DECEMBER
17-23


INTRODUCTIOn

Being in a good mood is really great, and most languages have lots of words to describe the experience, like happy, cheerful, joyful, and so on. 

The same goes for the languages of the Bible. In ancient biblical Hebrew, there’s a variety of words, like simcha, sason, or giyl, and in the Greek New Testament there’s khara, euphrosune, or agalliasis. Each word has its own unique nuance, but they all basically refer to the feeling of joy and happiness. 

Now what makes these biblical “joy” words interesting is noticing the kinds of things that bring happiness and also seeing how “joy” is a key theme that runs through the whole story of the Bible.


BIBLICAL JOY

Let’s start with sources of joy. On page one of the Bible, God says that this world is “very good,” and so naturally people find joy in beautiful and good things of life, like growing flocks or an abundant harvest on the hills. (1) The poet of Psalm 104 says a good bottle of wine is God’s gift “to bring joy to people’s hearts.” (2) People find joy at a wedding (3) or in their children (4) There’s even a Hebrew proverb that compares the joy that perfume brings to your nose with the joy a good friend brings to your heart. (5) 

However, human history isn’t just a joy-fest. The biblical story shows how we live in a world that’s been corrupted by our own selfishness. It’s marked by death and loss, and this is where biblical faith offers a unique perspective on joy. It’s an attitude God’s people adopt, not because of happy circumstances, but because of their hope in God’s love and promise. 

So when the Israelites were suffering from slavery in Egypt, God raised up Moses to lead them into freedom, and the first thing the Israelites did was sing for joy. Even though they were in the middle of a desert. They were vulnerable; the Promised Land was still far away. They rejoiced anyway. Later biblical poets looked back on this story, and they remembered how “The Lord caused his people to leave with joy, his chosen ones with shouts of joy.” (6)

This “joy in the wilderness,” this was a defining moment, a way of saying that the joy of God’s people is not determined by their struggles but by their future destiny. 

This theme reappears later in Israel’s story when Israel suffered under the oppression of foreign empires. The prophet Isaiah looked for the day when God would raise up a new deliverer like Moses. That’s when “those redeemed by the Lord will return to Zion with glad shouts, with eternal joy crowning their heads; happiness and joy will overtake them." (7) And while the Israelites waited, they chose joy to anticipate their future redemption.

STUDY NOTES

1. See Psalm 65:11-12. 

You have crowned the year with Your bounty, And Your paths drip with fatness. The pastures of the wilderness drip, And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing. Psalm 65:11-12

2. You can read this in Psalm 104:15. 

And wine which makes man's heart glad, So that he may make his face glisten with oil, And food which sustains man's heart. Psalm 104:15

3. See Jeremiah 33:11. 

The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, "Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting"; and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of the Lord. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first,' says the Lord. Jeremiah 33:11

4. See Proverbs 23:24-25.

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you. Proverbs 23: 24-25

5. You can read this in Proverb 27:9. 

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man's counsel is sweet to his friend. Proverbs 27:9

6. You can see this reference in Psalm 105:43. 

And He brought forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with a joyful shout. Psalm 105:43

7. You can read this in Isaiah 51:11.

So the ransomed of the Lord will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, And everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 51:11

JESUS BRINGS GREAT JOY

Let’s start with sources of joy. On page one of the Bible, God says that this world is “very good,” and so naturally people find joy in beautiful and good things of life, like growing flocks or an abundant harvest on the hills. (1) The poet of Psalm 104 says a good bottle of wine is God’s gift “to bring joy to people’s hearts.” (2) People find joy at a wedding (3) or in their children (4) There’s even a Hebrew proverb that compares the joy that perfume brings to your nose with the joy a good friend brings to your heart. (5) 

However, human history isn’t just a joy-fest. The biblical story shows how we live in a world that’s been corrupted by our own selfishness. It’s marked by death and loss, and this is where biblical faith offers a unique perspective on joy. It’s an attitude God’s people adopt, not because of happy circumstances, but because of their hope in God’s love and promise. 

So when the Israelites were suffering from slavery in Egypt, God raised up Moses to lead them into freedom, and the first thing the Israelites did was sing for joy. Even though they were in the middle of a desert. They were vulnerable; the Promised Land was still far away. They rejoiced anyway. Later biblical poets looked back on this story, and they remembered how “The Lord caused his people to leave with joy, his chosen ones with shouts of joy.” (6)

This “joy in the wilderness,” this was a defining moment, a way of saying that the joy of God’s people is not determined by their struggles but by their future destiny. 

This theme reappears later in Israel’s story when Israel suffered under the oppression of foreign empires. The prophet Isaiah looked for the day when God would raise up a new deliverer like Moses. That’s when “those redeemed by the Lord will return to Zion with glad shouts, with eternal joy crowning their heads; happiness and joy will overtake them." (7) And while the Israelites waited, they chose joy to anticipate their future redemption.

STUDY NOTES

1. See Psalm 65:11-12. 

You have crowned the year with Your bounty, And Your paths drip with fatness. The pastures of the wilderness drip, And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing. Psalm 65:11-12

2. You can read this in Psalm 104:15. 

And wine which makes man's heart glad, So that he may make his face glisten with oil, And food which sustains man's heart. Psalm 104:15

3. See Jeremiah 33:11. 

The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, "Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting"; and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of the Lord. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first,' says the Lord. Jeremiah 33:11

4. See Proverbs 23:24-25.

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you. Proverbs 23: 24-25

5. You can read this in Proverb 27:9. 

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man's counsel is sweet to his friend. Proverbs 27:9

6. You can see this reference in Psalm 105:43. 

And He brought forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with a joyful shout. Psalm 105:43

7. You can read this in Isaiah 51:11.

So the ransomed of the Lord will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, And everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 51:11