Summary: We are often told that we are to rejoice as Christians but you ever wonder: Why?
Well we are almost through the prophets, both major and minor. And you’ll recall from earlier messages that the designation Major and Minor has nothing to do with the importance of the Prophet or his message, instead it is indicative of the length of his message. And most of these guys had a fairly depressed outlook on life and their message was basically Turn or Burn. So imagine my surprise when reading through the book of Zechariah and discovering words like “Joy” “Celebrate” and “Rejoice.” The warnings were still there, Zechariah hadn’t gone soft on us, but they were tempered and balanced by these admonitions to cheer up.
So who was this Zechariah, and what was with the cheerfulness? We do know that Zechariah wrote the book that bears his name, which is the 38th book of the Bible. He was a priest as well as a prophet who was born in Exile but returned to Jerusalem as a young man.
The book was written in the eighth month of the second year of Darius. That make it relatively simple to date. Just as if we said something had been written in the eighth month of the second year of Trudeau we would know that it happened in August of 1969. In the same way we know that this letter was written in November of 520 B.C., so almost exactly 2524 years ago.
Why was it written? Zechariah was reminding the Jews what God had done through them and what God was going to do through them. And through it all Zechariah tells the people of God to Rejoice, to celebrate and to be filled with joy.
1 Peter 1:8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy.
You trust in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious Joy. Is that a commentary on your life? Are you joy filled, does the Lord give you joy? Author Tim Hansel tells how he once received a telegram that very simply said, “Until further notice celebrate, everything!” Most of us, me included need to receive a telegram just like that; it’s unfortunate but true that many of us tend to get into the mind-set that says, “Until further notice mope!”
But I am here today to state that I think that we need to take the words of Paul to heart when he said in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Always be joyful. Not sometimes be joyful, or occasionally be joyful or every now and then be joyful but always be joyful.
Now in saying that we need to realize that there is a vast difference between the joy or happiness that Christ gives and what we traditionally think of as happiness. Traditionally what we think of as happiness is directly related to our external stimuli. That is to say that if I feel good then I must be happy and if I don’t feel good then I must not be happy.
Paul Tillich reminds us that happiness is possible even in pain and suffering but pleasure alone can never create happiness. We live in a world that is obsessed with happiness and the pursuit of this elusive state of mind. The world tries with it’s happy pills, and happy hours, and happy faces to stay in perpetual bliss but that isn’t the way that life works. I love the comments of William Lyon Phelps who states “If happiness truly consisted in physical ease and freedom from care, than the happiest individual would not be either man or woman, it would be, I think, an American
cow.” You say OK, but why should I be happy? Well to be frank:
1) You Should Rejoice Because God wants you to. As a matter of fact the Scriptures command us to rejoice remember 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Always be joyful.
and we could add to that Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Protect them, so all who love your name may be filled with joy.
not to mention Philippians 2:17-18 But even if my life is to be poured out like a drink offering to complete the sacrifice of your faithful service (that is, if I am to die for you), I will rejoice, and I want to share my joy with all of you. And you should be happy about this and rejoice with me.
and Psalm 32:11 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure! and let’s not forget Psalm 98:4-6 Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy! Sing your praise to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn. Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King! Now that doesn’t sound like your typical Wesleyan Church does it?