“For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” — Psalm 30:5.
JOY is a tertiary grace, i.e., a compound grace, one of the twelve graces symbolized by the twelve precious stones in the high priest’s breastplate and in the twelve foundations of heavenly Jerusalem. Accordingly, it is a very important part of Christlikeness. There are well over 200 Scriptures that speak on the subject of joy and the Bible abounds also in examples of God’s people rejoicing. We will touch on only a few.
Joy may be defined as gladness of heart and mind, exultation of heart and mind, happiness of heart and mind. All will at once recognize the propriety of these definitions. And all of us who are disciples of Christ by our experiences of joy know that the above given definitions properly portray our feelings of joy. All persons are not joyous; for the bulk of humankind are, generally speaking, usually given to sorrow rather than to joy. It could not be otherwise under the reign of the Adamic curse; for pain, suffering, sickness, losses, disappointments, enmities, dying, death and mourning abound on all sides and make the race sorrowful; for humankind have been living in the night of sin in which weeping has been enduring (Psa. 30:5). Joy is not the usual and enduring experience of the race under the curse. But it is the privilege of God’s consecrated people to be joyous.
Many are in darkness respecting the Word of God. They have not received the spirit of comfort and love, and therefore cannot appreciate the loving, gracious Plan which the Word of God upholds. Therefore, it is part of our commission to point them to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), to point them to the beauty of the resurrection for the ashes of death and glories which the Lord has promised by and by to take the place of the spirit of heaviness, disappointment, sorrow, and trouble of this present time. It is our commission to tell such that “joy cometh in the morning,” and to assist them to arise and at once put on the garments of praise, and begin to walk in newness of life (Psa. 30:5).
Were it not that we have the comfort and consolation of the Scriptures, and the joy and peace which the world can neither give nor take away, ours would be a sad lot indeed. But under conditions as the Lord has arranged it is our privilege to rejoice in tribulation, and in everything give thanks—even while suffering the loss of earthly things. What a blessed and comforting thought it is that the whole world of mankind will have an opportunity to learn of the goodness of God and accept of His favor unto eternal life, by obedience. “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:1, 2).
Our text states very plainly of a time of darkness before a time of joy: Psa. 30:5 says “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!” No other book treats the matter of human woe and sorrow in the wise, tender, sympathetic, helpful manner of the Bible. It assures us that, through Satan’s influence, the world may be cold, heartless and disappointing, and often this same attitude is in our friends, relatives or others from whom we may have expected better things. But “joy cometh in the morning” because as children of God, we have a God of sympathy, a God of love, “the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulations” (2 Cor. 1:3, 4).
Jehovah in His Word given through His Son for the benefit of the consecrated believer, points out what is termed the Truth and we recognize by this Truth that the world has been under a blight and curse of death for over 6000 years. Appropriately, our text describes this period as a dark time of hard, blighting experiences, a night of weeping, of sorrow. In harmony with this figure, we read in Isa. 60:2 that “darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.” This condition affects not only those who are in alienation from God through ignorance, superstition and the power of sin, but also those who have accepted the grace of God and are seeking to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Well does St. Paul say, “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption [deliverance] of our body” (Rom. 8:22, 23).
John 17:17 states very clearly “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” The heathen religions know nothing of a God of loving kindness—the attributes of their gods consist mostly of more or less fierceness. Their gods are to be placated [to be soothed by concession] and often worshiped from fear of what they otherwise would do to their subjects. Jehovah, the God of the Bible, on the contrary, assures us that “The LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear” (Isa. 14:3); He assures us of His love, His sympathy, in all of our distresses—His interest in our affairs, as His people—and also of His provision for the ultimate highest welfare of all who through Christ will come into and remain in the attitude of loving righteousness and hating iniquity—the only proper attitude of heart, the only attitude which He can approve and bless with everlasting life.
As Bible students, we recognize by being in touch with the Eternal One, that there are to be two salvations—one celestial and one terrestrial (1 Cor. 15:40). Yes, the secret of the LORD is with them that show reverence to Him, and He will show them His covenant. Those having done good things, [the one true Church in glory] to a resurrection of life, and those of the groaning creation in general, to a resurrection of judgement (John 5:29). The Bible represents itself as being the candle of the LORD, the lamp of Divine Truth and enlightenment. But it tells us that its light is not for the groaning creation in general at the present time. Its light is only for those who by faith and obedience unto consecration, or dedication, to God seek to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. They need the advancing light. God provides it for them “but the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18).
The Truth as due comes to God’s people adapted to their varying providential needs, circumstances and experiences; for the Word of God was so framed by God that it is not only adapted to the needs of God’s people in general, but it is also adapted to their individual needs amid their varying circumstances and experiences. God arranged His Word so as to be adaptable to the general needs of His people. How blest the consecrated child of God is to have the constructive advancing Truth to the needs of God’s people! Oh, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105). This light evidently does not shine far into the future, but enough for each onward step as it becomes due and is revealed to us.
Many of the groaning creation turn to imaginations, séances, dreams, cards, palm reading and visions with the hope of understanding their future standing before God. While the Bible speaks of “the vision” on the Mount of Transfiguration as being very forceful to their minds as teaching the coming of our Lord in glory, in due time. Nevertheless, says the Apostle Peter in honoring the Bible above any vision, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise” (2 Pet. 1:19), indicating that the morning is at hand and that the Sun of Righteousness will soon fulfill its mission of blessing all the families of the earth (Mal. 4:2; Gal 3:8; Gen. 12:3).
How glad we should be that our Heavenly Father in His love has arranged for a morning of joy for the world in His own due time! And how thankful we should be that to some extent He has given to us in advance a message, a revelation and explanation, to comfort us, to sustain us in the way! We have already seen that this revelation is only for those who have the eyes and ears of faith at the present time. “Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.” “He that hath an ear [to hear], let him hear” (Matt. 13:16; Rev. 3:13). All mankind are waiting for the beginning of the new and better day to come, when “the creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21), the day indicated by the angels and referred to by all the holy prophets, as well as by Jesus and the Apostles (Acts 3:19-21; 17:31; Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:29, 30; 2 Pet. 3:7, 8, 13).
All true Christian believers have indeed blessings which the world has not, blessings of faith, peace, joy, fellowship of spirit with the Lord and (in many cases) with other believers; but, blessed as these Divine favors are, they still leave much to be desired, and so we groan within ourselves, waiting for the glorious conditions that are to be ours in the resurrection and Kingdom (1 Cor. 2:9). Perhaps the greatest joy, a joy unknown to the majority of mankind, is the promised resurrection for the entire groaning creation. In order to understand the Bible explanation of how that great joy and the release from sin, death, etc., are coming to mankind, we must keep in mind its declarations respecting the cause and source of the curse which is upon mankind. Nowhere in the Scriptures is the matter more simply and thoroughly summed up than in the Apostle Paul’s statement, “By one man [Adam—his disobedience] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). This explains the entire situation.
We perceive that in Eden sin took hold of the human family and that by heredity it has more or less defiled every member—physically, mentally, morally and religiously. And we perceive that death, the cessation of life, is its natural outworking or penalty. We have many sorrows, troubles, imperfections, weaknesses and ailments as results of the Adamic dying process which is operating in us. The Scriptural explanation that the entire matter of sin and death had its start in Adam’s sin in Eden is logical even though many in our day, in pulpit and pew, are denying it. We perceive that the Adamic blemishes have been transmitted from parent to child like a highly infectious disease. The statement is confirmed that we were “shapen in iniquity,” and that in sin did our mothers conceive us (Psa. 51:5), “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa. 1:6).
Let us introduce into our study two important Bible Scriptures, in part: “watch and pray” (Matt. 26:41) and “for yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37). All true “watchers” should also be “prayers,” and all fervent “prayers” should also be “watchers.” Prayer represents the faith; watching represents the works which must accompany it, so long as it is a living faith; for as the Apostle declares, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17-26)—it speedily loses its vitality, its value, its very existence.
Prayer is not only a great privilege; it is also a necessity enjoined in the Scriptures as indispensable to our Christian life and growth “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). Yes, “pray without ceasing” it usually means not only a living faith, but also a growing faith. Let us not neglect our privilege of prayer in private “pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:6) or in the congregation of the Lord’s people. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). No watching and no praying is sure to lead to leanness of soul, lukewarmness, unfaithfulness, coldness and even death in respect to spiritual things. Whoever loses the desire to thank and worship and commune with the Father of mercies, may rest assured that the joy that is so much wanted and needed will not be available.
Having communion with the Heavenly Father in prayer, for the consecrated child of God, brings increased confidence in His supervision of our affairs, increased faith in all the exceeding great and precious promises of His Word, increased realization of His leadings, past and present, increased love for all the brethren of Christ, and increased solicitude for their welfare and spiritual progress. Prayer is closely and actively identified with progress in spiritual things, progress in the development of the fruits of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22, 23), toward God, the brethren and all men, including many of our enemies. As we all concede, justice is always first, then the fruits of the spirit can develop properly. We must take notice that joy is listed as the second of the fruits of the spirit. “These things have I spoken unto you, and that your joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).
Matt. 26:41 tells us, however, that more than praying is necessary for Jesus’ disciples. Watching also is required. Praying that does not fully represent the sentiments of the heart is apt very quickly to degenerate into a mere form of words—drawing nigh to God with the lips while the heart is far from Him, perhaps enwrapped in business and pleasure more than it ought to be!
If we are to make progress in the spiritual way we must not only pray for joy with the heart, but must also watch diligently. We must watch against the sinful tendencies of our own flesh, self-gratification and selfishness. We must watch against the allurements of the world toward worldly pleasures, worldly ambitions, honor among men, the love of money, etc. The more we search for the joys available to the Christian the more our adversaries will seek to deceive us.
He must watch against the wiles of the Adversary, whose deceitful attacks usually come upon the Lord’s people as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:13-15), to deceive them into error, and into forms and ceremonies of Churchianity. Satan substitutes (before the mind, affections and intentions) human sentiments, methods, works and objectives instead.
We have been given “the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23) and its various exceeding great and precious promises and by the incentive of these promises the Lord has called His people to walk, even to run by faith and not by sight, following in the steps of our dear Redeemer, in faithfulness even unto death, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).
Oh, what joy comes to the consecrated child of God when we enter into a prayerful conversation with our God! In Luke 11:1, 2 we are told that as Jesus “was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father who art in heaven.” Apparently Jesus usually prayed alone. We read that on some occasions He spent the entire night in prayer to God, His Father (Luke 6:12). No doubt the disciples noted the Master’s frequency in prayer, and the great joy which He seemed to receive therefrom. Instead of urging them to pray, Jesus by His example taught them to desire the privilege and blessing of prayer. In due time they requested instruction. It is well that we inquire who may pray, and for what things we may petition the great Creator and Heavenly Father, else we might be praying without authority.
Many are the unscriptural views respecting prayer. It is well that we notice that Jesus never taught the multitudes to pray, nor intimated that they should pray even though the multitudes with whom He was in contact were nominally people of God. The privilege of prayer is a very wonderful one: it implies that the suppliant is on terms of intimate acquaintance with the great Creator of the universe, the Heavenly Father, so that through Jesus he is welcomed into the Divine fellowship, communion and love, a combination which results in joy. According to the Bible, the first Gentile as such whose prayers were heard and who was received into God’s covenant favor was Cornelius. And even his prayers were not acceptable until he had been instructed respecting Christ Jesus and His redemptive work and had become a follower of Him (Acts 10:25-48). Then his prayers and his consecration were acceptable to the Father, and he was received into the family of God as a son, who had the right or privilege of prayer, in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to let his requests be made known unto God (Phil. 4:6). This joy that we are discussing can come only from above and only enter the mind and heart of a consecrated believer.
Perhaps the greatest joy that can come to a consecrated child of God is giving oneself over to the Lord in baptism! We take our lesson on baptism from Acts 8—Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. It was evidently not of chance, but of providence, that the Ethiopian had under consideration the particular part of Isaiah’s prophecy which refers to our Lord as the Lamb before His shearers opening not His mouth in protest; telling about His humiliation and how His life would be taken forcibly from Him; and instituting a query respecting His posterity. No wonder the occupant of the chariot was mystified; no wonder the Jews were all mystified. Unquestionably this prophecy, like the majority of prophecies, could be but imperfectly comprehended until fulfilled; it could be understood only in the light of its fulfillment, and then only by those in a proper attitude of heart and under the instruction and guidance of the holy Spirit.
We should notice in this connection, (1) that while the Scriptures are “the sword of the spirit, the Word of God,” able to make wise, they cannot be understood until the Lord’s due time. (2) They can only be understood under the leading and instruction of the holy Spirit, and yet in this case (3) the holy Spirit was not exercised upon the one seeking answers, either through the Scriptures or through any mental process, but through the living representative of Jehovah; through the Gospel message, delivered by the Lord’s representative and servant. The true child of God, who is searching after God by following the right paths and trusting to the Lord, according to His Word, will neither ignore nor reject the assistance, which God has been pleased to render through teachers in the Church. He will merely seek to find such teachers as God shall raise up, and the distinction between these and sectarian teachers; and one of his best, safest and surest methods of knowing the teachers whom the Lord will raise up, will be known by their humility, by their ability to make simple, clear, plain, the Word of God, which was “written aforetime for our admonition” (Rom. 15:4). This was the only credential offered by Philip in his ministry of the Truth. He had been taught of God through the Apostles, and was now able, in turn, to communicate to the hearing ear of his client the simple story of how Christ had come into the world to redeem the world, had died for man’s sins, had risen, and ascended up to glory.
Philip undoubtedly further explained to his student, that those who accepted Christ as their Savior, and who desired to become His disciples, taking up their cross to follow Him, should give their assent to this matter by baptism. Apparently, it did not take the eunuch long to decide what his course should be, and his readiness of heart to follow the Lamb, wherever He would lead, is indicated by his promptness to be baptized.
A heart that sees and hears the grace of God, and that truly accepts the same, must in due time, become so enthused with the things heard and seen, that it cannot refrain from expressing the outward manifestation of its joy and peace and hope and trust and thankfulness. As the Apostles declared, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” All Christians who, having received the light of Truth, having seen the grace of God in the Divine Plan, having tasted that the Lord is gracious, having heard the wonders of “so great salvation, which began to be spoken by our Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him”—these must not, cannot, keep silent or put their light under a bushel. All the joy, the calm, the revivifying freshness of the morning, are wrapped up in Him. When He appears, day appears, life appears, fruitfulness appears. “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psa. 16:11).
Let us consider the joy we can receive from religious industriousness. The faithful student of the Word, the zealous teacher of the Truth and the diligent cultivator of a character like that of Jesus we would properly say are industrious in religious respects. There is a sadness in that there are many among God’s professed people who lack religious industriousness. They do not plow up by self-denial and world-denial the fields of their minds and hearts for sowing the seeds of Truth for a useful crop of godliness, but allow their minds’ and hearts’ fields to grow symbolic weeds, thorns, briers, thistles and at best only noxious grasses. They abound in various forms of selfishness and worldliness. Some of them do not sow the fields of their minds and hearts with the Word, but let them lie fallow, and remain destitute of Truth, and as a result room is given for the foul seeds of error from which no joy can be reaped.
Let us, Consecrated Epiphany Campers, help to instruct others’ minds to sow into them the good seed of the Kingdom blessings, in order to make such minds fruitful gardens for the Lord. And they also will be privileged to spread the good Word of God, which, if spread into responsive minds and hearts, yields an abundant fruitage. Much joy is received by properly caring for the gardens of our own hearts and minds, seeing to their proper cultivating, weeding, hilling, watering and soil-enriching, bringing forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
We must preserve our figurative gardens, guarding them against intruders; we must not have the birds of error come and pluck up the seed of the Word from the soft soil of the heart. We must rejoice in cultivating the Word into ripening fruits that are growing in our symbolic gardens. We are not to keep our minds and hearts under cover where the sunshine of God’s love, the rain of His Truth and the kindly dues of His providence cannot reach. Let us by prayer go out under the symbolic heavens and obtain the needed nourishment to supply our needs. We should not desire to live under the protected conditions of a hothouse where we would not experience tribulation and break under the storm of trouble when it strikes us, wither under the fierce rays of a torrid sun that would fall upon us or freeze under the cold of frost when it covers us. Let us enjoy the joy of being industrious!
Another privilege that brings great joy to our frame is the art of pondering a pleasing thought or experience in our life “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established” (Prov. 4:26). Our best pondering comes from a voice “behind you.” It is to this Word of Divine inspiration, then, that the Prophet would direct the attention of all of us desiring wise counsel, and in that Word we hear the voice of God, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isa. 30:21). When we come to the fork of the road—to some crisis in our experience—and know not whether to turn to the right or to the left, we should stop and ponder on the voice. We should turn to the Word of God, and by pondering its precepts and principles and its illustrations bearing on the perplexing subject, seek to learn the will of the Lord, asking also the leading of His Spirit and endeavoring to bring the mind into a loving, submissive and trustful attitude. “This is the way, walk ye in it,” will be the plain answer to every humble, inquiring heart. Let us, with sincerity, ponder our faith and consecration as we rejoice in the joy of serving our Heavenly Father.
When we consider how much is said in the Scriptures about joy and rejoicing among God’s people, we are deeply impressed with the thought that our Heavenly Father is very solicitous for the happiness of His children. The worldly minded cannot see this and they look upon God as a hard Master, without concern for the happiness of His children. This, however, is only because the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned. But the spiritual-minded have joyful meat to eat that the world knows not of; and their hearts rejoice, and their joy no man taketh from them. We do not cease to ponder over the thought that the wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then peaceable and easy to be entreated.
After many years of walking in the light and not in darkness, we become an even greater target for Satan. He would have us to walk in the swamp of error which is his kind of light. The world also offers light of various kinds. It would have us become interested in the various kinds of secular truth or light, and spend much time in seeking and obtaining it. So it would detract from our study of the true Light by consuming much of our time and thought. The Apostle Paul exhorts us to walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, the light. Walking in the light means progressing in that illumination which comes from the Source of light. This light is found in the Scriptures. Psa. 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” We are to be careful not to run ahead of the light, for that will make us go into darkness, just the same as if we lag behind. Let us not seek to be light-inventors and run ahead of the light of His Word.
How many times, while we are determined to do His will, we come to the fork in the road and do not know which fork of the road to take. When we come to making a decision we are to stop, look and listen, when we come to such places. As our beloved Pastor explained, there are especially three things which will help us in making the right decision. First, see to it that the thing is in harmony with the Lord’s Spirit. Then, secondly, we are to ponder carefully the precepts, teachings, examples, etc., of the Word, and compare them with our circumstances. If the problem still does not seem to be solved, there is a third thing to do, i.e., wait and watch for the providences of God to indicate what course should be taken. If by the Spirit, Word and providences of God we can see a proper course, we can go ahead, assured that it is His will for us.
The joy of doing the Lord’s will, with the hope of hearing His words of comfort and approval “well done good and faithful servant” fill our hearts with a warm feeling like nothing else can do! If we set aside the swamp water of error and drink from the pure water of Truth we will be victorious in our trial. Oh, the cravings of the flesh and the world will attack us in seeking joy in our consecrated walk; however, if we seek continually to walk in the light of God’s Word we will be victorious in our call. Oh, what a show of God’s loving-kindness it will be to ponder the result of our fight to stand approved of God.
Paul was a poor man all his days, homeless, friendless, knocked about and persecuted, a sort of religious fanatic. But Paul, viewing the matter from the standpoint of his spiritual discernment, said, “I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 7:4); for he was one of that anointed body who, like his Lord and Head, could say, “I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad” (Acts 2:25, 26). So the Psalmist bids us to rejoice, saying, “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright” (Psa. 33:1). This blessed joy, which so wonderfully lifts the soul above all the vicissitudes of the present life, is joy in the Lord, not a joy in earthly possessions, or earthly hopes and ambitions.
Day by day it is the privilege of the consecrated child of God to realize the joy and favor of God, if, by walking in the path of life, the path of obedience and loving service, we draw near to God. “If a man love me,” said our Lord Jesus, “he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23) and the more firmly our faith lays hold upon the promise the more we will realize its fulfilment, and the more fully will our joys abound; for in the presence of the Lord is fulness of joy, no matter what may be the conditions and circumstances. If by faith we enter fully into the Lord’s will and favor, who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Jehovah’s Word “the Truth” is a strong persuasion for the Christian to have a confident faith that brings much joy even in the midst of tribulations. Let us by faith enter fully into the Lord’s will and favor with a blessed realization of the abiding presence of our Heavenly Father, and our Lord Jesus at all times, and of their love and favor, and a faith that lays hold of all the exceeding great and precious promises of God.
Let us cultivate the Lord’s acquaintance more, drawing near to Him in prayer, in the study of His precious Word, in meditation upon all His goodness, His providential care, the marked manifestations of His grace in our own individual experiences, and His precious promises which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus. So “draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8), He will manifest Himself to you and take up His abode with you and bring unimaginable joy.