Gordon Crook, PastorGrace Assembly, Wichita, Kansas
Leviticus 23:40 And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
I was impressed listening to a message on rejoicing given on a Wednesday night at our assembly. As I continued to meditate on that topic, I was brought to the above verse and was impressed by the idea that God wanted His people to rejoice before Him. This same statement appear several times as God gives the order of the different feasts in the Old Testament.
The feasts are intended to be reminders about God’s goodness and care for His people, as well as pictures of God’s work of Salvation through Jesus. It is then telling that God says to rejoice before Him. Our rejoicing is not in our circumstances, but in recognition of God’s goodness and provision.
In Deuteronomy 12:7, we read, “And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.” Here Moses is instructing God’s people about how they will be in the promised land. They are instructed to rejoice in all that they put their hand to.
Israel was reminded to rejoice in God’s provision. “And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God: And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.” Deuteronomy 26:10-11. Do we rejoice in all of God’s provision? We certainly are often quick to complain when we think we are not getting what we deserve.
Those that truly have placed their trust in God, have reason to rejoice. “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.” Psalms 5:11. Our rejoicing is not in our circumstances, but in God Himself.
As I considered all of the expectation of rejoicing in the Old Testament, I began to realize that we have even more reason to rejoice. In 2 Corinthians 3:7-9, Paul tells us that the New Testament is more glorious than the Old. I think it then follows that we have even more to rejoice about. Maybe this is why Paul tell us in Philippians 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.”
Scripture seems to indicate clearly that as God’s children, we should be rejoicing. Not just in the good times and the good circumstances, but in everything and at all times. It is easy to rejoice when things are going our way. What about when God allows some suffering in our lives? I would not suggest that we are happy all the time. There is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is the result of our circumstance, and is an emotion that we display when something good happens. Sadness and sorrow are emotions that we display when grief comes our way. Joy is an underlying current that makes our grief and sadness different from the world.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul says we should not sorrow in the same manner as those that have no hope. Because we have a hope that brings us joy in the midst of sorrow. Our rejoicing is not in the things of this world, but in our great hope which is in Jesus. A hope of eternal life.
See what Jesus says in Luke 10:20: “Not withstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Notice that something like the spirits being subject to us sounds like a great thing to rejoice about, but Jesus says there is something more important. How easily we get distracted by something other than Jesus and His work of grace on our behalf.
The encouragement I have received from this study is invaluable. Our enemy is constantly attempting to steal our joy. However, we need to be reminded that we have reason to rejoice, and that God wants us to rejoice before him.
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.