The Joy Before Us
How often do any of us experience feelings of great pleasure and happiness? What events in our lives lead to this kind of joy? Certainly, joy seems hard to come by in our day-to-day living. There is much that dampens or even obliterates our opportunity to live joyful lives.
Yet, joy is characteristic of God. It is part of the fruit of His Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Thus it follows that we who have God’s Spirit should also have this godly attribute. Of course, not everything we experience brings joy, but we also know with certainty that we have hope beyond our present circumstances—the promise of salvation.
Following the return of seventy disciples sent by Jesus to proclaim the gospel, they told of how even demons were subject to them. While this was important, Jesus pointed to something greater:
“‘Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven’” (Luke 10:20).
This prospect was what Jesus Himself focused on. It was what enabled Him to rise above the trials of the moment. Note:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Jesus prayed for His disciples, asking the Father: “‘But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves’” (John 17:13). In His prayer, Jesus added: “‘I do not pray for these alone [the disciples alive at that time], but also for those who will believe in Me through their word’” (John 17:20).
And so it is that we, today, live with this same hope—the joy that is set before us!
We will once again be attending the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day festivals of God. Indeed, we are appearing before God to, among other things, look forward to God’s glorious Kingdom being established on the earth. Consider how God wants us to celebrate this time:
“‘You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates’” (Deuteronomy 16:13-14).
As the Church of God has understood and practiced, we also rejoice in the Feast based on God’s instructions. We stay in temporary dwellings during this time—memorializing what Israel did when God brought them out of Egypt (Leviticus 23:42-43). We also look forward to the future time in which the modern Houses of Israel and Judah will be brought back into the land God has given to them, for they will be returning from a yet future captivity:
“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).
As we at times struggle to find joy in our lives, let’s look forward with great anticipation and joy to what Jesus promised: “‘Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’” (Luke 12:32).