In my senior year, one of our English projects was to write a sermonette. These sermons, about 2-3 pages, were spoken in class then collected into a devotional book. As getting ideas for blogging constantly is difficult, I decided to go through this devotional and write a post about some of the ideas that come up in each of them, with some of my input added.
Again, another post on the Joy of the Lord. David begins with a somber purpose to his selection.
If someone asked for an example of a joyful person, I can tell you that I have not known someone sarcastic to select me. I have never been one to show exuberant joy about anything. That is exactly wy I decided that I had to look into what the Bible says about joy.
David, mind you, is not a joyless person (Unlike Sans joy from The Faerie Queen), but rather he does not express his joy over things. David makes this evident when he talks about the Christian life and how it is filled with things like faith, hope, and love, yet joy “is not a supplemental concept, but a vital one.” David is a Christian, I have no doubt of that, and to be alive, as he is defining it, one must have joy.
David writes that “some people, probably not Christians, would argue that joy, or pleasure at least, is not the purpose of life.” Out of no fault of his own doeth David not know that in the ancient world of thought, and even thought today, happiness was the greatest good. Look at Plato, Aristotle, and others. Even Augustine would consider true happiness, called felicity, one of the highest aims. Though, as David immediately points out, joy is something Christ aims to give us, for true joy comes from him. Thenceforth David is correct, in his former and later statements. n essence, felicity comes from being properly ordered. To be properly ordered we are to be where God so designed us to be. As Christians we are designed to be with him. So, when we are with him we experience true felicity. Thus, if we chaise after God, the good, then we are also chasing after felicity and joy. So yes, David is correct.
David continues and talks about how some of the ancient church fathers lived stoic lives, but that is not to say they did not find joy. Rather they found joy in doing their tasks under God. They know that when they die they will be welcomed into heaven. He compares joy to things like works, faith, and love.
David then brings up Nehemiah 8:10 that says, “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” David’s interpretation is a little different than the typical one. He says:
when I read it personally and in context, I discovered a different meaning than I had formally applied to it. I formerly interpreted it as, ‘the joy we find in the Lord makes us strong’, but in context, and with thought, the meaning shifts to, ‘The joy the Lord has in us is what gives us strength’, or, more simply, that the Lord’s blessing is powerful. The new meaning changes the focus entirely. It is no longer even a reference to human Joy. This, although unrelated to the topic at hand, was acctually encouraging to me. the new Interpretation shows that God does take joy in his creation. This inspired joy in me, as ironic as that is, which helps to build a positive cycle, leading to more love of God, more faith for that love, and more joy in that faith.
I felt uncomfortable with this idea because I’m not sure if that is proper exegesis. I looked up the passage and recalled that it was after they came back from exile and were rebuilding parts of Jerusalem (I believe the wall at this time). Just before this passage they had found the book of the law and read it aloud. The people were convicted of their sins.
9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” ESV
It does not seem that it is God’s joy in us (though he has that) that gives us strength, but that they have joy in the Lord. They are the ones weeping and are in tough times (people are attacking them as they build the wall) and they need comfort and strength.
One commentary writes:
The Word of God brings conviction and leads to repentance, but it also brings us joy; for the same Word that wounds also heals. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name” (Jer 15:16, NKJV). “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps 19:8). “Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart” (119:111, NKJV).
Assisted by the Levites, Nehemiah convinced the people to stop mourning and start celebrating. It is as wrong to mourn when God has forgiven us as it is to rejoice when sin has conquered us. The sinner has no reason for rejoicing and the forgiven child of God has no reason for mourning (Matt 9:9-17). Yes, as God’s children we carry burdens and know what it is to weep (Neh 2:1-2); but we also experience power that transforms sorrow into joy.
The secret of Christian joy is to believe what God says in His Word and act upon it. Faith that isn’t based on the Word is not faith at all; it is presumption or superstition. Joy that isn’t the result of faith is not joy at all; it is only a “good feeling” that will soon disappear. Faith based on the Word will produce joy that will weather the storms of life.(from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe. All rights reserved.)
Nehemiah 8:10 Rejoice in the Lord, and he will give you strength. (from Geneva Notes, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2005, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
There is a lot on joy, and several different views. Look it up for yourself.
David closes with saying that joy is the consummation of faith, hope, and love. Hmmm, I wouldn’t answer that question so quickly after reading Aquinas, Dante, and the church fathers, but I don’t want to touch on this right now.