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The strength of believers: Unity in Joy

The Joy of the Lord is my strength!
The Joy of the Lord is my strength!Wikimedia Commons-Public Domain

How often joy is lost to the believer, yet how important it is to God. Just look at Nehemiah 8. The people were hungry for the word of God and asked Ezra the scribe to read the law of Moses to them. They were so unified as it says they “...gathered themselves together as one man in the street” (Nehemiah 8:1) and then they demonstrated their unity again by standing up as the the book of the law was opened and they said “...Amen, Amen”(verse 6) lifting their hands in praise while bowing their heads to the ground in worship. As the word was explained to them they stood in their place and wept.

Nehemiah and Ezra along with the Levites who taught the people said unto the people, “...This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9b-10)

God's description of joy here is something each and every person can relate to. They were to enjoy food together and sweet drink, but notice they were instructed to love by giving portions to those who had nothing prepared for them as an act of love. We can clearly see God wants worship to be unified, filled with love and joy, and God is the same today as he was in Nehemiah's time.

This is such an important subject for today. Joy is so often thrown out of worship for fear of not being respectful to God. When people get “too” happy in church it is inevitable that someone is offended. This should not be so. If God had the prophet Nehemiah and Ezra and the Levites tell the people not to weep, but have joy because it 'is your strength', then we need to get better acquainted with the joy of the Lord.

It says in Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Joy is very important to God, so much so he incorporated it in one of the three aspects of the kingdom, and the Holy Ghost is where we find this joy. The joy is “in the Holy Ghost”. What more reason to want to be filled with the Holy Ghost to the point of overflowing.

We can also look at King David who was an unlikely person to speak of joy seeing as he was forced to run from King Saul for a very long time, and it most definitely was a miserable and scary time, yet he is well known for the Psalms and constantly spoke of the Joy of the Lord. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:1-2) and “Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints. Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.”(Psalm 149:1-3)

God is all about joy. He will experience joy in us and through us if we will let him. If not he will make the seas roar and the floods clap and the hills be joyful together before the Lord as it says in Psalm 98. God wants us to “Make a joyful noise unto the earth: make a loud noise and rejoice, and sing praise.” (Psalm 98:4)

The joy of the Lord is our strength and it is part of the kingdom of God. To take the joy out is to take the celebration out, is to take the singing out, is to take the music out, is to take the dancing out, is to take the praise out, is to take the noise out, is to take the strength out. Remember, they cried at the reading of the law of Moses and they were instructed to have joy and to take it and express it through their feasts. Nehemiah 8:12 tells us, “And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.” It says they understood and made “great mirth”. Mirth in the original Greek is “sichah” which means “blithesomeness or glee...exceeding gladness, joy (fullness), mirth, pleasure, rejoice(-ing).” There is no way to take the excitement out of joy, although many who call themselves believers have tried to quiet the joy of the Lord in their gatherings for different reasons.

God tells us to do all of these things and to do them with all we have. Over and over the scriptures talk of making the earth praise if we refuse to as we see in Luke 19 when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt. “And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord: Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” Notice it was a multitude of disciples, not just the twelve who used their big voice to praise the Lord. Who told the Pharisees to have them rebuked? Was it Jesus? No. As you can clearly see, he expects immediate praise. He'll have the rocks do it if you won't. How sad for you in the day of judgment.

The Holy Ghost who lives inside of us is being told each and every day in word and deed to deny a part of himself and a part of the kingdom Jesus paid such a price to bring us into. How sad and grieved the Holy Spirit must be. To begin to understand joy, it is imperative that the body of Christ becomes unified in the idea of it. God forbid any believer would ridicule another believer's worship. To say you love the person but not their denomination because you 'don't like their worship' is to say you don't like an aspect of the kingdom of God as well as a quality of the Holy Spirit that you see in them. The joy 'of' the Lord has to be the strength of all believers, and there needs to be a new found freedom to experience and express that joy among each other. Jesus wasn't concerned with controlling the exact joy filled expressions of all those disciples as he rode into Jerusalem and neither should we.

During the feast of tabernacles as we read about in Nehemiah, they continued in this seven day worship party, joyfully eating together and worshiping God as they performed the specific aspects of the feast. Unity in joy was needed then, and it is needed now in order for believers all over the world to find their strength in these last days. Stop giving your joy away; it is after all an expression in the Holy Spirit and the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). “Verily, I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:17)

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