"The joy of God"
(This lesson is based upon one of Robert Deffinbaugh's studies on the attributes of God posted at http://www.bible.org. The specific lesson was The Joy of God. I have rearranged it for my own purposes and added a few of my own thoughts. He has 18 insightful lessons on the attributes of God. I don't agree with everything there, but they have a lot of good information. There is a link provided on this site that will take you to his material. Go to sermon links to find it. I appreciate Robert sharing his information.)
In 1 Timothy 1:11 Paul refers to God as the "blessed God". The word blessed means "happy", but the word "happy" today has been so trivialized that it fails to describe God properly. The word "happy" today has more to do with thrills than with a deep-seated joy. It would trivialize God today to say he is a happy God. Joy more accurately describes God. God is a joyful God and wishes to share his joy with us. God is the source of real joy, just as he is the source of love, of truth, of mercy, etc. In the book of Nehemiah we see the joy of the Lord powerfully impacting lives.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve." Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. (NIV)
How often do we meditate on the fact that God is a God of joy? Ezra spoke of the "joy of the Lord". We usually think of the joy of being a son/daughter of God. When God created the world, Moses indicates "and God saw that it was good". (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 17, 21, 25, 31) When we say that something is good, we are expressing pleasure in experiencing that which is good. There is the pleasure and joy of God as he works with his creation. How often do we think about the attribute of God's joy? Without a doubt it has been a neglected aspect of his nature and character. Yet, it is in his joy that we find our strength.
The Joy of Jesus Christ
Jesus came to reveal God to us. (John 14:9) Jesus Christ was to be characterized by joy. According to Isaiah the Messiah was to be one in whom the father delights. (42:1) He was described as one who would "delight in the fear of the Lord." (11:3) The Psalmist prophesied that Jesus would be anointed with the oil of joy.
Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king's enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet. Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (NIV)
No more provocative view of Christ's joy seen than in the following verses.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV)
"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)
When someone lays down their life for you, it is a joy to them or else they wouldn't do it. Jesus laid down his life for us that we might have the full measure of his joy in us. He endured the cross for the joy set before him.
Salvation is entering Into the Joy of God
God took pleasure in making David king over Israel and then in rescuing him from danger. David said, "He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me." (2 Samuel 22:20)
No less is true about our spiritual rescue.
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' "His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. "'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' (NIV)
The master in this parable represents our Lord and we are encouraged to enter into his happiness. The third servant said, "I knew that you are a hard man . . . " We don't really know God, if we believe he is a hard cruel master.
When we come to God we enter the pleasure of his grace. There is another picture about the joy of God in Luke 15.
Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (NIV)
"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. (NIV)
Of course, the chapter closes with the story of the prodigal son, whom the father is overjoyed with on his return home. Ironically the elder brother cannot figure out why there is a celebration. These parables portray the joy of God in saving the lost. It is little wonder that Ezra the priest told the Israelites that "the joy of the Lord is your strength".
Jesus makes it perfectly clear in Luke 15 that seeking the lost is his greatest joy. This was the joy set before him as he died on the cross. We are expected to rejoice with him as sinners come to him.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to allow us to enter into the joy of God.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NIV)
1 Thessalonians 1:6
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)
The Holy Spirit leads us to joy as we surrender to the will of God. It is his mission to introduce us to the joy of God.
There is A Joy about God's Discipline
God took pleasure in choosing Abraham's descendants, but there was also a joy in punishing them for their sins.
Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. (NIV)
Ezekiel says that God takes no pleasure in the death of men even the wicked. (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11) The joy this verse is the joy of discipline. Initially, this idea comes across as a warped sense of joy. But it isn't.
In our thrill seeking age our sense of joy has been warped. I have four grandchildren. It is hard for me to see them disciplined, but there is a joyous aspect about their discipline. I know that my children care enough about their children to discipline.
The other day I was taking my four-year-old grandson to the store with me. My daughter told me, "Dad, if you tell him that he can't buy anything at the store, be sure you don't give in and buy it. I am trying to teach him that no means no." I don't why she thought she had to tell his papaw that . . . after all we are supposed to spoil them and send them home? But there was a joy that came over me as I went through the store and helped my daughter teach him that no means no. There was a joy knowing that she was trying to rear him to understand that no means no. As we went through the store I had to tell him no several times, it was pleasant to see him responding with a positive attitude. I really think that there was a joy for him knowing that his mom and papaw were putting forth the effort the discipline. But I know that many tears had been shed before he began learning that no means no. But it was beginning to help him find real joy.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (NIV)
God's discipline, as with all true discipline, seeks to reintroduce us to the real joy of living.
There Is Power In Joy
Ezra told the Israelites, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." The power is obvious. Have you ever felt the drain of a negative pessimistic attitude on your energies? You don't feel like doing anything. When you are excited and happy about doing what needs to be done you are exhausted before you realize you are tired. It is the joy that makes the difference. There is a great strength in joy . . . especially God's joy.
You have been around people whom you have offended in some way that want you to grovel your way back into a relationship with them. When you grovel your way back, they are forever reminding you of your burdens and your scars from the past. There is no joy in the relationship. It becomes more of a burden than a blessing. Relationships like that can't last very long. They drain us of our energies and strength for building a relationship.
God says forget the past, enter into my joy and you will find discover my strength to bear your burdens and your scars. Here in Nehemiah we see God as a God of joy as he wants the people to celebrate. It is entering into the joy of God that gives us the strength to persevere in the midst of difficulties. Joy is not an option. It is an essential, if we are to succeed in the work of God. I enjoy what I am doing so much that at times I wonder if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. It has certainly not always been that way.
The lack of joy is not one of the lesser evils.
All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the LORD your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you. (NIV)
The lack of a glad heart was the source of Israel's sin and divine judgment. Lack of joy leads to sin. And, conversely, sin leads to a lack of joy:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (NIV)
God is no killjoy. Serving God does not end our pleasure but rather redefines pleasure for us. We must find our joy in the Lord for that is where we experience God's power to salvage our lives.
"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken. (NIV)
Christianity is far from a dull boring joyless life. There is no joy like knowing and serving God. It is not wrong to seek pleasure; it is just wrong to seek it in the wrong place.
Remember God is the source of real joy and strength. It is more powerful than just putting on a smiley face to grin and bear it.
God's creation enters into the joy of its creator.
Psalms 65:8, 12-13
Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. (NIV)
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth. (NIV)
God is inviting us into his joy of salvaging our lives through his Son.