Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reasons to Rejoice

“Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before” (Joel 2:23). I have a dog named Dakota, and she has the ability to rejoice, in animal terms. She is simply happy to be alive. In her dog life, eating, sleeping, playing, giving and receiving affection and protecting her family gives her great joy. However there is somethings she can't do. She cannot rejoice in the Lord. Why? In spite of all her great dog traits, she can't lift her thoughts above her food and family. This means her joy terminates in the objects of her joy. For the believer God is the very ground of our joy. In the New Testament Paul speaks of "joy" as primarily a verb, something we do rather than how we feel. The verb itself means to verbalize with praise and singing. When he writes about rejoicing he often quotes the Psalms and Prophets (Psalms 32:11; 35:9; and many others; cf. Hab. 3:18). As with the psalmists, the Lord who saves is both the basis and focus of rejoicing. The phrase in the Lord refers to the ground (or sphere) of our present existence (cf. Phil 2:19, 24) and thus points to our basic relationship with Christ. This in itself should eliminate all attraction to mere religion. The attraction of genuine Christianity is Christ. The prophet Joel uses the agricultural economy of ancient Israel as an example of what is to come. The former rains refer to the predictable moderate spring rains that came and gave just enough moisture to cause seeds to grow. The latter rains refer to the autumn rains that came in much larger amounts right before the time of harvest. "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand" (James 5:7-8). James is talking specifically about "the coming of the Lord." Many first century Christians expected the Lord to return in their lifetimes. They experienced the initial outpouring of the Spirit; they saw miracles, growth, and multiplication. Yet, still the Lord did not come. Thus, James encourages the church to "be patient," saying there is something yet to come for which God is waiting. This truth also applies to us. Keep your eyes on the Lord and your heart will rejoice. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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