Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. (Psalm 96:1)
I was greatly moved by a gentle reminder this morning as I woke to a fresh new day – that today is not yesterday. The song in my heart today should be ‘new.’ It shouldn’t be the same as yesterday’s song, just as tomorrow’s song will be different too. Today’s image taken at exactly the same time tomorrow will still reveal that creation rejoices in praise to God. But the picture itself would be different – the light would not reflect in the same way. Different blossoms will be open and new buds waiting. The sky would be painted in colours that vary from those of yesterday. It would be the same sky, the same field, the same blossoms, but the image can never be the same. Our new song is required, because His mercies, too, are new every morning. Most importantly, our song should always reflect a deep inner truth that we rejoice in our God.
To rejoice is to live in a place of constant joy and praise, just as the heart of God is towards us.
The truth is that I needed today’s gentle nudge. Yesterday was a long difficult day with all kinds of bizarre complications followed by a night filled with equally bizarre interruptions. While I didn’t awake cranky and exhausted, I cannot say I leapt joyfully out of bed to face the new day. There was peace that things were resolved. There was gratitude that He had intervened, because I could very clearly see that He had in the miracle that the companies I had been dealing with actually stayed late on a Friday evening to resolve the problem – that is truly a miracle in my neck of the woods. So while I was greatly thankful, I most certainly wasn’t joyful. I did not rejoice in the Lord, and for the first time, it struck me that there is a great difference between rejoice and be thankful.
To be thankful concerns our response to what God has done. To rejoice concerns our response to God Himself. While today’s song should be new because what He has done today is different to yesterday, it should also reflect the newness in my relationship with God. Our willingness and ability to rejoice is dependent only on the intimacy we share with God, the knowledge we have of Him, and the personal communion we enjoy with Him. ‘Rejoice in the Lord’ is about our personal, intimate response to our God. Praise is about His glory and power, worship is about His holiness and majesty, thanksgiving is about His grace, mercy, and provision and His work on our behalf. Rejoice is about communion with the lover of our soul.
We often, perhaps, confuse the ability to rejoice with with praise or thanksgiving. We also confuse joy – which is the core of rejoicing – with happiness. The two are worlds apart. Happiness, which is essentially the worldly counterpart to joy, is a fleshly state of mind or condition of emotion. It is also usually dependent on circumstances and situations, is easily generated or destroyed, and is not sustainable. It is humanly impossible, in the flesh, to be constantly happy. Even without all the various factors that influence and affect our happiness, to be happy all the time would, in fact, be emotionally exhausting. Happiness is an ‘extreme’ emotion, the top of the scale, and it’s not sustainable. At some point, we must step back and rest our emotions. This is a fundamental difference between ‘be happy’ and ‘to rejoice.’
We can, however, be content all the time. To be content essentially means to be satisfied. While it has fleshly connotations – the reason why it is often so easy for us to be discontented – it is also an outworking of the Spirit in us. We can be continually content because of our relationship with God. but to be content does not mean to rejoice. Contentment is a quiet assurance, a sense of certainty that we have and are what God intended, that we lack nothing, and if we do have a need, He will meet it. To rejoice, however, is a deep, abiding spiritual response to the person of God and our relationship with Him. It is consuming, it is constant, and it is utterly dependent on the world, our circumstances, our trials and difficulties, our emotions, our thoughts, or our weaknesses.
To understand the ‘joy of the Lord,’ take time to read the Songs of Solomon, the type of our relationship with the lover of our soul. The joy of the Lord is our strength, because it transcends the world and the flesh. It springs from our unity with Christ. It springs from intimacy with a God who has swept aside every obstacle to provide a way to be with us. It speaks of a yearning to know Him more, to love Him more, to be with Him always. It speaks of a longing that only He can satisfy. It speaks of all those things that world tries to emulate in our human relationships. When we rejoice in Him, it is for no other reason than that He is. We rejoice because He is not only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but also the God of me.
To rejoice – live in our joy – actually requires a level of total abandonment which we perhaps do not always fully understand. Zephaniah 3:17 says that He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. God already feels the same joy towards and over us that He asks of us. The word rejoice actually means ‘be glad, joy, be joyful, rejoice’ and the Hebrew word renders it as ‘spin around under violent emotion.’ Wow. How often do we pause and think that the holy, almighty God of heaven and earth actually spins and dances and shouts and sings with joy that we are His?
Doesn’t this paint an entirely different picture of joy? It’s little wonder that the joy of the Lord is our strength, that it has the ability to make us dance in the midst of difficulty, to laugh in the face of trial, to overcome when it seems impossible, and to stand faithful in tests and trials. Of course, we cannot go around dancing and leaping and shouting in joy – not in the physical. But we can in the spiritual. Joy is of the spirit. While there are times when it bubbles over and we must rejoice in dance and song, it is eternally constant deep within. We live in our joy, and we respond constantly to the joy our God has in us. When we rejoice, we commune spirit to spirit with our God.
Lord, thank You for reminding us that You rejoice over us, that Your love and faithfulness is a consuming thing. Help us to live in Your joy. Show us how to rejoice in all things – not because of what You have done but simply because You are and because we are Yours and You are ours. Give us a new song every day, a song of rejoicing for the Lover of our soul.