Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
God is everlasting and every blessing he bestows is everlasting too. The ‘forever’ nature of all that God is and does is a wonderful reality for believers. The limitless, infinite, lasting promises of God are our treasure and joy. Isaiah hears with the ear of faith the joyous and glad singing of God’s redeemed people. The same melodious sounds were heard back in Exodus 15 as Moses and the people sang their deliverance songs to the Lord. Miriam sang and danced with tambourine celebrating the great redemption of Israel. Hannah in 1 Samuel 2 expresses her joy at the prospect of God’s gracious dealings with his people. The psalms are full of encouragements to rejoice and be glad in the Lord. The New Testament era opens with Mary’s spirit rejoicing echoing the joy of Hannah as she contemplates “God my Saviour … the Mighty One has done great things for me.” Such is the nature of this joy that the unborn baby John leaps for joy in Elisabeth’s womb!
When Jesus seeks to correct the wrong attitude and behaviour of the Pharisees who had lost the joy of seeing him welcome sinners, he tells three parables (Luke 15:1-31). The joy of restoring a lost sheep, recovering a lost coin and reconciling a lost son. The main theme that ties them together is the joy, gladness and celebration of finding that which was lost. “Rejoice with me” is the shout of the shepherd and the woman. “Let’s have a feast and celebrate” is the cry of the happy father. Jesus says this joy is like the joy of heaven “over one sinner who repents.” True repentance always brings joy. When honest recognition of sin is confessed and sorrow for rebellion and disobedience is genuine God always promises forgiveness, cleansing, grace and mercy. His fulness of compassion brings joy and gladness. Sadly the Pharisees were stuck in the muttering misery of the rules and regulations of religion. They were losing out on the joy of knowing a relationship with the one who alone could forgive their sins. Sitting at a table and sharing a meal with Jesus in fellowship and friendship would have released them from their wrong thinking and attitudes.
One of David’s main desires in seeking God’s mercy after failure, guilt and shame was that “the joy of salvation” might be restored to him (Psalm 51:12). Paul encourages the Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again rejoice” (4:1). Our feelings, circumstances will change but the Lord and our secure relationship to him is unchanging and our joy is in Him. He never fails, never disappoints, and never leaves us. Isaiah in our verse above is ultimately looking forward to the final joy of a new heaven and a new earth. As we await that day there are many trials and tests but even in these there is a sustaining joy as we see the purpose and plan of God to perfect us and purge us of sin. Today may we know in our hearts and lives – “The Joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Meirion Thomas, Malpas Road