THE JOY OF THE LORD
THE JOY OF THE LORD
By Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.
Text: Nehemiah 8:9-12
Both the books of Ezra and Nehemiah address the same time period in the life of Judah. They give us the account of the repatriation of the people of Judah to Jerusalem and Judea. While Ezra focuses on the rebuilding of the temple, Nehemiah deals with rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, starting with the wall.
The wall which surrounded cities of that era provided a defense and protection against enemy attack, it established city boundaries, and the wall gave a city its character.
After the wall was built and the people returned, the Book of the Law, the first five books of what we refer to as the Old Testament, was brought out by Ezra to be read to the people. The printing press had not been invented yet and all Scripture was hand copied by scribes. As it turned out, Ezra was both a scribe and a priest, so it stands to reason that if anyone had an authoritative copy of the Book of the Law, it would be Ezra. Many of the people probably had bits and pieces of the Law, but few would have had all the Law.
This was a momentous occasion and the Word of God was to be central to the reviving of the nation of Judah. As Ezra began to read, the people stood to their feet in reverence to the Word of God. They stood from morning until midday. While Ezra read, the people raised their hands in the air and shouted, "Amen, amen!" Others fell on their face and worshipped. But no one stood in cold indifference. As they heard the Word they began to weep. They were grieved to realize how far they had strayed from keeping the Law. But Nehemiah and Ezra told the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn not weep." They were telling the people, "Hey...the temple has been rebuilt, the wall of the city has been restored, the people of the Lord have come home, and the Law of the Lord has been proclaimed! This is not a day for weeping, this is a day for rejoicing!"
This was not a day for fasting, this was a day for feasting. They told the people, "Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
Did you know that the word "joy" occurs 165 times in the KJV. The word occurs as a noun speaking of something we have. "Joy" also occurs as an adjective modifying words such as noise and shout. Eight times Scripture refers to "shouts of joy." Seven times the Psalmist speaks of a "joyful noise." As such, “joy” is a description of the character of our praise. Our praise is a "joy" filled expression of adoration unto God. "Joy" is also used as an adverb modifying the verb sing. We are to sing with “joy”, we are to sing "joyfully" unto the God of our salvation.
If joy is something we have, then "rejoice" is something we do. The word "rejoice" occurs 189 times in the KJV. The most common use of the verb "rejoice" is as an imperative of command, that is, it is used by the prophet, or the psalmist as a command to the people. The Word is saying that as the people of God we should have joy. And if we have joy, then we should "rejoice." There is something wrong with a church that does not rejoice. There is something wrong with Christians who have no joy, who live in the valley of discouragement. Dwight Moody rightly observed that God never used a discouraged man or woman to do anything great for Him. Nehemiah said, "the joy of the LORD is your strength."
A man or woman who is living in sin may know the pleasures of sin which are for a season, but true joy comes from a right relationship with God. Pleasure can be found in the numbing effects of alcohol for awhile, but pain comes in the morning. Pleasure might be found in an illicit affair for an evening, but regret and guilt comes in the morning. Pleasure in sin is a short-lived thing that keeps its victims addicted to the pleasure when what they really need is joy. But true joy cannot be found outside of a right relationship with God. The Psalmist said, "in thy presence there is fullness of joy."
That's why, when David was coming back to God, when he was repenting of his adultery with Bathsheba, he wrote in Psalm 51:8, "make me to hear joy and gladness." He had enjoyed the pleasure of sin, but had lost his joy. He pleads further in verse 12, "restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." The truth for the sinner is that merriment may endure for a night, but weeping comes in the morning. But for the Christian, the truth is, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Ps. 30:5).
I) THE KIND OF JOY: GREAT JOY
In the New Testament, joy is also central to the life of the believer. It is interesting and exciting that the angelic proclamation to the shepherds of the field was, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Lk. 2:10-11).
II) THE REASON FOR THIS JOY
One day Jesus sent out seventy disciples to preach the kingdom of God. When they return they were rejoicing and they said, "Master, even the demons are subject to us in your name." Jesus said, "I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven" (Lk. 10:19-20). And it goes on to say that "in that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit..." (21).
The Greek word used to describe Jesus' joy at the ministry of the apostles, is a very descriptive word. We are sometimes guilty of picturing Jesus as a somber. melancholic person who never cracked a smile. But in Luke's gospel it says Jesus "rejoiced in spirit." The word describes a celebration, a jumping, a whirling in the air, a leaping, shouting jubilation. He told the disciples to rejoice and then He showed them how to do it.
When is the last time anyone saw that kind of joy in you? If your name is written in heaven, then you have all the reason you need to shout. You don't have wait for the Holy Spirit to come down and shake you like a rag doll. Shouting isn't a sign of power or spirituality, shouting is a sign of joy, dancing is a sign of joy, clapping your hands is a sign of joy. I'm like T.L. Lowery, who said, "I started shouting and rejoicing the day the burden sin rolled away and I haven't quit yet."
Someone said, "I was about to shout 'till I saw that 'ole hypocrite shout and it knocked the shout right out of me." Well if you don't have any more joy than that, sit down and shut up. I like what the songwriter said, "I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free." I rejoice because my name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life!
III) THE APPROPRIATE TIME TO REJOICE
Paul, writing to the church at Philippi, tells us when it is appropriate to rejoice in the Lord. He said, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice" (Phil. 4:4).
Do what? Rejoice in the Lord!
Paul wasn't just making conversation. He repeated himself for emphasis. "and again I say, rejoice!"
Christianity was never intended to be a stale static, dead dry religion. Christianity was intended to be a vibrant, living, loving relationship with God. Christianity is "life, and that more abundantly." Christianity is "liberty in the Spirit." Christianity is victory over the flesh, over the world, and over the enemy.
"Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say rejoice!"
When the storms of life are gathering over head, rejoice in the Lord! Not for the struggles, we are not rejoicing because of our problems, but in the midst of the storm we can still rejoice in the Lord because He has not deserted or abandoned us. He sticks closer than a brother.
IV) HOW TO RECEIVE THIS JOY
Peter said, "though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." How do I get this joy? By believing in Jesus. Even though we may not see Him now, still we can have joy unspeakable, that is, joy that defies words and passes into the realm of a shout. How do I have this joy? I gain it by believing that Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God and that He nailed my sins to a cross so that I could be free.
One man who was a new Christian was so overjoyed and so overwhelmed by the love of God which he felt in his life that he just had to tell all his friends. He didn't know a lot about the Bible. He couldn't quote any Scripture and when they began to drill him on what his experience was he finally told them, "I don't exactly know why God loved me, and I can't say exactly how He did it, but I can say this, HALLELUJAH!"
The songwriter said, "It is joy unspeakable and full of glory, it is joy unspeakable and full of glory oh the half has never yet been told!"
V) HOW MUCH JOY SHOULD A CHRISTIAN HAVE?
John said, in writing his first epistle, "And these write we unto you that your joy may be full" (1 Jn. 1:4). The purpose of the gospel is to lead us to Christ, to supply power unto salvation, and to fill us with joy. John's said, "I'm writing this to you that your joy may be full."
What is your joy meter registering today? I'm not taking about happiness. I'm not suggesting you hide your head in the sand and deny all the pain in the world, but I am saying that as bad as things get around you, as high as the waves may rise and as hard as the winds may blow, the joy of the Lord is like a life jacket that lifts higher than the storms. The joy of the Lord is your strength. When you are too weary to keep kicking, the joy of the Lord keeps you afloat. When no one around comes to your rescue, the joy of the Lord keeps your head above the waters of doubt and discouragement.
If you have no true and lasting joy, you can have it today. You get it by believing in Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life. If you are a Christian, if you have asked Jesus to come into your heart, but you haven't had any joy in your walk with Him, then the enemy is trying to steal your joy. You need to rebuke the enemy in the name of Jesus and make a joyful noise. You need to lift up a shout of Joy. All I have to do is think about where He found me and how He rescued me and joy like a river floods my soul.
The Word says in Psalm 98:4, "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise." You say, "I don't feel like it." But I'm telling you by the authority of the Word of God, if you are born again, then joy is your inheritance. You don't have to ask the devil for permission to rejoice, you just walk in to the King’s court, claim your joy and go out with rejoicing.
Joy is mine, joy is mine, joy today is mine. I told satan, "You get thee behind me," now joy today is mine!