Tuesday, June 4, 2024

God of Joy

Yesterday, we saw the Lord of Armies, who has not only our army, but His; who is fighting not only with us, but for us. And military strength and victory were very important concepts for ancient Israel. In the world in which they lived, it was a matter of personal identity and a statement about the validity of the God they worshiped. They staked everything on their military prowess (as did everyone else in the region, although God would temper His people to start changing their identity as time went on).

What's interesting about Israel's God, though, is that there is more to Him that mere strength.

There is a point in Israel's history when the Ark of the Covenant takes a little journey away from the people. It is captured by the Philistines and wreaks absolute havoc on their land, afflicting them, among other things, with rats and hemorrhoids. The Philistines get tired of the affliction and send the Ark back, but it doesn't make it far before the holiness of it intimidates the people of Israel who saw its return, so it stays for awhile on the farm of a seemingly-random Israelite until David finally brings it to Jerusalem, where it belongs. 

When the Ark arrives in Jerusalem, there is a grand parade and a great festival and David, as he was prone to do and as many prophets and leaders in Israel were known to do before him, wrote a song to celebrate this wonderful moment. 

This song rejoices in the strength of God. It celebrates His power. It reflects on His mighty hand and His victory over His enemies and His goodness in bringing His people to settle in this place, against all enemies. It marvels at the way He has finally come to His own place to live here among His people. 

And...it sneaks in some praise about something other than God's power; it sneaks in some praise for God's joy. 

God, who loves a good parade. God, who delights in a wonderful celebration. God, who is thrilled to hear a song being sung in honor of Him. 

Yes, this is the God of power, but He's also the Lord of joy. He loves to be happy, and He loves His people to be happy. 

For all of the things that we praise God for, I think it's easy for us to leave His joy off the list entirely. We have lived so long with a Christianity that embraces so many of the other attributes of God over and above some of these more basic ones, and most of us have never been taught to be truly happy in the Lord, so we don't consider the Lord to be happy. It's easy for us to forget that He is. 

It's easy for us to forget that the God who created the clouds created the birds who sing their song. That the God who created the lightning also created the gentle wind that blows our chimes. That the God who holds a place apart from Himself for those who choose not to have relationship with Him also holds close to His heart all those who choose to draw near, so close that we can hear His heartbeat. 

We've been taught that God is stuffed-shirt, that He doesn't have a sense of humor, but Jesus cracked a good many jokes of His own. His wit was like no other. 

We forget that our God is a God of joy, but...He is. He loves a good parade, delights in celebration, and sings along with us when we sing of all His goodness and love.

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