Joyful, Joyful

by Skip Moen

Let the godly ones exult in glory; Let them sing for joy on their beds.” Psalm 149:5

Exult: Perhaps the greatest missing element in the life of Christians today is joy. Christians are quite familiar with trudging the road of the saints. We know perseverance, discipleship and assembly. We have plenty of Bible studies, leadership manuals and spiritual guides. Most of us can cope with life as it is. But few of us have real joy!

Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness, as we know so well from the Beatitudes, depends entirely on circumstances. Let my day be filled with good things for me and I am happy. But when everything turns sour, happiness flees. Joy is quite different. Joy is independent of circumstances. It must be so for how else is it possible for Jesus to speak of the way of the cross as a passage to joy, or for Paul to exult in God in the midst of a prison cell. If we want joy, we will have to begin someplace other than life’s surroundings.

David gives us some insight. He certainly knew bad times. Hunted for years, betrayed, defeated by his own lusts and familiar with the pangs of death, David concludes his poems of praise with songs of joy. In this particular Psalm, he uses the rare word ‘alaz’. It means an act of outward celebration. It’s a big party, full of smiles, laughter and enjoyment. It’s jubilation, times two! Given all the things that happened to David, how can he even imagine such a word from his lips? The answer is obvious. David exults in the one thing that is permanently ‘joyful’ the character of God.

We have discovered that prayer depends on the goodness of God. Unless God cares about me, prayer is useless. Praise depends on the faithfulness of God. Unless God can be trusted always, I have no reason to praise Him. Joy depends on God’s justice. Unless God rights all wrongs, there is no reason to exult. Therefore, no matter what happens in life, there is reason to be joyful. God promises that His justice will prevail. I can take that to the bank. He is good. He can be trusted. And He will bring justice.

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee.” Yes, we do, because in the end, Your will shall be done.

Joy is a foretaste of the new heaven and the new earth. It isn’t rooted here. It is rooted there. And every time I see just a bit of it over the horizon, I celebrate. It’s coming!

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