“But let all those that take refuge in Thee rejoice, Let them ever shout for joy, because Thou defendest them: Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee.” Psalm 5:11
Joy. The Hebrew word for joy is chedvah, meaning gladness. At one time or another in our lives, we are glad. As children, we may be glad about gifts we are given, special treats such as ice cream, parties, or vacations. Joy and gladness is not reserved just for children though; adults too experience joy and gladness, both for the reasons children do, as well as professional and personal milestones, such as promotions, weddings, or the birth of a child.
In the Bible, the word joy is used to describe the gladness that comes from God and His blessings upon us. In our scripture text today, the Psalmist states that those who love and trust in God should shout for joy, or gladness, because God is their Defender.
The Hebrew words for Defender are cakak and sakak and define the act of hedging, fencing, or shutting in. A hedge acts as a boundary or barrier around an area. Following these definitions, we understand that God hedges, or fences, us in so that He can care for us, protecting us from harm.
Roughly one and a half years ago, several thousand people have lost their lives as a result of an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Asia. Without a doubt, it was a horrific experience for those in the affected areas; families were torn apart, children left without parents, parents left without children, and some people lost their entire families. Imagine, if you can, what it is like to lose every family member in such a tragedy, or even to lose one loved one so quickly, with no warning. Certainly the thought of joy and gladness is hard to reconcile with such an event.
And yet, those who are in the Lord and rest upon Him for their strength, can experience joy. Yes, there is pain and sadness, and rightfully so. Jesus wept just moments before raising Lazarus from the dead. There is sorrow and sadness in death for those left behind. But just as there was joy when Lazarus came forth from the grave, there is a joy that we feel when a Christian leaves their earthly body and enters eternal rest. Despite our sorrow and sadness at their death, a great joy is felt as well, a relief that their suffering in this world has ceased and they will never again feel the pain of this life. Truly, this recognition of eternal rest provides us with the means to carry on, as we await our time to leave this earth.
The Psalmist also says that those who love God should be joyful, or full of gladness, “in” Him. When we first obey the Gospel and put on Christ, there is inexplicable joy and gladness. Our sins have been washed away and we are now reconciled to God through our obedience. There is joy felt both by the convert and by their fellow believers. This joy in being a child of God is, in a manner of speaking, a form of worship to God. Our joy in being His child, in partaking in the blessing of repentance and forgiveness, is lifelong. A precious gift has been extended and accepted, and there is joy both on earth and in Heaven when one gives their life to Jesus.
In the Old Testament we can read about the joy brought about by obedience to God. In Nehemiah 8:10, we read that the joy of Jehovah is strength. Our gladness in God, our joy in His existence and in what He has done for us, strengthen us for the trials of this life. In the book of Esther, after Queen Esther petitioned the King and saved the Jews, we read in chapter 8 verse sixteen “The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor.” They held a feast to celebrate God’s deliverance.
When we think of the Book of Job, the word joy is not the first word to come to mind. We often hear the phrase “the patience of Job” to describe one who is incredibly patient. Someone who is enduring great suffering is referred to as “Job-like”. And while Job endured financial and personal loss, including the loss of all of his children, he speaks of joy.
Of course, the Psalmist uses the word joy often in praising God through song. In Psalm 16:11 and Psalm 21:6 the Psalmist states that there is joy in the presence of God. Just to be near Him, to experience and acknowledge Him, one is made joyous and glad. The Psalmist often asked God to help him to feel this joy. In Psalm 51:8 we read the Psalmist’s plea “Make me to hear joy and gladness, That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” and again in Psalm 51:12 we read “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit.” There are times when we are weary and tired, and it is difficult to feel anything but sadness and solitude. However, if we will only ask, God will hear our prayer and acknowledge our need to feel His presence.
Perhaps you know of people who are always happy, always smiling, and always cheerful. They never seem to have a care in the world, always keep things in perspective, and inspire you to do the same. There are still others who are always sad, frowning, and negative in every way. Why is it that some choose to be happy and others seemingly choose to be unhappy?
Proverbs 21:15 tells us “It is joy to the righteous to do justice; But it is a destruction to the workers of iniquity.” Those who desire to please God and to live according to His word willingly do so. Their priority in life, first and foremost, is to do the right thing. There are others who do not desire to please God, who live only unto themselves. Ironically, they are among the most miserable people you will ever meet. While they may have every aspect of material wealth, their way of life and reason for living is void of righteous purpose. There can be no true joy and gladness in such a life.
In Ecclesiastes 2:26 we read “For to the man that pleaseth him God giveth wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that pleaseth God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” The writer clearly makes a distinction between the life of one who seeks to please God, and those who seek to please merely themselves. Ecclesiastes 9:7 states that we should eat our bread with joy, and truly, we should be glad, as God has provided a means for us to feed ourselves and provides for our needs as only He can.
In Isaiah 35:10 Isaiah prophesied that “the ransomed of Jehovah shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” In chapter 52:9 he instructed the Israelites “Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for Jehovah hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.” Our worship, our praise of God for who He is and what He has done, should never cease for He is always worthy of praise.
The prophet Habbakuk pledged “joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab. 3:18) Despite adversity and trials, Habbakuk acknowledge God, and rested in God’s promises. We too, should find joy in God, the God of our salvation. He is our reason for living and our reason for existing is to praise Him and obey Him.
In the New Testament, we read that when the shepherds saw the star leading them to the Christ child, “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Mt. 2:10). Their joy, or gladness, resulted from their faith in God, and in His promise of a Messiah. The Messiah had been brought down to earth, and they acknowledged God’s hand in this event. In Matthew 28:8 we read that the women at the tomb felt great joy when they realized that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were joyous to know He was not dead, but alive.
In Luke 14 we read the parable of the prodigal son, who squandered his inheritance and returned home penniless. His father rejoiced that his son had returned and gave a feast in his honor. In Luke 15:7 Jesus stated that in the same manner, there is great joy in heaven over one sinner that repents. When one obeys the Gospel, there is joy in Heaven, because a soul has been rescued from eternal suffering. Verse eight relates the parable of a woman who lost a coin and then found it. She rejoiced and let everyone know of her joy. Again, Jesus relates this to the joy felt in Heaven when one obeys the Gospel. Just as we praise God and are glad for all He does for us, the very Heavens rejoice because of God. In Galatians 5:22 we read that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, a result of our obedience to God, and His care for us.
Throughout the Bible we read of those who loved and served God, who endured trials and sorrows and disappointments. Despite their sufferings, they did not fail to praise God. God protects and guards our souls from eternal destruction, if only we will acknowledge and obey Him. Jesus himself endured shame and death on the cross, all because He knew the joy that lay ahead of Him (Heb 12:2).
Are you joyous? Do you feel gladness in God? Are you thankful for all He has done to provide for you and to bring you to Him eternally? Let us hear the words of Peter in 1 Peter 4:13 “but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy.” When we suffer as Christians, it is difficult, and yet we can garner joy in our suffering, for God sees it, and He will reward us one day with eternal life, eternal rest, and eternal joy!
If you are not a Christian, won’t you acknowledge God today? Rejoice in the Lord, and praise Him for all He has done for you!!