The Right to Pursue Joy

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

  • Luke 1:76-79

I will betroth you to me forever;
    I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
    in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
    and you will acknowledge the Lord.

  • Hosea 2:19-20

“For all its peculiarities and unevenness, the Bible has a simple story.  God made man.  Man rejected God.  God won’t give up until he wins him back.
“God will whisper.  He will shout.  He will touch and tug.  He will take away our burdens; he’ll even take away our blessings.  If there are a thousand steps between us and him, he will take all but one.  But he will leave the final one for us.  The choice is ours.
“Please understand.  His goal is not to make you happy.  His goal is to make you his.  His goal is not to get you what you want; it is to get you what you need.”

  • Max Lucado, A Gentle Thunder

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence starts with this sentence:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Most think that it means that we have the right to be ‘happy’.  It does not, but even relating to pursuing happiness, I disagree with my cousin, Thomas Jefferson, on a few things.  One is that we should not waste our time pursuing happiness.

Happiness is fleeting.  Try pursuing Joy.  Joy lasts longer.

In fact, there isn’t much ‘pursuit’ involved.  We simply quit running from God, turn around, and fall into his embrace.  I heard words of that nature recently, and for the life of me, I can’t remember who said it.  The key is that our turning around is a turning from sin, repenting.

And what awaits us, besides a bear hug from God?  The Joy that is everlasting.  That doesn’t mean that there will be no hard times.  Hard times will come by the bucket load, but God is there.  Jesus is at the controls in your life, if you let Him, and the Holy Spirit guides you, if your listening. 

I wrote yesterday about Stonewall Jackson, and one of his quotes said that when our heart was right with God, we have nothing to fear.  Whether we live or die, we are in God’s hands.  That’s where Joy comes from in times of trial.  This world can throw evil in our direction, but it cannot remove us from our loving Savior.

Zechariah’s song, or prophecy (depending on translation), ends with the first Scripture above.  Zechariah is praising God.  He has a son.  He will be named John, and John will be the voice in the wilderness, preparing the nation for the coming of Jesus.  God loves us, and He sent His Son.

And God wants to reclaim us.  In Hosea 1, God instructs Hosea and Hosea obeys.  Hosea marries Gomer, a woman of ill repute.  Gomer produces three children for Hosea, but then she goes back to her prostitute ways.  Yet, God says, in Hosea 2, for Hosea to reclaim Gomer.  Hosea does so, at a cost, having to buy her back.

Some may read Hosea as the condemnation of the northern tribes of Israel, and how God will even redeem them in the end, but God is talking to each of us individually here.  God made us, as Max Lucado said in his quote, but we rejected God, turning to what ever made us happy, in the moment.  But God desires to reclaim us.  God uses the concept of His church being His bride.  Thus, all the references in Hosea 2 about ‘betroth’ speak to God reconciling with us to have a deep meaningful relationship with us. 

The book of Hosea is far more than a strange tale about marrying a prostitute or the condemnation of a specific people who rejected God.  It speaks to each of us.  We all must come to our Lord and give Him everything.  We must lay down our lives at the Master’s feet and pledge all our trust in Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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