by Bill Nugent
Did you know that in the Old Testament God commanded the ancient Israelites to throw a big nationwide party every third year? Deuteronomy 14:23-26 commands Israel to take ten percent of their income (a tithe) and go to Jerusalem and buy food, wine, strong drink and “whatsoever thy soul desireth” and rejoice before the Lord! This reveals an aspect of God that we don’t often emphasize. Our God is a God of joy and celebration!
In Deuteronomy 24:5 we read “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.” This passage not only shows the importance which God places on joy but also note that the one year exemption from military service is more liberal than comparable military regulations in modern America! In some ways the Bible is more liberal than the laws of modern societies.
Isaiah 55:12 says “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace.” Zephaniah 3:17 says “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” In Psalm 16:11 we read “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
God gives us great joy on earth but we also look forward to heaven, the future home of all of us who repent and receive Christ into our hearts. Heaven is certainly the greatest place of joy and pleasure!
The first miracle that Jesus performed was to turn water into wine. Jesus extended the joy and celebration of a wedding!
In Philippians 4:4 we read “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say rejoice.” Galatians 5:22 teaches us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . . “ Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and people should expect the followers of Christ to exhibit it. Historians now admit that the Puritans of 17th century New England were not the stern faced killjoys of legend. The Puritans wore bright colored clothing and enjoyed lively social functions.
Our worship services must be bright and joyful celebrations of God’s mercy and goodness. Many, if not most of our songs should be in a major key. The God we worship is a God of love, joy, peace, acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation for those who have repented and received Christ. We should celebrate the fact that God loved us enough to send His Son to die for our sins!
We are commanded to give up our sins not our joy. The Christian life has its griefs and challenges but the joy outweighs it all.