“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing” Zeph 3:17.
Do you think of God as a joyful God?
John Piper said, “No one in the universe has more joy than God. He is infinitely joyful. He has rejoiced from eternity in the panorama of His own perfections reflected perfectly in the deity of His Son.”* I really had to ponder that when I read it in my devotional time a few days ago. God, the most joyful being in the universe? How can this be, when so much ugliness mars His creation? When sin runs rampant and His creatures hurt one another daily? When He is rejected by the very ones He came to save? When even we, His children, sin against Him?
When I think of describing God, joyful doesn’t usually come to mind. Holy, yes. Loving, yes. Powerful, sovereign, wise, yes. But joyful? Not so much.
Scripture is full of descriptions of God’s wrath against sin, verses like Psalm 7:11 – “God is a righteous Judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” Especially in the Old Testament (and in prophecy still yet future), we see God pouring out judgment on the wicked. His immaculate holiness prevents flawed humanity from even approaching Him on our own, as seen by design of the Jewish tabernacle described in the book of Exodus.
How can this holy God, this God who is angry with sin everyday, be a God of infinite joy? The two pictures seem like diametric opposites.
I think this is hard to understand because I am interpreting what I know of God through my own human “finiteness.” We are all made in the image of God, but He is so much bigger, so much…more than us. Yes, He is emotional. But His emotions are not flawed by sin or limited by humanity as ours are. As a human, it is hard to feel opposite emotions at the same time. When joy and anger, excitement and sorrow, indignation and love fill my heart simultaneously, I find myself in a state of inner turmoil. Processing those emotions and responding to them leaves me conflicted and often uncertain.
But our infinite God, the self-existant One, is not limited by time and humanity as we are. He is fully capable of experiencing those emotions (and the corresponding responses) at the same time. All of our characteristics that bear His image are experienced in complete perfection by the good and holy Creator.
Additionally, it is vital to remember that God relates differently to those who are His children and those who are not.
Does that seem unfair? It is – Jesus chose to be treated unfairly. He totally didn’t deserve to die on a cross. I did. You did.
All of us have broken God’s holy law (Rom 3:23). Justice demanded that our sin be punished, and that punishment is all encompassing death – body, soul and spirit (Rom 6:23). If God were merely holy, He would have annihilated us all, and been fully justified in doing so.
Oh, but He is not merely holy. He is also loving.
He created us to experience a relationship with Him. That was His heart’s desire, and our sin didn’t change that. Our choices cannot change the essence of who He is. So, in love, He came in the form of a man, Jesus, to live a sinless life and die a sinner’s death. He acted as our representative. And now, after conquering death by rising again, He offers complete pardon and restoration to those who come to Him in faith (Rom 5:8, John 1:12, Eph 2:8-9). If you are “in Christ” through faith, your sins are fully forgiven and God sees you as righteous.
So now, the only way that God relates to His children is with mercy and grace. If that’s you, there is no need to ever fear His wrath because it was all poured out on Jesus. You are the apple of His eye, His treasured possession, the one He will rejoice over with singing (Zech 2:8, Ps 135:4, Rom 11, Zeph 3:17). You, child of God, are His heart’s delight, regardless of your “performance.” He loves you with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3). God, our joyful God, rejoices over you!
Does this mean He will overlook sin in our lives? No – He is jealous of our relationship with Him, as a husband who passionately loves his wife is jealous of their exclusive relationship (2 Cor 11:2-3). He will discipline sin – those things that come between Him and us. But even that discipline flows from a heart of mercy, compassion and love.
God, our God, is infinitely joyful. And, if you belong to Him, He has invited you to share in His joy (Gal 5:22-23, Rom 15:13).
How does God’s rejoicing over you affect the way you view God? What impact does it have on you in the “moment-by-moment” living? I’d love to hear your comments!
*From Solid Joys devotional App, April 27.