“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)
These scriptures are very familiar in certain Christian circles. We quote them to each other but do we actually know what they mean? In God’s presence we find many things but David says in various Psalms that joy is one very distinguishing characteristic of His presence. Then in Nehemiah we hear that His joy becomes strength for us. It’s HIS joy – not ours. So what is His joy?
According to the World English Dictionary, joy has to do, in part, with contentment and with God it is a condition of being and not a feeling , although God does feel and have feelings. However, God is content with who He is, with all He has made and in all He has planned. Joy carries with it a certain satisfaction. Scripture tells us that He rejoices in all He has made, and He told us that from the very beginning in Genesis when He saw that it all was good! He was truly pleased and satisfied.
There is a second definition of joy that says joy is “a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight in something or someone greatly valued or appreciated.” Who does God find more pleasing, delightful and valued than His dear Son?! He is the Son in whom He is well pleased. God spoke that prophetically in Psalm 2 as well as out loud at His baptism and transfiguration. Peter also attested to it in 2 Peter 1:17. (See Matthew 12:18 and John 12:28,29 for more insight).
When we love His Son it brings Him great joy and He then turns around and strengthens us! It is His joy that gives us His strength. Whatever pleases God, whatever is a great joy to Him, whatever makes Him smile will be turned around and given back to us. When we are in His presence adoring His Son, or His creation, or giving in the many, many ways that make Him smile, He then turns His joy upon us which in turn gives us strength. What a concept! Have you ever thought of it that way?
He is not a selfish God who is in need of approbation but He is a Father who dearly loves His Son and one of His greatest joys is when we love His Son. Now loving Jesus Christ is not just about being in God’s presence and saying how wonderful Jesus is, it’s a life that desires to reflect that One He loves and gave so freely to us all. Following Christ, obeying Him and adoring Him in word, thought and action causes a response from God. So when we are in His presence we will find a new strength imparted to us that we couldn’t produce by ourselves. He is not a hoarder – God is a giver and He loves to give His strength.
Some will say that God is always with us and His presence is near. True, but there is a ‘presence’ that is to be sought and cultivated. It’s being with Him where He is and not Him only being where we are. It’s an intentional and deliberate act of participating in the relationship. Being present with God has its perks and being strengthened is one of them. So when we enjoy what He enjoys, love who and what He loves, we will always receive the strength that comes from His joy. Someday, we will understand God’s View of joy when we hear “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” Until then, let us seek His presence to receive that strength which is only found in His joy!