Month 7:17, Week 3:2 (Shanee/Matzah), Year:Day 5941:193 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 6 October 2017
Sukkot 2017 III
Salvational Joy in the Tanakh
Continued from Part 2
Chag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the third day of celebration in this Feast of Tabernacles! Our theme this year is simcha or joy and we are going to pick up from where we left off yesterday. As ever we must be careful to define terms and be sure we understand the receptor language of our Scriptures.
The Meaning of Hebrew 'Simcha' vs. English 'Joy'
If you look up the word 'joy' in an English dictionary you will be told that it is a deep feeling or condition of happiness or contentment often expressed in an outward show of pleasure or delight. It is usually understood in very personal terms. Simcha (joy), while similar, is a rather special Hebrew word inasmuch as it is intimately tied to the total national and religious life of Israel as a nation. Simcha was never understood to be only a personal experience nor was it usually something very quiet. It is pretty hard to be filled with joy and be silent! So we should not at all be surprised to discover that simcha was usually expressed by our ancestors in terms of noisy, tumultuous excitement at the festivals, sacrifices and coronations (Dt.12:6ff.; 1 Sam.18:6; 1 Ki.1:39ff.). The ancient Israelites were not introverts!
Spontaneous simcha (joy) is a prevailing feature of the Psalms, as we all know through our frequent use of that book. There it is both a mark of corporate worship (centred largely on the Temple - Ps.42:4; 81:1) and of personal adoration (Ps.16:8ff.; 43:4). The Psalm that I think best gets across this image is the 126th. Let's look at the first half:
Deliverance and Joy
"When Yahweh brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of simcha (joy).
Then it was said among the nations,
'Yahweh has done great things for them.'
Yahweh has done great things for us,
and we are filled with simcha (joy)" (Ps.126:1-3, NIV)
Deliverance - whether physical, spiritual or both - is one of the most common sources of simcha (Joy) and as we see in these first three verses, one of the purposes Yahweh delivers us and causes this simcha (joy) to arise in us is so that we can be a witness to those nations who do not know us. As we all remember, Yah'shua (Jesus) said that:
Signs of Ahavah-Love
"By this all men will know that you are my talmidim (disciples), if you love one another" (John 13:35, NIV).
But as I pointed out yesterday, a whole cluster of characteristics are manifested in the saved, including "laughter", "songs of joy", even being "filled with joy". This happy laughter, this overflowing simcha (joy) is a sign of true ahavah- or agapé-love. If these elements are missing, the 'love' may not be authentic.
As I mentioned on the first day of Sukkot, Yahweh knows our trials and troubles, and there are so many of us who have these currently even during this 'Season of Our Joy'. The Exiles did not have a good time of it in Babylon but those who hold on to the emunah (faith) and do not reject Elohim (God) are promised this by Yahweh through the Psalmist in the last half of the psalm:
The Fruitfulness of True Repentance Leading to True Joy
"Restore our fortunes, O Yahweh,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of simcha (joy).
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of simcha (joy),
carrying sheaves with him" (Ps.126:4-6, NIV)
If your tear-shedding - if your weeping - is done in true contrition, then the Ruach (Spirit) promises, as Yahweh promised through the Psalmist to those original Exiles, that through their patience and long-suffering, though they "sow in tears" they will "reap with songs of simcha (joy)"! But notice that the weeping is of a particular kind - don't miss this, please, for the one who weeps in the Ruach (Spirit) rather than in his fallen flesh "carrying seed to sow" will be found "carrying sheaves with him" afterwards. In other words, genuine sorrow leading to teshuvah or repentance is FRUITFUL, and the evidence of that fruitfulness will be genuine "songs of simcha (joy)" and all the works associated with the saved.
What, then, is the unfruitful kind of weeping? Unfruitful weeping is that in which the soul is consumed with self-pity, resentment and bitterness for suffering and loss. Such 'sorrow' is not unto repentance because it bears no positive seeds to sow. One of the hardest and yet most important lessons we must learn in this life is, I suggest, understanding the difference between these two and choosing the fruitful way. I would also like to suggest that by far the most important ministry we can give is in guiding people coming to understand these two ways and in making a choice which is salvational.
Isaiah and Salvational Simcha
I'd like to finish this short address by taking a look at the navi (prophet) Isaiah's understanding of simcha (joy) as a sign of the fullness of salvation which he insists is not to be understood in merely ritual terms. Anyone can put an emotion-charged show on by getting themselves psychically worked up, tears and all. The subject matter is again Yahweh's people experiencing affliction:
The Sukkot Marriage Motif
"Shout for simcha (joy), O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, O mountains!
For Yahweh comforts His people
and will have compassion on His afflicted ones" (Isa.49:13, NIV).
He then goes on to say:
A Broken and Contrite Heart
"I delight greatly in Yahweh;
my soul rejoices in my Elohim (God).
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation (deliverance)
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a cohen (priest),
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so Yahweh-Elohim will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations" (Isa.61:10-11, NIV).
Do you see the Sukkot (Tabernacles) wedding imagery again, the same allegory used in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) which we'll talk more of tomorrow. Again, the salvation or deliverance here can be of any kind - physical, mental, emotional or spiritual - indeed, the whole spectrum of what makes up a man or woman. Whatever the legitimate need, Yahweh will meet it provided we approach Him with genuine humility and not immature, complaining, self-entitled, self-pitying brattishness. To remind you again, these are what Yahweh seeks:
The Prideful Heart
"The sacrifices of Elohim (God) are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise" (Ps.51:17, NIV).
An indignant, angry, self-entitled heart is not a broken heart, it is a prideful heart:
Being Imaged Aright
"Yahweh will destroy the house of the proud" (Prov.15:25, NKJV).
Simcha (joy) does not come to the "house of the proud" but only to the house of the humble. Indeed, the proud cannot be the Bride at all - it is utterly impossible - for the Bridegroom cannot be echad (one) with self-entitlement or pride. It is not in His nature, it is not His image, and we are called to be His image. One who is saved is imaged as He is.
May your day be full of simcha (joy) in Yah'shua (Jesus)!
Continued in Part 4