Joy is the serious business of Heaven.
JOY - we see the word everywhere at Christmastime. We sing about it in church. We know it's a fruit of the Spirit. We might even use it in our decor around our homes.
But what does it really mean to be joyful? The ESV comes in at 171 instances of the word "joy." I'm guessing by the end of this post (don't worry I won't do all 171, but you can if you'd like!) we'll have a really good definition to go into our days with.
Ready? Great! Let's dive into what the Bible has to say about JOY!
1 Chronicles 16:27, 33 - Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
These verses are part of a song that David sang in celebration of the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Israel. Even though it was housed in a temporary tent for the time, David could not keep from singing praise. Why? Because where the Ark was, God's presence was. And in God's presence there is JOY! I don't know about you, but I tend to equate the Ark with God's judgement, but that's not the whole picture! It was the symbol of God's covenant with His people & that meant every blessing they could imagine. So, God's presence = JOY!
Nehemiah 8:10 - Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah is about the return of the remnant of the Nation of Israel to Jerusalem. The people gather to read the Law together for possibly the first time in years. And within the first few minutes, it breaks their hearts; they are confronted with their sin & begin to mourn. Nehemiah knows that the situation is bound to get worse as the reading continues, so he gives them a brief respite to gather their strength for the days to come. That strength comes from the joy of the Lord, so they feast & rejoice in the good gifts from God.
Psalm 16:11 - You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Here we have a repeat of the truth that God's presence equals joy. Joy to its fullest extent. These aren't any earthly, temporal, shallow pleasures. These are eternal, never-ending, all-satisfying pleasures.
Psalm 30:5 - For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
What an encouraging truth - these moments of affliction don't get the final say. Joy will come!
Psalm 51:8, 12 - Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
This psalm was written by David after he was confronted by Nathan about his sinful actions against Bathsheba & Uriah. Much like the remnant that we read about in Nehemiah, David is mourning over his sin. It's a great reminder that even in the depths of the grief & consequences for our sin, there is joy available to us.
Proverbs 10:28 - The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
Our hope is in Jesus & we look forward to the day when He will once again dwell with us.
Isaiah 35:10 - And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Speaking of when Jesus comes back to reign, it will be a time of everlasting joy! All sorrows will flee away in God's eternal kingdom.
Jeremiah 15:16 - Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
Jeremiah is actually in the middle of a complaint to the Lord & reminding God of the love he has shown for God's word.
Jeremiah 31:13 - Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
God reiterates His promise of an everlasting kingdom of peace that's full of rejoicing. Our hands will be in the air like we just don't care as we enjoy His presence.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 - Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s he makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk's world was full of injustice & violence. He calls out to God for help twice & God answers twice. But the answers were hard to hear - God was sending the Babylonian empire to punish the people for their sin. These particular verses are the very end of the book, ending the prayer that Habakkuk says in response to the message he received. It's a great reminder that joy is not based on our circumstances - present or future. It is based on the goodness of God.
Matthew 2:10 - When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Joy at the birth of Christ expressed by the wise men.
Matthew 25:21 - His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
Joy promised to those who believe in Jesus as their Savior.
Matthew 28:8 - So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Joy at the resurrection of Jesus.
John 3:29 - The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
John's joy at seeing Jesus begin His own ministry.
John 15:11 - These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
From the passage where Jesus teaches about being the True Vine. Abiding in Him brings this life full of joy.
John 16:20 - Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
Jesus explains in the passage about the days that are ahead for the disciples. They will be days of difficulty, but that isn't the end of the story. JOY is the end of the story!
John 17:13 - But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
These words are part of Jesus's "High Priestly Prayer." He is moments away from being betrayed & hours from the cross. And He takes the time to intercede on our behalf.
Acts 8:8 - So there was much joy in that city.
Philip is obeying the Great Commission to the letter it seems as he brings the Gospel to the city of Samaria. (This city previously believed & welcomed Jesus when they saw the Samaritan woman converted. You can read about that story in John 4.) So, Philip shows up & tells them the rest of the story. Joy breaks out!
Romans 14:17 - For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Paul reminds the Romans here that we shouldn't be wrapped up in these "stumbling block" issues. We should be striving for peace & joy with our brothers & sisters.
Romans 15:13 - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
The Romans would be considered Gentile believers, yet God's plan was always to rescue them along with the Jewish believers. This verse comes right after Paul reassures them that Christ dies for all. Those truths would definitely fill them with joy & peace, knowing that their salvation was sure!
2 Corinthians 1:24 - Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
The Corinthian church had some issues that Paul dealt pretty forcefully with in the first letter. In this letter (which is likely not actually the second letter Paul wrote to them), Paul tries to strike a more soothing tone. He knows that the confrontations he's had with them in the past has been hard on everyone, so he's reminding them that he desires to see their joy, standing firm in the faith.
Galatians 5:22-23a - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...
A familiar passage that reminds us of the fruits that we'll see in our life as a result of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us. (I grew up thinking that these were character traits to strive for or paste on the outside. Boy was I missing out on the JOY of knowing that it's not up to me!)
Philippians 4:1 - Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
We see the word joy in the book of Philippians a few times. They're usually referring to Paul's joy in seeing the faith of this church. He encourages them to continue on because their steadfastness has been a source of much comfort & rejoicing in the difficult times in his own life. (He gives similar encouragements to the Colossians & Thessalonians, too. Oh & to Timothy & Philemon.)
Hebrews 12:2 - looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Why did Jesus endure the cross? For the JOY of accomplishing the Father's rescue plan & being seated at His right hand.
Hebrews 13:17 - Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
My first reaction is to smile a bit at this verse, but it's a really serious charge, isn't it? It's a reminder of our responsibility but also the responsibility of our leaders. Sin - no matter how "small" - can be the cause of division & grief within the body of Christ. Let's make sure we bring joy to those who are watching for our souls like the all those people Paul was writing to like the Philippians, OK?
James 1:2 - Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
Reading this verse out of context can sound pretty cold, right? It's that whole "toxic positivity" that people are so worried about. But James isn't being unfeeling or telling them to ignore what's going on around them. He's reminding them that trials strengthen & deepen our faith. Trials aren't always big things like a cancer diagnosis or losing a loved one. Trials can sometimes be a seemingly insignificant interruption or change of plans. Big or small, trials are meant for our spiritual health & growth. And a healthy, growing Christian is a joyful one!
1 Peter 1:8 - Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
If you read this verse in context, you'll see that Peter is writing to a group of Christians who were experiencing an increase in persecution at the hand of the Roman Empire. (Boy, did the Romans know how to persecute people they didn't like!) Yet, they were rejoicing! Why? Verse 9 implies that they were looking forward to when they would "obtain the outcome of [their] faith." That is our hope & joy - looking ahead to what is to come when our faith is made sight.
1 John 1:4 - And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
This verse tells us John's purpose in writing this first epistle. JOY! He wants to give joy to the reader! SO, if you're feeling a little less than joyful, remember 1 John & read it. It's full of Gospel encouragement, especially in regards to what genuine faith & fellowship looks like.
2 John 12 - Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
John was longing to see the continuation of what he'd written about in the first epistle - genuine fellowship among the believers that's marked by love & light!
3 John 4 - I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
John rejoiced in hearing of the growth & faith of his spiritual children, and in particular, Gaius. While we aren't responsible for the joy of others, we can greatly contribute to it. Our genuine faith can bring others joy!
Jude 24-25 - Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude (Jesus's brother) covers some really hard topics, particularly how to deal with apostates & false teachers. He ends his epistle with this beautiful doxology, praising the One who will keep these believers safe from those who would steer them away from truth. The joy here is that of Jesus when we stand in His presence! WE BRING JESUS JOY! And if you read the next book of the Bible (Revelation), you will see so much joy in Heaven. Joy in the presence of our Wonderful Savior!
Wow! I feel like this was such an encouraging word study to walk through with you! I hope that it lifted up your heart like it did mine. SOme big points I am taking away are--
I wanted to leave you with a song from Rend Collective & then I remembered that they have 2 really great songs about JOY! So, I've included both below. I hope they are an encouragement to your heart as they are to mine.
Cheering you on!
Take a peek at this piece that goes just so well with our study today!
Looking for more of my word studies? Take a look here to see what other topics we've traced through Scripture.
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