Joyfulness in Obedience
“All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things…”
– Deuteronomy 28.45-47
As we grow closer to God, his will becomes our will. There is nothing that brings us more joy than seeing the will of God fulfilled in our lives and the lives of others; the apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth” (3 John 4).
God has always intended his commandments to be for our good (Deuteronomy 6.24), and doing God’s will not only brings about good things for us but is a source of joy. It is this joyfulness in obedience, at least in part, that makes our sacrifices pleasing to God. God doesn’t want cheerless givers, and he doesn’t joyless workers (cf 2 Corinthians 9.7).
Ultimately, the joylessness of Israel would lead to disobedience. When they were dissatisfied with what God was doing to them, through them and for them, they began to look to other sources of joy, and that would lead them away from God, not to him. When they turned to look for joyfulness in worldly possessions, they would fall into pagan practices of idolatry, forget the God who redeemed them from death, and wander into all sorts of wickedness. The truly sad thing is they left the true source of joyfulness, a loving God and his good commandments, for things that could never bring real joy and only bring death.
When we look at Deuteronomy 28:47, in the midst of the curses that were leveled at Israel is a great at hint at God’s intention for his people to be joyful. God warned Israel that punishment was going to come against them when they failed to serve God joyfully, with gladness of heart. You see, God never intended for his commandments to be a hindrance but a help. He never intended to make Israel suffer but to teach them to serve with joyfulness. Service to others is one of the ways that joy is expressed in the Bible because it is the natural overflow of a heart that has found contentment in God and has grown closer to God.
Consider all of the things that God has done in service to mankind. He created the universe, he finely tuned it to support life, he created everything that we see and know, he made the animals and plants for us to use, he gave us the ability to think and create, he made the way of salvation back to him simple and knowable – and he did all of these things because of his great love for us. God has humbled himself to be our servant, not because we deserve it but because of the joyful love that overflows from his heart. Those who learn to love like God have learned to remove themselves from the focus of their life; they have placed the two great commandments at the core of everything they do: they love God and others first, then, only after doing those two things, will they begin to think about what they need.
Our society teaches this backwards. We are told that we must look out for number one. We must find all of the things that are pleasing to us first, focus on those things, and then, only then, if there is any energy left inside, then we can give notice to others. Is it any wonder then why we live in such a joyless society? If everyone is selfish, self-centered, and self-concerned, there is no fellowship to stand as the springboard to the divine joy that helps and serves. It should be no wonder that Jesus, the most joyful person to ever walk the face of the earth, “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20.28).
Let us be those who strive to find God’s will and then make it our own. Let us be those who look for joy in all the right places and from the only true source of joyfulness: God.
Father, please help us to look past the pleasures of this place and to the eternal glory that comes only from you. Help us to realize that joy which transcends trials is that which comes from knowing you, your son, Jesus, and the Spirit. Help us to make your will our will and to find joyfulness in its fulfillment. Amen.