“You love what is right and hate what is wrong. Therefore God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.”
This was said of Jesus, which suggests to me that the holiest of people should be the most joyful of people. This is God’s design, but it has not always seemed true in my experience.
The church tradition I grew up in was big on a form of ‘holiness’ that did not often exude joy. Austerity, conformity, and a forced piety overshadowed our bouts of joyful singing and marching ’round the auditorium. A long list of taboos kept pleasure in check. And the saints who testified most loudly to their ‘sanctification’ were some of the least inviting people to be around. Pride makes poor company. So it has been a lifetime dawning on me that holiness is truly a BEAUTIFUL attribute. God is beautiful. His work is beautiful. His designs for us are beautiful. And He is the essence of HOLY!
… Lift up a present, and come before Him. Bow yourselves to Jehovah, in the beauty of holiness.
The Old Testament, with its intense array of laws governing all of life, might seem to affirm a kill-joy view of holiness. But David didn’t see it that way! “Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” God’s laws did make His people stand out in territory surrounded by idol worship and lawless paganism, but they were not arbitrary stipulations meant to thwart pleasure. Rather His commands are more like guardrails on a mountain highway–not for looks, but to prevent a dive over the deadly precipice. Sin is that precipice. It maims and destroys the design of holiness for which we are intended. It pulls us away from our source of Joy and sets us off in hot pursuit of dead-ends and cliff edges.
“If your law hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery. I will never forget your commandments, for you have used them to restore my joy and health.
Still, I am surprised when I bump into joy in the Old Testament right in the middle of talk of tithing and law-keeping. Consider God’s instruction to His people regarding the use of their tithe money:
When you arrive, use the money to buy anything you want—an ox, a sheep, some wine, or beer. Then feast there in the presence of the LORD your God and celebrate with your household.
Sounds like a party to me!
And this was Nehemiah’s counsel to people overwhelmed at their failure to keep God’s laws:
And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!“
I can only conclude that God means for His people to know JOY, and the closer we get to His ideals for us (holiness), the more we will know that joy. It won’t be found in buckling down to ‘keep the rules’…
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
But He will produce it in us as we walk by His Spirit in the counsel of His Word.
But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy…
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
Beware of counterfeits. Holiness is beautiful, not odious. Its by-product will be joy!
For the LORD God is our light and protector. He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will the LORD withhold from those who do what is right. O LORD Almighty happy are those who trust in you.
Heb.1:9 NLT; I Chron.16:29 YLT; Ps.119:35 NLT; Ps.119:92,93 NLT; Deut.14:26 NLT; Neh 8:10 NLT; Rom.14:17 ESV; Gal 5:22 ESV; I Thess.1:6 ESV; Ps.84:11,12 NLT