Scripture Brings Joy to the Heart

bible-joy-sorrow-text-true-Favim.com-337599“Your testimonies are my delight,” says the Psalmist (Psalm 119:24a). It seems a strange thing to say. Modern Christians never speak of God’s laws, His statutes, in this way – to be honest we rarely speak of God’s law at all. The very use of the word “law” conjures up awful images and ideas in our minds. But not for the Psalmist, it brings delight. The language of Psalm 119 describes a love affair that one man has with the Scriptures of God. For him the Scriptures are a storehouse of delights. The same can be true of Christians today. For all who are weary, depressed, downtrodden, suffering, and sorrowful the Scriptures can bring joy.

The truth for each of us, of course, is that we will always try to find our joy in a million other places. Some of those places are good: marriage, friendship, children, church. Some of those places are terrible: pornography, drugs, power. For a time we may find ourselves happy, but eventually each of those things will disappoint us, let us down, or even destroy us. The Word of God, however, can reorient our affections towards truth, the Scriptures can bring joy. The psalmist knows this, for he writes, “the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:8). God’s laws rejoice the heart! The Scriptures having the amazing potential to sanctify our joy, to take the joy we would build up in these other things and redirect it towards God himself. 

The Scriptures can bring joy because they also produce several other positive effects in the lives of believers. Psalm 19 characterizes its potential, and Steve Viars and Paul Tautges have done a tremendous job of unpacking these truths in their chapter from Scripture and Counseling. The Scriptures speak of their power to “restore the soul” (v. 7). In particular the New Testament says that the Scriptures, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can give spiritual life to the dead soul. So, Paul says that the Word produces faith (Rom. 10:17), and salvation (1:16). In the ongoing life of the believer the Scriptures communicate the promises of God, giving hope to the discouraged soul.

The Scriptures make us wise. Again Psalm 19:7 says, “the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Tautges and Viars communicate this point when they write:

The Word has the ability to move us from foolishness to wisdom since Scripture reveals to us the glory of Jesus Christ, who is our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30). When we listen to Him and obey His Word, we increasingly grow in wisdom. In Christ, the promises of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs come to fruition (Prov. 1:20-23). (Scripture and Counseling, 50).

The Scriptures make us wise because they communicate God’s values, understandings, and laws to us. God, as Creator the world is the determiner of the world’s meaning. We are only truly wise when we adopt his interpretation of life. By reading Scripture we can glean such understanding, learn to live rightly in God’s world, and reap the joyful benefits of such living.

In conjunction with this previous point we learn too that Scripture leads us towards sanctification. Jesus testifies to this when he prays to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). As we submit to God’s Word we are submitting to a words that is “true, and righteous altogether” (Ps. 19:9). Submitting to this true and righteous Word leads us to greater spiritual growth, sanctification, and conformity to Christ-likeness. The Word brings joy because it brings us into alignment with God’s will for us, namely our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3).

The Scriptures also warn us of the consequences of disobeying God. The Psalmist notes, “Moreover, by them is your servant warned” (19:11a) Jesus speaks plainly about the dangers of disobedience, as do the apostles. They warn us of the future that awaits those who reject the counsel of God. The Lord helps preserve our joy by warning us of what will ultimately destroy it. Whether you are reading the Ten Commandments, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the epistles of Paul, what you regularly find is a call to obedience accompanied with a warning against rebellion.

At the same time, however, the Bible promises reward for obedience. So, verse 11 speaks of the Scriptures warnings, but also of its rewards: Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. When I am discouraged, tempted to rebel, tempted to give in to self-pity, or more seriously despair, I am reminded that as I pursue faithfulness eventually God will reward it. Joy comes to those who obey God’s Word. Just ask King David, who after he had destroyed his life and tarnished his legacy, said to his son:

“I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn… (1 Kings 2:2-3)

The Word of God assures us of joy through obedience. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2).

The Scriptures can bring joy. If you struggle with this possibility let me urge you to dig into the Psalms themselves. Written by people just like us, people who experienced sorrow, suffering, doubt, and frustration, the psalms echo the cries of every human heart. In them you will find people who cannot only sympathize with your plights, but people who can point you to the joy of God. That is to say, the Scriptures can cultivate joy in the heart who reads them, mediates on them, and applies them. The Scriptures can sanctify our affections, if we will turn to them in sorrow.

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