Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Joyful Praise

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs" (Psalm 100:1-2). In this world, there are sad songs, love songs, and battle songs, but when it comes to singing of salvation, the songs are songs of joy and gladness. David knew this when he wrote Psalm 51. In it he sings, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12).

Salvation means joy, and joy means singing. Psalm 126 speaks of release from physical captivity, but it is also a great picture of spiritual salvation.
When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like steams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. (Psalm 126)
This is a song overflowing with joy. All this joy comes from someplace, and that place is Heaven. The center of Heaven is God. He is the focus of everything there. If God were not joyful, Heaven would not be joyful.

However, there are clear expressions of joy in Heaven for the same reasons as we have joy on this earth—our repentance and salvation. “I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent…. In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7, 10).

A great expression of joy in Heaven is Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

God is with us, saves us, loves us, and rejoices over us with singing. For God to rejoice over me with singing is almost beyond my comprehension. It is easy for me to sing with joy because of my salvation, but difficult for me to think that God is far happier than I am because of my salvation. My salvation is from God, and so is my joy. He is the source of both. I should not find it difficult if I realize that my joy comes from Him.

God sings over us with joy, and the Lord Jesus Christ looked forward to the joy beyond the cross. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

When my family and I arrived in Moscow, Idaho, in the fall of 1971, we met a group of people who got together every Wednesday evening to sing. They had been converted through a lay witness mission the preceding February. They had been singing ever since.

In this world, there are two reasons for music. The first is the pleasure of listening to or playing music or singing. The music causes pleasure. The second reason for singing, playing, or listening to music is because joy was there before the music. Joy caused the music. That is the way it is in Heaven, and that is the way it should be in the church on earth. Because we associate music with good feelings, we sometimes reverse the order. We have music in church in order to cause pleasure, and then we think that pleasure is joy. That is not the same as singing because we are joyful. Joy comes first from our salvation from the Holy Spirit and continues as we keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit.

One of the major results of revival in the church is joyful singing. Let us not forget the reason for our joy and our singing:
And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshipped. (Rev. 5:9-14)

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