The Bible is replete with commands for us to rejoice. Specifically, Israel was commanded to rejoice when the Psalmist said: “Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp” (Psalm 149:2-3). Rejoicing is not just the attitude of the heart but is expressed outwardly through music and dance. In fact, God himself is also rejoicing. The prophet Zephaniah said, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17). No wonder God wants us to sing and dance, since he himself sings when he rejoices over Israel.
Indeed, Israel has a good reason to rejoice because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is with them. He is their shield, fortress and salvation. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we too need to rejoice. While all the commands and promises in the Bible are for the Jews, we are now partakers of them. The apostle Paul clearly explained this when he said, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Some believers have the tendency to exclude the Jews, and then appropriate all of God’s promises for themselves, believing that God is done with the Jewish people. Far from the truth! The Jews remain to be God’s Chosen People. As believers, we are only engrafted into the holy tree (the Jews) through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 11). Therefore, we should not exclude them, but embrace them and rejoice with them because of our newfound faith in their God. Yes, we are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with them so that we can now partake in the promises given to them.
But when are we to rejoice? In instructing Israel on how they should live, Moses said, “There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you” (Deut. 12:7). When we are blessed, we need to respond with rejoicing, expressing our thanksgiving to God. We must remember that “it is the Lord who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today” (Deut. 8:18). We cannot afford to be proud and ungrateful before God. Rejoicing and giving him glory is the best way to express our gratefulness.
While it might be easy and convenient for us to rejoice and be grateful to God when we are succeeding and prospering, it might not be so when things are not going our way. Many find it difficult to praise God in their defeat. Nevertheless, we should have the same attitude as the prophet Habakkuk who said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab. 3:17-18). Yes, we need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God in our lives. If things do not seem to be going well in our lives, God has a reason for it—He has a better plan and will turn these things for our good in the end. Our rejoicing and being grateful for these seemingly negative things will open our eyes and allow us to see the bigger picture, which is needed in order to overcome them all. Therefore, even if there is no food in the fridge or money in the bank, we have to praise the Lord. As we do, God, in a mysterious way, will supply what we need and deliver us from all the works of the evil one.
The apostle Paul emphasized this need to rejoice when he admonished the believers saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). The importance of rejoicing cannot be overemphasized. In enumerating the curses for disobedience, Moses warned, “Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you” (Deut. 28:47-48). As the Lord prospers us, let us serve Him faithfully and wholeheartedly, rejoicing over our blessings with songs and dances. Yes! Let us bless the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for he alone does wonderful things. Together with Israel, let us rejoice over God our maker. He is with us and he is mighty to save. Glory to God!