Rejoice in the Lord - by Richard Neufeld
Psalm 33 does not have a defined author like many other Psalms, though it picks up right on the heels of Psalm 32 which seems to indicate similar authorship and a continuity of thought. Reading Psalm 32 and 33 together gives us a picture of high praise, wrestling in hardship, confession, instruction, and so much more. Psalm 33 calls each person to shout for joy in the Lord, sing Him a new song, and play skillfully on the strings. It goes on to tell us why we should praise the Lord; i.e. “…the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.”
The author reminds us all that “The Lord looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of man … the king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.” It concludes that the Lord takes special care of those who fear Him, and all who do have steadfast hope in His gentle love and mercy; “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
In what or whom should we rejoice? The author of this Psalm tells us that it must be in the Lord alone. We are all told to praise the Lord, to live our lives with utter faith, dependence, and joy in Him. Here we find the Lord “Calling upon the saints to be cheerful; and indeed there is hardly any duty more pressed in the Old and New Testament, or less practised,” (Trapp). Thanksgiving is a part of this joy, and we can imagine any multitude of inward types of worship, however it is clear that such joy must not be contained only to private study but spill over into corporate worship, however that looks! “Sing to Him a new song, play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”
There is much in the way of changing our perspective as we continue on reading. We are reminded that it is God and God alone who created all things by a word, who holds the seas in place, who operates with supreme wisdom and power on you and on me and on every living thing. He is unstoppably powerful, inexorable in His will, and shall have the final word on all things at the end of time. It is fitting to read that a king is not saved by his great army or machines of war; given the state of our world, we must be encouraged that God is supreme in all things, restraining sin in the world and, beyond that, working all things to the good of those who love Him.
In the meantime, as chaos engulfs the world at large and/or we continue in our everyday struggles to make ends meet, those who simply put their trust in God to lead them on, to provide grace upon grace for the day and task at hand will find that He will always, always come through. We read in 1 Cor. 13 that what remains is faith, hope, and love, and the final verse of this Psalm 33 acknowledges the ongoing need for God’s love to be upon us as we hope in Him. We need all three each day, and to let these flourish is to overflow with joy.
Application and Question:
How much of your life should be dedicated to and revolve around Christ? Is it the big, important things like job, education, and family? How many people would call you a joyful person? When was the last time you truly rejoiced? If you’re like me and can’t really remember the last time that happened, welcome to the club.
I think I’ve done a pretty good job, by the grace of God, at reordering my life to what I know God requires of me. If you’ve heard my testimony, you’ll know that I was pretty much at rock bottom in my early 20’s and had nothing of my own to show for those two decades of life so far. God took me by the hand and gave me joy only in that which pleased Him, which was a terribly hard yet utterly necessary lesson for a young man like me. As it stands, I’m quite good at being obedient in the large things and even some small things, I know I’ve come a really long way, yet I have infinitely far yet to go. I’m realizing even nowadays that I don’t delight in the Lord nearly enough. My heart is constantly full of those sins I can’t seem to shake, I’m fatigued, forgetful, and unenthused. God has my obedience only when I can muster up enough motivation to be disciplined, but I’m finding out that He doesn’t want me, or anyone, to live out a forced, miserable obedience, but one that springs from real joy. That seems sort of impossible for me.
So how do we do that? Well, I’m well aware that there is a vast amount of literature already in existence that has been written by those infinitely more qualified and educated than myself; however, this blog is one ordinary person to another, and maybe what I’ve said so far has resonated with you so I’m going to plough on.
First, in order to be joyful in the Lord, we need to spend time with Him. Go over the Lord’s prayer in your bedroom with the door closed, taking each verse one at a time and spending as much time as needed to fill out the framework of prayer which Jesus gave to His disciples. Ex: Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name; Start with praise and thanksgiving and pay no mind to how you feel. Write it all out if that helps, or even say it out loud. Continue on, knowing that He is already aware of your needs and desires. What matters here is spending time with your Father.
Second, preach to your own heart which will absolutely try and condemn you for the nasty things you’ve said, done, and left undone. Those who are in Christ are a new creation, and “Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and He knows all things. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God, and we will receive from Him whatever we ask, because we keep His commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight,” (1 John 3:20-22).
Third, remember that you are a work in progress, that God is pleased even by the stumbles who seek to obey Him and walk the narrow path. You will never be perfected here, but Jesus will finish what He started in you at the end of your days! Remember too, that when you are in Christ, God looks upon you with all the favour and felicity with which He looks upon His own Son – you are in Christ! You are co-heirs, risen to new life, full of the Holy Spirit, and should confidently come before the throne of God Almighty and cry “Abba, Father!”
Fourth, remember that He knows all of your needs far, far better than you. He is faithful to provide and loves you perfectly. All your stresses of money, work, social things, health; He knows it all and will come through in His timing and means. He never abandons His children and gives them good gifts.
You have likely heard all of this before and, having read them one more time, don’t feel any great stirring within you that resembles joy. That is so normal, but not what God has in mind. How do we bridge that gap between your head’s knowledge and your heart’s feeling? Meditate on the Word of God. Meditate in prayer. Spend time with Him, look diligently for Him in the Word and the day’s events right now. We cannot be surprised that we haven’t gotten any stronger after having bought a gym membership – you actually have to go to the gym! That which consumes your time owns your heart. We are called to rejoice in God, but rejoicing is an inevitable overflow of being close to Him. So go spend some time and get to know your God! Remember, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,” (Jer. 29:13).
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory; forever and ever. Amen!
Song: Feeling Low - Will Reagan
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.