We Rejoice In Hope

Last week, we talked about learning to rejoice always because we know our God holds us (and everything else) in His hands. Shifting our focus to Him gives us the perspective we need to have true, lasting joy. It also gives us something else.

I quoted a definition of joy in last week’s post (titled “The Joy of the Lord”) that stated it is “acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful.” We could further simplify this definition by saying joy is a result of hope.

Hope in the Bible isn’t just a vague sense of wanting something with no guarantee it will happen, the way we often use it today when we say things like “I hope I win the lottery” or “I hope this new superhero movie is good.” Rather, it’s about an expectation that you can count on being fulfilled. It’s intimately connected to salvation (Rom. 8:24; 1 Thes. 5:8), provides comfort in sorrow (1 Thes. 4:13), and is used as a title for God (Jer. 17:13; Rom. 15:13). And it’s essential to joy.

Hope, Suffering, and Joy

Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom. 5:1-2, WEB)

“We rejoice in hope,” partly because, as Paul says later in this letter “we were saved in hope” (Rom. 8:24). Our hope and rejoicing are connected with faith and grace, as well as the glory of God. Though we don’t yet see the end result of our salvation, we hope for it and we have joy in that expectation. But that’s not all we rejoice in. Read more

The Joy Of The Lord

I think most of us have learned there are multiple words for love in the Greek language. With seven words devoted to this concept, we assume it must be important. But did you know something similar is going on with the word “joy”?

In the New Testament the primary Greek word for joy is chara or its root chario. The Greek parts of the Bible also use agalliao, euphrosure, and (more rarely) skirtao and apolausis. Hebrew has even more words for joy. The primary one is samach and its close relatives simcha and sameach. Other words for joy include chadah, sus, alats, giyl, and alaz. The words for “shout” like ranan and rua also carry a joyful meaning in certain contexts. That adds up to more than a dozen words in the Bible to describe joy!

Clearly, joy is an important concept for Biblical writers and for the cultures they lived in. This type of joy isn’t just a happy feeling, though. It’s a state of being that we can have as a result of being in relationship with God. As a fruit of the spirit, joy is present in all spirit-led Christians. This joy can be bubbly, enthusiastic, and happy (and often is), but it can also be a quiet, enduring outlook that flourishes inside us even when we don’t feel outwardly merry.

Joy Is More Than Happiness

To those in less than pleasant circumstances, commands to rejoice (like Deut. 26:11: 1 Thes 5:16) often feel insensitive. “If you knew what I was going through,” we might say, “you wouldn’t tell me to feel happy.” Nevertheless, joy is something God expects and commands from His people.

It’s a similar situation as what happens with love. God is love, and He commands us to love others even when it doesn’t make sense from a human perspective. Biblical love is also something more than our modern concept of warm feelings toward someone. It’s much deeper. In much the same way, joy goes deeper than feelings of happiness. Read more

Voila, That’s Life, Enjoy It!

My sister and I had yesterday all planned out. Doctor Who in the morning, lunch with our cousin, then an afternoon of dress shopping for a dance in a couple weeks. The first complication happened when we thought we were running early so we swung by a dance store looking for shoes. We got lost, finally stopped at the store, and when we left the car wouldn’t start. Not too much of a complication though — we changed out the faulty fuse that’s been plaguing my sister’s car, and finally got to lunch 1/2 an hour late.

Lunch was great, so that part of the plan went well. But then the car wouldn’t start again and changing fuses didn’t cut it (the mechanic warned this day would come). So there we were, stuck in Raising Cane’s parking lot waiting for a tow truck driver and my sister was starting to see things, to put it delicately, in a rather negative light.

Now, I’m all for the occasional cry-and-eat-chocolate pity party, but the sun was shining and it was a beautiful fall day and we just ate an awesome lunch with our cousin. I mean, it’s not like we were in the middle of nowhere when it was raining and dark. So I rolled out a guaranteed negativity buster:

I watched this film more times than I care to admit when I was younger. I’m worried it won’t hold up well to rewatching, especially after reading Jules Verne’s original In Search of the Castaways, so I haven’t seen it in a while. But I could still (mostly) sing this song.

There’s really quite a bit of truth in “Enjoy It” for such a silly little song. So much of whether or not we have a “bad day” or a “good day” depends on how we respond to the things that happen to us. Advice like, “A hurricane comes your way, enjoy the breeze” sounds ridiculous, but the principle of reframing incidents and looking on the bright side is sound. As the song points out, there’s no point in crying about things we can’t change — “Each moment is a treasure, enjoy it!”

If there’s a complication, enjoy it!
You’ve got imagination, employ it!
And you’ll see roses in the snow,
Joie de vivre will make them grow,
Voila, that’s life, enjoy it!

Shout For The King

These are the Days of Awe. That’s what Jewish believers call the 10 days between Yom Teruah/The Feast of Trumpets (which fell on Thursday, September 25th this year) and Yom Kippur/The Day of Atonement (Saturday October 4th).

Having recently started attending with a Messianic Jewish group, I wanted to focus my pre-Trumpets study this year on the Hebraic roots of this Holy Day. With the Feast of Trumpets just a few days past, I’d like to share some of that study with you today as we look forward to the Day of Atonement.

A Question of Trumpets

I found five different Hebrew words translated “trumpets” in the Old Testament. Let’s just take a quick look at each one:

  • chatsotserah (H2689). A metal trumpet (Num. 10:2, 8).
  • yobel (H3104). The signal of a trumpet or blast of a horn. A common noun referring to trumpets, horns , and the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:10).
  • shophar/shofar (H7782). A ram’s horn. The word most often used in the Bible.
  • taqoa (H8619). A trumpet with a looped tube and flared bell that makes a shrill sound (Ezk. 7:14).
  • teruah (H8643). A shout of joy or alarm. The noise from a trumpet.
“Rabbi Blowing Shofar” by Carole Spandau

This last word is the one used in Leviticus 23 and in Numbers 29 in reference to the Feast of Trumpets. My Hebrew dictionary says it means “a shout of joy; a shout of alarm, a battle cry. It refers to a loud, sharp shout or cry in general, but it often indicates a shout of joy or victory. … It can refer to the noise or signal put out by an instrument” (Baker and Carpenter, 2003). A more literal translation of Yom Teruah, the phrase we translate as “Feast of Trumpets,” would be “Day of Shouting.”

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’” (Lev. 23:23-25)

Now, I’m certainly not saying this day doesn’t involve blowing trumpets. Silver trumpets would have been blown for the new moon and because this was a high Holy Day (Num. 10:1-2, 10). Shofars (the ram’s horn trumpets) were blown as well. In fact, they were blown on every Sabbath and Festival.

Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob. (Ps. 81:3-4)

Based on this scripture alone, I’d say shofars belong as part of every Christian service. And there are other passages too, like Joel 2:15, which indicates shofars are a key part of calling solemn assemblies and sanctifying fasts, and Psalm 150:3, which instructs us to praise God “with the sound of the trumpet.” But I digress …

So, lots of trumpets blasts on Yom Teruah. There’s even a traditional pattern for how to blow them, and shofars are sounded at least 100 times in a typical Yom Teruah service. (Here’s a link for more about Jewish tradition associated with Yom Teruah, and a recording of the shofar sounds). But even though trumpets are a huge part of this day, looking into the Hebrew had me wondering if I’d been keeping the “Feast of Trumpets” my whole life when I should have been keeping “the Day of Shouting for joy and battle cries.” I also wondered if it really made any difference. Does a better understanding of the Hebrew add layers of spiritual meaning?

The Day of Shouting

The word “Teruah” is used 36 times in the Old Testament. It is translated “blow an alarm” as for war (Num. 10:6, 31:6) and to shout like when the walls of Jericho fell (Josh. 6:5, 20). The people shouted for joy when seeing the ark of the covenant and when the temple was rebuilt (2 Sam. 6:15; 1 Chron. 15:28; Ezr. 3:11-13).  Teruah is also translated “joy,” “rejoicing,” and “joyful sound” (Job 8:21, 33:26; Ps. 27:6, 89:15). It is used of praising God (Ps. 47:5), and of fighting with Him on our side (2 Chron. 13:12).

The meaning of Yom Teruah/the Day of Shouting can be interpreted several ways. A website for Karaite Judaism says it may be “intended as a day of public prayer. The verb form of Teruah often refers to the noise made by a gathering of the faithful calling out to the Almighty in unison.” The examples they give are Psalms 47:2, 66:1, 81:2, and 100:1. A Messianic website says the shofar and trumpet blasts are “a wake-up blast — a reminder that the time is near for the Day of Atonement.” There are strong themes of repentance, rebirth, and resurrection associated with this day.

Another element of Yom Teruah was brought out in the teaching given by the Rabbi at my local Messianic congregation. He said that the shofar is blow every day in the month leading up to Yom Teruah as a proclamation that the King is returning. We are to prepare ourselves to hear the voice of the Lord (traditionally, the shofar is seen as symbolizing God’s voice). In Hebrew, the word “prepare” is connected with the human face — we’re making ourselves ready to be face-to-face with God. In that sense, Yom Teruah is a yearly reminder of something we should be doing all the time. It’s also just the beginning of such reminders to repent and be at one with God, since it’s starts out the 10-day count to Atonement (which will definitely be the subject of next week’s blog post).

This preparation to meet God reminds me of the giving of the Ten Commandments. Before delivering His laws, God commanded boundaries to be set up so the people couldn’t get dangerously close to His presence on the mountain, but He did want them to be present as He delivered the words of the covenant. The people were commanded to consecrate themselves and wash in preparation for meeting with God, and then God commanded, “When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain” (Ex. 19:10-13). Here, the trumpet acted as a call to assemble in God’s presence.

The King is Coming!

In the New Testament, trumpet blasts and shouts are strongly associated with Jesus Christ’s return. Traditionally, Christians who keep Yom Teruah have said that the Feast of Trumpets pictures Christ’s second coming and the first resurrection from the dead.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thes 4:16-17)

For my readers who aren’t familiar with this particular interpretation of future prophecy and “what happens after death” belief, here’s a quick summary of what I believe: Those who have died are “asleep,” waiting for a resurrection. The believers who have died “in Christ” will be raised to eternal life at His second coming, and the non-believers will be raised 1,000 years later to be given as second (or in many cases a first) chance to understand God’s truth (Rev. 20:4-5, 11-15)

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)

“Behold, He Cometh” by Simon Dewey

Right now, we’re in waiting for our Bridegroom, Jesus the Christ, to return for us (John 14:1-3). If we’re dead when that happens, we’ll be brought back to life. If we’re still alive, we’ll be changed into spirit beings.

At first, shouting for joy and shouting a battle cry seem only distantly related. But if we turn to Revelation and read more about Christ’s return, the connection in Yom Teruah becomes more clear.

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:6-7)

Here is where the shouts of joy, praise, and exhalation come in. We’ve been preparing to meet our Bridegroom, and here He is! Then, just a few verses down, we see how the shouts of joy turn into a battle cry.

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. (Rev. 19:11-14)

The armies which follow Christ at His return are clothed in “white linen” garments just like His bride, so this is often read as a sign that we’ll be riding into battle alongside Him to set up the promised kingdom of peace.

Yom Teruah is already passed for this year, but our preparations to meet the King and become a suitable bride for Him are ongoing. In Matt. 22:2, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son.” This marriage is an integral part of Their great plan, and we as the church are the focus of it. I pray we all hear and head the trumpet blast that calls out to us and says, “The King is coming! make ready to meet Him.”

 

 

Five More Favorite Proverbs

Five More Favorite Proverbs by marissabaker.wordpress.comAs I continue my study of Proverbs, I keep finding more and more to put on my favorites list. Last week, I shared five favorites from the first 10 chapters of Proverbs. Here are my top five from chapters 11 through 20.

I’m having a hard enough time narrowing it down to five verses for every 10 chapters — I’m not sure how I’ll settle on just one favorite for our study discussion next month. Perhaps I’ll bring a list roughly organized by which one I want to talk about most, and then cross-off any that someone mentions before I do.

6: Graciousness

A gracious woman retains honor, but ruthless men retain riches. (Prov. 11:16)

It is for the first half of this verse that I have included it here. Ever since my career adviser at OSU told me I was very gracious in the way I responded when she had to take a phone call while we were meeting, I’ve paid extra attention to verses like this. I liked how it felt to be considered gracious — it was a description I’ve always thought held value, but this was the first time someone applied it to me. I want to be a grace-filled woman, and I hope to give people that impression of me.

7: Desire

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. (Prov. 13:12)

There are many hopes I have that have been deferred (marriage and a family of my own, to name one). I have to believe, though, that God does not want to make our hearts sick. Therefore, when our hopes are deferred, it must be for a good reason. Perhaps it is to teach us to trust Him long-term — if all our hopes were fulfilled instantly I doubt we would appreciate His gifts very much. Psalm 37 says if we delight in the Lord, “He shall give you the desires of your heart.” If we trust in Him and commit lives to following Him, He will bring about our desires (Ps. 37:4-5). God wants to give us good things. He wants us to be delighted.

8: Peace

Five More Favorite Proverbs by marissabaker.wordpress.comA soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Prov. 15:1)

A cross reference in my study Bible gives an example of this in Judges 8:1-3. The men of Ephraim were chiding Gideon sharply for not calling them to fight with him against Midian. Instead of answering them in kind, he diplomatically diffused the situation and “their anger toward him subsided.” The flip side of this principle, of course, is that being snappish and peevish stirs up an angry response in others and leads to escalating arguments. We need to be moving toward peace instead of anger. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Christ said, “for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

9: Thoughts

Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established. (Prov. 16:3)

I find it interesting that in this verse, it says your “thoughts will be established.” Related verses talk about God establishing our ways and caring for our wants, but this one focuses on the state of our minds. It is like Philippians 4:6-9 in a single verse.

10: Quiet

He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. (Prov. 17:27-28)

How little we value the skill and gift of quietness in today’s society. Words fitly spoken are beautiful (Prov. 25:11), but there are also many times when it is more beautiful to be “swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19).