Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Joy, Joy, Joy!

"such blessing"
Malachi 3:10

Another celebration of Christmas music today.  I want to share with you my love and appreciation of  "Joy to the World."  This has been one of my favorite Christmas carols since I was a child, because we always went to the midnight Christmas Eve service, and "Joy to the World" was always the song we sang at the very end of the service.  So when I heard the opening chords, I knew I had made it through, sleepy and bored, and now we could drive home, get into warm jammies, drink hot chocolate, and open one present before going to bed.  (Santa Claus always came while we were at church.)

So I want to share a little bit of this song.  But first I want to tell you that this hymn was written by Isaac Watts, but really, I'm only sharing that so I can tell you that the music was written by George Frederic Handel, because I never knew that before, and I thought it was interesting.

Last Christmas, at the Christmas Eve service, we sang this song, that I have sung maybe a hundred times over the course of my life.... and I was drawn to the unusual wording in the last verse:  "He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove, The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love."

Now, "He rules the world with truth and grace," I understand without too much analysis.  But now look at the next part:  "He makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love."  The word "prove" means "to establish as truth" but I love its lesser known definition which is: "to put to trial or test".  Now, when Jesus was in the desert being tempted by the devil, He said, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."  Jesus was quoting a passage in Deuteronomy, which referenced an episode in Exodus, and his point to satan was that we are not to doubt, or test, God's position or His sovereignty.  His "God-ness," if you will.

But in Malachi 3, God used the word "test" in a different context.  He accused the people of robbing Him when it came to their tithes and offerings and in verse 10, He said: "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse... and test me now in this... if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it."  While we are not to test the Lord our God, we do test His Word, knowingly and unknowingly, every day.  He promised us eternal life in exchange for faith, and we agreed, thereby challenging Him to fulfill His part of the covenant.  John 16:24 challenges us to ask, and then we shall receive.  God pledges Himself to His creatures in a way they themselves can verify:  "If you obey, I will supply all your needs."

Now, Malachi 3 speaks of tithes and offerings, and not giving God all that He deserves, but I ask you to hear this in terms of your faith in Him.  Consider yourself accused.  You, and I, have been holding back.  Exchanging faith for anxiety; choosing not "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen," but fear based on what we do see.

These passages are from Deuteronomy 8 and Leviticus 26:

"The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land ~ 
a land with streams and pools of water, 
with deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 
a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, 
pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 
a land where bread will not be scarce 
and you will lack for nothing; 
a land where rocks are iron 
and you can dig copper out of the hills... 
I will send you rain in its season, 
and the ground will yield its crops 
and the trees their fruit.  
Your threshing will continue until grape harvest, 
and the grape harvest will continue until planting, 
and you will eat all the food you want 
and live in safety in your land.  
I will grant you peace in the land, 
and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid.  
I will remove wild beasts from the land, 
and the sword will not pass through your country.  
I will look on you with favor 
and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, 
and I will keep My covenant with you.  
You will still be eating last year's harvest
when you will have to move it out 
to make room for the new.  
I will put my dwelling place among you 
and I will not abhor you.  
I will walk among you and be your God, 
and you will be My people."

And how will you be the recipient of all this?  Faith in His Word.  Belief in His promises.  He challenges to you boldly approach the Throne of Grace, bringing Him your everything.  Entrust Him all your faith, and He will open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.

Joy to the World, indeed!

~ "In Your presence is the fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" ~
Psalm 16:11

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