At this point the theme of the readings changes from Hope, which we have been following for some time, to The Joy of the Lord. I will not be writing on that specific point every day, but I will be writing from passages that include that concept.
Deuteronomy 12:7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.
And here we have the Biblical basis for the church pot-luck dinner! Actually, not many people directly associate worshiping God with joy, but as the readings from now will demonstrate, the Bible makes that connection many times. The thing is, gratitude is inseparable from joy, and gratitude should always be a major factor in worship. When we see worship as an obligation we quickly miss out on that. It is true that giving God worship and praise when things seem very bleak to our senses and intellect brings spiritual growth and deep blessing, but that in itself can bring joy that is incomprehensible to those who don’t know God. That’s what Hebrews calls “a sacrifice of praise.” (Hebrews 13:15) The devil hates genuine joy, and he does all he can to destroy it. Jesus is the opposite! (John 10:10) Dennis Prager, though a Jew, understands this principle, and often says, “You will never see a happy Leftist.” Praise and worship of our Creator is spiritual warfare against the enemy of our souls, and as such it should be joyful indeed.
I grew up in a home where church attendance was required, but it was also seen as a privilege, and for that I am grateful. Even so, it wasn’t until I was exposed to the Charismatic movement, starting in 1973, that I began to experience more of the depths and heights of the joy of the Lord. Big gatherings are great, but small ones can be just as good. It was in a small prayer meeting one time that the joy of the Lord was so intense in me that I felt that with one more drop I would be translated directly to heaven, because my physical body couldn’t handle it. I literally told the Lord (though not out loud) “If You have more for me to do on earth, You’d better back off a little.” He did, and I’m still here! However, such experiences make me delight to praise and worship my God and eagerly anticipate heaven, where there will be no restrictions to that worship or that joy. As a pastor I seek to help others taste that joy that comes only in a right relationship with our Creator. Some seem to get it much more easily than others! In any case, a dour congregation is hardly a fair or accurate representation of the God we say we serve!
Father, thank You indeed for Your joy. Thank You for creating us as beings capable of experiencing joy. May we as a church radiate Your joy, drawing many more to repentance and faith for their salvation, so that they may join us in Your joy, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!