squelchers parachute in and pour cold water on the parade. It seems like they don’t like Christian joy. May it never be! And may we dig down a little and figure out how we can have both.
I was raised with the definition of Christian joy as the inward feeling of goodness or contentment or something nice-like, when on the outside you could be fussy or unhappy or down in the dumps – you could even be generally depressed and still have “Christian joy”. Joy was something you always had even when it didn’t look like it. Hmmmm. That never sat quite right with me. We don’t have to ignore bad stuff and pretend that we are happy, but can’t we be happy and sorrowful at the same time? I think what should be true for the Christina is that we have such an overwhelming happiness in knowing God and the Savior and serving him, that the ups and downs of life do not permanently disable us, or even steal that overwhelming sense of hope and joy and happiness that comes from communion with God. Our happiness quotient is always informing our sorrowful equation. At the end of the day, as an overwhelming rule, we are happy people, we Christians.
Think about this: do you want a generally happy God, who also grieves over sin and disobedience, but knows the future and the past and has everything under His control? Or do you want God to be generally pretty downright seriously grumpy, but inwardly is really happy? I know the theological fine points of the argument are hard to sum up in two short sentences, but I hope you get the point. And don’t think we get to create God in our own image; however, there are some fairly difficult philosophical problems with a god who is Mr. Grump potato. And the Bible presents him as pleased! Read Psalm 135:8 and 115:3 – He does all that He pleases, always, and everything he does pleases him. Jesus is the perfect representation of his nature, and we are to work so that Christ is formed in us, Galatians 4:19. We need to be like him! We are required to be like him.
I understand the text in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” to mean that even though a kind of sorrow is there for all who live on a sinful planet, that over and above and through it all is the victory of Christ. Knowing God, knowing his forgiveness, knowing the sure hope of eternity with him. Knowing that all things work together fo good. All things, even the sorrowful for a time things. Everything will be made new. There will come a time when there is no sorrow at all, Revelation 7:15-17.
When a close friend or family member dies there is a sorrow that rushes in. I remember hearing of my father’s sudden death – sorrow flooded my soul. But there was a joy that, if I can venture to suggest, overwhelmed that sorrow. I have a Saviour. I am anxiously awaiting the time when all sorrow will cease and I can live in that truth now. All things, even death, work together for good. In this I rejoice.
The weather in Southern California has been fabulous lately. The vegetation is happy, my lawn is happy, the mountains are packed with snow, and the weeds are a-coming! But it’s a small price to pay for the wonder of weather, which is a parable for the omni-magnificence of our God.
If you live here, hopefully you’ve noticed the clouds: cumulous, cirrus, stratus and nimbus. I’m not sure about the last three types, but I know cumulous clouds when I see them, and they are majestic. God has given them to us to remind us and give us a picture of his power, his might, and his ability and willingness to answer prayer.
Here are some selected passages on God and his clouds. All references ESV.
Psalm 104:3b-4, “he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his minister a flaming fire.”
In this next Psalm, David cries to God and the picture of God’s response as he comes in the clouds is astounding, it should move all of us to pray. Pray for revival, pray for courage, pray for the unsaved, pray for your pastor, pray – pray – pray. And may he rend the heavens and come down, Isaiah 64:1.
Psalm 18:6-12, “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help.From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and grouted them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
16 He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.”
You should read the rest of this song of exaltation and instruction. But for now let’s move on to this selection from Job,
Job 36:24-33, “Remember to extol his work, of which men have sung.
25 All mankind has looked on it; man beholds it from afar.
26 Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable.
27 For he draws up the drops of water; they distill his mist in rain,
28 which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly.
29 Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion?
30 Behold, he scatters his lightning about him and covers the roots of the sea.
31 For by these he judges peoples; he gives food in abundance.
32 He covers his hands with the lightning and commands it to strike the mark.
33 Its crashing declares his presence; the cattle also declare that he rises.”