Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
God’s people are a happy, a blessed people.
Have you noticed how often Scripture speaks of the joy, the happiness, and the blessedness of the people of God? Have you taken note of the many times we are encouraged, urged, and even admonished to rejoice? Or have you considered how often the church of Jesus Christ has spontaneously broken forth into singing?
Think of Psalm 95:1, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation.”
Or again, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the. Lord with gladness, come into his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:1, 2).
We have good reason to rejoice, for “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness” (Psalm 48:1). He is the living God, who lives His own blessed life in intimate covenant fellowship as three Persons in one divine essence. He delights eternally in all His virtues and all His mighty works. He is the Light, in whom is no darkness whatever. In His light we see the light (Psalm 36:9). “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death” (Psalm 48:14).
We have reason to rejoice in all the works of God’s hands, for “the heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge” (Psalm 19:1, 2).
We rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the prophet of old declared, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon the colt the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:9).
His birth was announced by the angel who said to the shepherds, “Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). He now has a name above all names. Every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that He is Lord, to the glory of the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).
We rejoice as church of Jesus Christ in the midst of this present world. “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (Psalm 87:3). “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee” (Psalm 84:1, 4).
God’s people are very special in the eyes of God. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).
Our God supplies all our daily needs, far more than we can ask or think. He watches over us, cares for us, and even uses us for the ingathering of His church and the coming of His kingdom. He entrusts to us His holy, infallibly inspired Word, His own Self-revelation, wherein He reveals to us the secrets of His heart, His eternal thoughts, plans, and promises, for the purpose of uniting us with Himself in heavenly perfection and fellowship. By faith we embrace Him as the God of our salvation in Jesus Christ, in whom is all the fullness of blessedness.
And, as if this were a small thing, He has planned, has merited, and now is preparing for us a Home with Him in glory, where we shall eternally sing the song of Moses and the Lamb.
This joy is unique, for it is not a momentary experience, soon to be lost in the routine or turmoil of our daily existence.
Earthly joys at best are only for the moment. We often plan for them some time in advance, only to discover that the anticipation was better than the reality. For these joys belong to the passing things of this world.
Still worse, hidden sorrows, griefs, and disappointments interfere with a full enjoyment of the happy occasion. Natural man never experiences true, pure joy.
The joy of which Scripture speaks is unhampered, complete, all comprehensive, eternal. Even the sorrows of this present time cannot frustrate it. It is true that many are the afflictions of the righteous; yet the apostle Peter speaks of smiling through our tears. Referring to the inheritance that awaits us in the heavens he says, Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations” (I Peter 1:6).
James in his epistle tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy, when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2, 3).
Jesus adds to that, “Blessed are ye, when men revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11, 12).
That makes it possible for the believers to sing psalms in the night. We are reminded of Paul and Silas sitting with feet and arms cramped in stocks, the bloody, raw wounds of their backs pressed against the cold stone wall, singing psalms of praise to God in the long hours of the night.
We as children of God are able, and therefore are encouraged, to rejoice always!
Rejoice in the Lord!
There is no true joy apart from Him.
Joy! Who does not seek it? We are told to have a good day, or a good weekend. We are surrounded with a, superficial mirth that cannot satisfy.
Many seek their happiness in entertainments, sports, or hard-rock music. Many others only add to their misery by trying to drown their cares in wild orgies, immoral living, drunken debauchery, or drugs. Al world that is at enmity with God knows no peace, no contentment, and certainly no true happiness.
True happiness is only from and, only in the Lord.
Our God lives a life of perfect joy. He rejoices in His glorious divine, perfection, and He delights in the: intimate blessedness of covenant fellowship as Father, Son, and Holy, Spirit.
Christ, the great Servant of Jehovah, experienced throughout His earthly ministry the joy of doing His Father’s will. As the Man of Sorrows He was burdened with the guilt of our sin that brought Him to the cross, yet He always had the assurance that He was well pleasing to God.
Is it not remarkable that even in the hour of utter darkness on Golgotha, when all the billows of divine wrath continued to sweep over Him, causing Him to suffer indescribable anguish of hellish torments, Psalm 22still rang in His soul, causing Him to reach out to God with the bitter cry, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
This Christ is now the Lord of glory who blesses us with every spiritual blessing for time and eternity. He has united us with Him by the bond of faith, so that we can confess, “I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” We can say triumphantly with the apostle Paul, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20).
“The Lord my Shepherd holds me within His tender care, and with His flock He folds me, no want shall find me there. In pastures green He leads me, with plenty I am blest; by quiet streams He leads me and makes me safely rest” (Psalter No. 55).
Christ creates in us a spiritual joy that the world cannot know, for this joy belongs to the things that the eye cannot see, the ear cannot hear, and never entered into the heart of man.
It is the beginning, the foretaste of our eternal joy. For Christ is Lord indeed! He is the source of our lives, the power that sustains our lives, the purpose and goal of our lives. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
We rejoice in the Lord with a joy unspeakable and full of glory (I Peter 1:8).
Rejoice! Again I say: Rejoice!
This is not merely Paul who speaks. God Himself is addressing His people in His infallible Word.
God says this to you! Do you listen and hear Him speak? He is very insistent that His people rejoice, for a dissatisfied and grumbling spirit is displeasing to the Lord. Nor are we to take all His bounties and blessings for granted, as if they were coming to us with much more.
Besides that, only a joyful heart is truly thankful and joins the assembly of the saints in a wholehearted song of praise. So often we offend God when we thank him with a cold, formal thanks, or sing with the lips, while our hearts are not in it.
Let us sing a new song to Jehovah for the wonders He has wrought! Give Him the thanks and praise due to Him!
The guilt of sin may make all prayer impossible and may close the heavens to you. But he who confesses and forsakes his sin finds mercy. How blest is he whose trespass hath freely been forgiven, whose sin is wholly covered before the sight of heaven.
Daily burdens may weigh so heavily upon you that you cannot go on. The way is too steep, too dark, to threatening to carry on. Depression may have its grip on you. The night maybe so dark that there seems to be no dawn; it may seem virtually impossible to face the day.
Or you may be suffering from constant and- severe pain. You are never without it. Sorrow, disappointment, or even the loss of a dear one may flood your soul with grief.
You may experience signs of approaching death, telling you to set your house in order for the end of the way is near. The last dark stretch of the valley of the shadow of death looms up before you.
Are you tempted by the devil, the world, or your own sinful flesh to a point almost beyond endurance?
Whatever the situation may be, and that without exception, our Lord says: Rejoice!
You ask, “Rejoice because I have such a bitter struggle?” No, not because of your grief, but because you have a deep-seated joy that far exceeds any present suffering and that sustains you even to the end.
Count it all joy, for you know that all things come to us from God’s Fatherly hand. With Job you can say, “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
God tries you sorely, but He tries in love. He casts you into the refiner’s fire to give you endurance for trials still to come (James 1:2-4). He has promised that He will never leave nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Rejoice exceedingly, for He is preparing you for your place in glory (I Peter 1:7). His grace is sufficient for you; for His strength is made perfect through weakness (II Cor. 12:9). You have every reason to rejoice through your tears and to be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven (Matt. 5:12; II Cor. 4:17).
Realizing how sorely we need this assurance our God adds: Again I say: Rejoice!
Sing to the Lord, sing His praise, all ye people,
New be your song as new honors ye pay;
Sing of His majesty, bless Him forever,
Show His salvation from day to day!