We are studying the joy of the Lord this week -- we are drawing some parallels between Nehemiah 8 and a character or two from A. A. Milne's Pooh stories. (Yes, seriously.) Piglet may be tiny, just as we may feel tiny in the big world we live in, but he is (as we are) full of potential. He's creative, passionate, loyal, and compassionate; he overcomes his fears and relies on someone much larger (sound like us Christians?) and he is happy.
Now we've gone back to our chapter (Nehemiah 8) and looked more deeply at the people of Jerusalem and the surrounding land. We've seen that the joy of the Lord is a result first of repentance, and the down-deep realization that God, in His mercy, has forgiven us of our sins.
Let's get back to digging here!
Yesterday we discussed a "right" attitude toward sin -- not mourning so much that we slip into depression, and not so casual that we are flippant about failing our Father. We can, however, be certain of His forgiveness, and that is one thing that made the people joyful in our chapter.
They made their plans and they celebrated the great feast that was detailed in God's Word. All of the great feasts in Israel were reminders of God's abundant mercy to His chosen people. In spite of their sin and failures, He extended His hand of mercy to them.
The scholars tell us that another Psalm, Psalm 32, was probably written after King David's sin with Bathsheba. In that psalm, he details the blessings that are on the person whom God has forgiven. The psalm ended with a seeming shout of joy!
From David's experience and from the words of the psalm, we can tell that he is not talking about sinless perfection. Instead, he is talking about the righteousness that God conveys upon us as repentant believers and our uprightness as we confess and forsake our sins. After we have confessed our sins, we can rejoice that God has forgiven ALL of our sins in Christ Jesus, and that He has pledged His covenant love to us for all eternity.
What do we mean by covenant love?
Covenants are important features of the Bible. Covenants can be based on certain obligations and pre-requisites, or they can have no conditions. They can be between two people, or they can apply to nations and people groups (or everyone in the world). This might even be an interesting study, sometime! Some examples are the covenants that God made with Adam, with Noah, with Abraham, Moses, and David.
A new covenant is mentioned in Jeremiah 31. God promised to forgive sin and have a close and unbroken relationship with people. This covenant was made first to the people of Israel, but then it was expanded to include everyone who comes to Jesus in faith:
(Hebrews 9:15)Truly this is a reason for rejoicing!
So, the joy of the Lord is a result of repentance, a result of truly knowing that God forgives, and a result of trusting in His covenant love.
Want to add a tablespoon more of happiness? (Grin)
If we look back at Nehemiah 8:12, we see another reason why the people rejoiced. It can be a source of joy for us, as well:
All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them. (v 12)The joy of the Lord can come from understanding God's Word.
God's Word is where we find His precious and magnificent promises:
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of divine nature, (II Peter 1:4)
For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. (II Corinthians 1:20)It's in the Bible that we find the promise of complete pardon for all of our past sins and failures; we also find the promises of God's presence and His sustaining grace as we move forward in the present. And truly inspiring -- we find the promises of untold joy in eternity with Him!
When we go through rough times; when we are buffeted by Satan, we are sometimes tempted by Satan or our circumstances to begin thinking that God doesn't care for us. It may be that we quit studying the Word because the situation we are in makes it seem that the Bible doesn't apply.
But it is ESPECIALLY at those times that we need to immerse our hearts and thoughts in God's Word! It will reassure us of His grace and give us a godly perspective on trials -- because it tells of other believers who have endured incredible trials by trusting in Him. In the midst of obstacles, burdens, and temptations, understanding His Word will bring us joy.
I will ask again . . . is everybody happy?