For Part 1 of this post, check HERE.
I won’t even pretend to have a complete grasp on Deuteronomy. Exploring the blessings and curses found within God’s discussion with the people of Israel make for some fascinating research and Bible study. But in my own reading this week a passage from Deuteronomy 28. In the chapter, God is outline the blessings of obedience if Israel follow Him, and then the judgment if they don’t. What stuck out to me was verses 46-48:
46 They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, 48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.
We absolutely live in a time and culture of prosperity. And so often, that preoccupies us from being able to serve the Lord joyfully and gladly.
As I spent some time looking up joy in Scripture these past few days, working out my own thoughts, I think what we really need to take away from church services like the ones we were privilege to be a part of is what it means to be joyful in our worship. And this, we absolutely have to bring home with us and live out at home if we want to effect transformation.
Psalm 100 is as good a place as any to start:
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Paul calls us to rejoice. Luke tells us to be joyful of the good news of Salvation. James says to have joy in the midst of suffering. Over and over throughout scripture this theme of joy surfaces. Even worship itself is joyful (James 5:13; Acts 16:25; Hebrews 13:15; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Luke 1:46-47; John 16:22). Paul’s writings talk about having joy, or being joyful over and over. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul puts it bluntly enough to say that it is God’s will for us. This is not just circumstantial. That is the lesson to be learned from watching people worship in places like little Grand Goave, Haiti.
Nehemiah sums it up:
…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (8:10b)
It all comes back to the big picture we’ve been working through back at Cornerstone:
1 John 3:17 : “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”
There are needs here. Needs we have the resources to do something about. Yes, we can enjoy the blessing that God has given us, but we absoloutely must not miss the chance to care for the need as well. If we as a church were challenged in this last year to give, we should be challenged all the more. They bring the last of their finances to give while going to home to nothing. We bring a drop in the bucket while going home to mansions and pantries stocked full. They worship with joy, while we find something to complain about, or nitpick over, or be bothered because there’s wasn’t the program we wanted.
We need Haiti. Maybe even more than Haiti needs us.
But mostly, we need to rediscover what it means to full of the Joy of the Lord.