Episode #18 Does Celebration, Partying and Unbridled Joy Please the Lord, or should we always be serious-minded? (Warning! Genesis 19 is rated PG-13)

Genesis 19, Nehemiah 8, Matthew 18 and Acts 18

One thing I’m learning as we venture through reading four chapters of the Bible together every day – there will always be something important to talk about – way too many important things to talk about, given that this podcast tries to stay under 40 minutes per episode. Because we will be reading the New Testament together twice in 2020, I’m generally preferring Old Testament passages at this point in the year. That means we will miss out (for now) on deep discussions about servanthood being the key to greatness, Jesus’ method for conflict avoidance and peacemaking, the absolute necessity of total forgiveness and the first appearance of Apollos. No worries, we will hit all of those topics at some point this year! Today’s topic is a surprising one and unexpected topic – at least, I hope it is. Many people consider Christians to be stoic, staid, stern, stodgy, and stolid. (I pretty much exhausted my ‘st’ adjectives there) There is most assuredly a call for Christians to have a sober and aware mindset, as Peter tells us:

Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.

1 Peter 5:8

But our reading in Nehemiah also show us that sometimes, God’s prescription is unmitigated joy and celebration.

“This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go and eat what is rich, drink what is sweet, and send portions to those who have nothing prepared, since today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, since today is holy. Don’t grieve.” 12 Then all the people began to eat and drink, send portions, and have a great celebration, because they had understood the words that were explained to them.

Nehemiah 8:9-12

You might have the impression that Jesus was a kind of dour guy. I remember my first exposure to seeing Jesus portrayed outside the Bible was a movie made in the 70s called “Jesus of Nazareth.” I don’t remember hardly anything about that movie, except that Jesus had long hair (which He almost certainly didn’t have in real life) and He was incredibly somber.
While it is absolutely true that Jesus was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3), I believe that was not a description of Jesus’ entire life, but rather a description of His death on the cross (read the passage in context.) In His ministry, we see much evidence that Jesus was a man of joy, kindness and love. I don’t believe a sour and somber person would be the type to tell the disciples (multiple times) to allow the children to come and see Him up close! This is one reason why I am such a huge fan of the word for word from the Bible Matthew videos, produced in the 90s. That portrayal of Jesus showed joy and warmth, which is precisely what I see in the biblical portrayal of Jesus.

SO – are to party all the time, and ALWAYS be overflowing with joy, so that no grief is ever seen on our faces – as the people were commanded in Nehemiah 8? And the answer is – of course not! Jesus Himself wept – which means we will weep. If you think the Christian life is to be free from suffering and weeping, then you have probably bought into the kind of fake Christianity that is pedaled by some popular Word-Faith preachers on T.V. Jesus promises His followers that they WILL HAVE tribulation in this world. (John 16:33 – note also His assurance that He has overcome the world!) We are also told that God will wipe the tears away from every believer when Jesus returns for the second time – a comforting truth which indicates that some of us will be crying up until the Second Coming. As the book of wisdom Ecclesiastes teaches us, our lives will sometimes contain weeping and mourning, and sometimes be filled with dancing and laughing. Embrace both!

a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;

Ecclesiastes 3:4

I love the wisdom that Paul gives us in Romans 12, and that is a good place to conclude this discussion (for now!)

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. 

Romans 12:15

We are called to be people of HARMONY. This means that we will sometimes be weeping, sometimes rejoicing, but – in the Body of Christ and filled with the Spirit of Christ – NEVER alone!

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