Rejoice always seems like a strange thing to say to someone, for there
are times in all of our lives when we just donít feel like rejoicing,
particularly when we witness all of the violence and corruption in the world
However, if we take ourselves and our feelings about the world out of the picture, we come to realize that we are not to be rejoicing in all the evil in the world; weíre to be rejoicing in spite of it, for we are to be rejoicing in the Lord.
The Lord should be our hope and salvation; He is all powerful, and can change anything He desires, either now or in the future, so when we put our faith and trust in the Lord, we know He is with us and will lead us through all the hard times and let us see into the future when He will restore this earth to the way He created it, and in this, we can rejoice always.
The Lord does not want us to do this passively; we are to be active participants in helping to free creation from its present corruption.
Listen to the confirmation that Paul tells us about in Philippians 4:4-7Ö
4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
5. Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
At Christmas time we always hear about ďpeace on earth,Ē but we donít see
it; we just see the continued strife, but the peace of Christmas that we are
to really see is the peace of God, for it has never changed and remains the
same as it was when He made the heavens and the earth.
And in this, we can rejoice always.
Itís all a matter of keeping our eyes on the ball, or more specifically, keeping our eyes on the goals set before us and their eventual peaceful outcome, either because we help bring it about in the here and now, or when the Lord returns.
In either case, we should be able to see it.
Zephaniah 3:14-20 is really an expressing of being able to rejoice always even in the face of the worldly problems around them; it is also the case of believing and trusting in the promises of God that had been given to them.
14. Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15. The LORD has taken away His judgments against you,
He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
You will fear disaster no more.
It is obvious to us that Zephaniah believed that he was speaking for the
Lord, but did the people believe?
If the people then were like the people of today, then we can believe that some of the people believed, but the majority didnít, and the ones who didnít believe are also the ones who donít rejoice always, because their relationship with the Lord is also seriously limited.
But, even if we have some doubt about whether or not the word is really from the Lord, it is still a reminder that having such a relationship with the Lord requires us to also recognize our own sins and have a truly repentant spirit; and if we do, then we can still be able to rejoice always.
16. In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:
"Do not be afraid, O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp.
We also need to remember that fear is really the opposite of love; so if we
are living in fear, it means that we are not fully loving the Lord and
trusting ourselves in Him.
Loving and trusting God means that even if we die in this world, and are not delivered from the corruption and violence that surrounds us, we have the assurance that we will live forever with the Lord in heaven.
And if we know this, we can rejoice always.
17. "The LORD your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
18. "I will gather those who grieve about the appointed feasts ó
They came from you, O Zion;
The reproach of exile is a burden on them.
To us, grieving over the appointed feasts, means that we are actually
grieving for the innocent animals who suffered and died as part of the
We grieve over every holiday meal, for we know that the vast majority of people still rejoice over the roasted animals on their tables, and because of this and their hardness of heart, they cannot rejoice always.
19. "Behold, I am going to deal at that time
With all your oppressors, I will save the lame
And gather the outcast,
And I will turn their shame into praise and renown
In all the earth.
And the Lord will also save all the animals along with the oppressed people,
and in this assurance we can rejoice always.
Also, we are not to sit idly back and wait for this to happen, for if we are truly Godís peacemaking children, then we should also be doing everything in our power to help free creation from its present corruption.
20. "At that time I will bring you in,
Even at the time when I gather you together;
Indeed, I will give you renown and praise
Among all the peoples of the earth,
When I restore your fortunes before your eyes,"
Says the LORD.
In a way God did this when He reestablished the Nation of Israel, but the
majority of the people are not living in His heavenly will, and their
country is still being plagued by strife.
When that nation, and all nations, for that matter, returns to living in the heavenly will of God, we will have the peace we all seek, and we will rejoice always.
However, we should be able to rejoice always even before that happens, because we have our eyes and hearts set upon that goal, and through faith know that it will definitely come to pass.
Our closing passage for today is Luke 3:7-20, in which we hear Johnís frustration and anger at the hardness of heart He sees in so many people.
7. He therefore began saying to the multitudes who were going out to be
baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath
8. "Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
I believe that all of you have heard me talk about people who say that they
are born again, and yet they lack any evidence of living in the heavenly
will of God.
Anyone can say they are sorry, but then go out and do the same thing again, or deliberately commit some other sin; this is what John is talking about, for unless we resolve in our heart and soul to go forth and sin no more, then being forgiven for something we say, it does not absolve us of other evil things we do.
We need to live our lives with a truly repentant heart and soul.
9. "And also the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
John is not talking about trees; he is talking about people.
10. And the multitudes were questioning him, saying, "Then what shall we
11. And he would answer and say to them, "Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise."
Being selfish is a characteristic of worldly living.
If we are truly born again and live in the heavenly will of God, then we should have the empathy to feel the pain and suffering of the whole of Godís creation, which includes the kinds of people who John is talking about.
And we cannot forget about the pain and suffering that is being inflicted upon billions of animals this very day.
We need to be a part of the solution that peacefully frees them from the corruption of creation.
12. And some tax-gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him,
"Teacher, what shall we do?"
13. And he said to them, "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to."
14. And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."
If we are truly born again and have a repentant spirit, we should already know the answers to these questions.
15. Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were
wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he might be the Christ,
16. John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
When we are peacemaking children of God, we are satisfied with all that the Lord has given us, and no longer have the desire or need to pretend that we are more than we really are; we simply tell the truth, and if this is the way that we live our lives, then we should rejoice always.
17 "And His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing
floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff
with unquenchable fire."
18. So with many other exhortations also he preached the gospel to the people.
19. But when Herod the tetrarch was reproved by him on account of Herodias, his brother's wife, and on account of all the wicked things which Herod had done,
20. he added this also to them all, that he locked John up in prison.
We can never truly silence the truth by locking it up, for as we are all
witnesses of the fact that this story is still being told along with the
evil acts of Herod.
We are to be the voices of those who cry out in the wilderness of todayís corrupt society preparing the way for the Lord, and in this act, we should rejoice always for we see the peace and truth that is coming.