REJOICE IN THE LORD
T. Pierce Brown
In Philippians 4:4, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.” The Greek word here is “chairo”. I am not scholarly enough to make a proper distinction between “chairo,” “agalliao,” “euphraino,” and “kauchomai,” all of which are translated “rejoice.” As I look at every word in the New Testament where any of these are used, I think I see some possible distinctions, though I know of no “authority” that supports my conclusion, or denies it.
It seems to me that “chairo” suggests a feeling of joy or gladness related to thanksgiving. While “agalliao” is not significantly different, it seems to carry the idea of exultation, or a more lively expression of joy, such as leaping in gladness. Both expressions are used in Matthew 5:12, “Rejoice (chairete) and be exceeding glad (agalliasthe).” The term “euphraino” seems to carry with it the idea of rejoicing in the sense of making merry, such as having a good time at a party. That does not mean that it relates to just having fun, but we can recognize that there may be a difference in the kind of joy we have at getting with the family during the holidays and the kind of joy we have when a person obeys the gospel. The term “kauchaomia” carries the idea of glorying in, and may even be used of boasting about a thing. This is the word Paul used when he said in Galatians6:14, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
When David said in Psalm 33:1, “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous, for praise is comely for the upright,” the Hebrew word is there “ranan” rather than “gil”. It is very much like “agalliasthe” and suggests expressing the emotions aloud in exultation rather than simply feeling a joyous gladness.
The following verses in Psalm 33 give credence to that, for they not only say, “Praise is comely for the upright,” but “Praise the Lord with harp” and “Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.” Those who want to use mechanical instruments of music in worship of God today think they find something in those verses to justify it. They do not for at least two reasons. First, despite what was authorized or commanded in the Old Testament, if we do not find it authorized in the New it is not a part of the truth in which we are to worship God (John 4:23). Second, even the Old Testament reference shows that there is a difference in singing and playing. When he said, “Sing” he meant sing and when he said, “Play” he meant play. Both are included here, and if we could find both in the New Testament instructions, we would gladly do both. It is not a matter, as some sneeringly put it, of feeling that instrumental music is obnoxious to God, any more than that the blood of bulls and goats is obnoxious to God. He included them in that dispensation; He omitted them in this one.
The theme of this article is that when Paul and David said “Rejoice in the Lord” both used words that are appropriate for us. The words include the inner joy that we should constantly have, and the outward expression of those emotions in praise and thanksgiving.
David said, “Praise is comely (becoming, or appropriate) for the upright.” We should regularly be praising God for our very existence, and all the things that make it possible for us to continue life on this earth. We should especially praise him for the redemption that is in Christ with all the attendant blessings. We should praise and thank him for the hope and reality of immortality.
David specifically mentions some reasons we should rejoice in and praise him. Verse 4 says, “For the word of the Lord is right and all His works are done in truth.” The word of the Lord is right for us because of its enlightening power. Psalm 119:130, “The entrance of thy word giveth light.” It is right because of its power to produce faith. Romans 10:17, “Now faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” It is right because of its cleansing power. John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the words that I have spoken unto you.” It is right because of its saving power. James 1:21, “Receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your soul.” It is right because of its comforting and strengthening power (1 Thessalonians4:18, Acts20:32).
There are several other reasons why we should emphasize that the word of the Lord is right, but if we would praise the Lord for the nature and power of His word and allow it to operate more fully in our lives, we would have even more reasons to rejoice.
In verses 4 & 5 the psalmist gives other reasons why we should rejoice in the Lord. “All His works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment; the earth is full of the goodness of God.” It matters not whether we consider His works in creation or salvation, we must conclude that the earth is full of the goodness of God. Matthew5:45says, “He maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sendeth rain on the just and unjust.” Even the social relationships God instituted, such as family ties and governments, show the wisdom and goodness of God.
Verses 6 through 9 suggest the ways God evidenced His power that should cause us to rejoice in the Lord. If we considered His power separated from all the other attributes, it might create abject fear. Yet, that power working for us and in us should evoke reverence, awe, gladness and joy.
We may rejoice in God because of His knowledge and providence, as suggested by verse 10. “The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect.” One of the most interesting studies of the Bible is to examine how His knowledge and providence work in conjunction with the free will of man. How He can make all things work together for good to them that love him (Romans8:28) and yet leave every man free to make his choices is a fascinating study.
We should rejoice in the faithfulness of God as suggested in verse 11. “The counsel (Hebrew, “etsah”; Greek “boule”) of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” The word, especially in the Greek text, suggests not just advice but will or purpose. It would help us to understand that God’s will (thelo) may change, but God’s will (boule) never changes. A comprehension of those two words may help us to understand how Jesus did not want (thelo) to go to the cross (Matthew 26:38) and said, “Father, if thou be willing (boule) remove this cup from me” (Luke22:42). That is, if it had been in accord with the fixed purpose, unchanging counsel (boule) of God, Jesus would have wished (thelo) not to go through the anguish of the cross. Yet his will (thelo) was always subject to God’s will (boule). He even went beyond that and desired not only to conform to what was God’s eternal purpose, but what God wanted to be done (John6:38). There are some things God wants (thelo) done, but does not will (boule) that they be done. For example, 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that “God is not willing (boulomenos) that any should perish.” God has not predestined that any particular person perish. In fact, 1 Timothy 2:4 says about God, “Who will have (thelo) all men to be saved.” He wants everyone to be saved, and has no fixed purpose that any specific one should be lost or saved. Yet although God wants (thelo) all men saved, He has decreed that those who reject the gospel will be lost (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
We also may rejoice in God’s grace as verse 12 suggests. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.” As far as I could check Gibbon’s “THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE” or the rise and fall of any empire, it seems evident that whenever any nation practiced the principles of God, they could be great and when they failed, they fell. Even those empires that did not really have God as their Lord often practiced principles approved of him. For example,Egyptonce had the spirit of benevolence so much that a person who refused to help one who was suffering was put to death. When a man died, a session was called to see how he had spent his life and he received public praise for the meritorious deeds he had done. Amusements were for strengthening bodies and improving minds, not for the pleasure of seeing blood and gore, as it came to be in decadentRomeand in the presentUSA.
Persiawould confer favors on a conquered nation, helping them instead of making slaves of them. A liar, even a political figure, was looked upon as one of the most disgraceful of men.Rome, at the height of its glory tried to make sure that the best of everything was reserved for the public good. Even today roads and aqueducts are still standing. Any product for sale that was inferior to its advertising would lose credit in all markets, and the one who so misrepresented it was liable to be whipped in the marketplace. When Paul was tried, no Roman citizen could legally be beaten or bound without fair trial and had the right to hear his accusers.
Romefell when the people realized that they had the power to vote for their own interests instead of the public good and did so. In the case of every nation, we can trace its fall to the departure from some principles that are approved of God. Our own nation did not become great because of its natural resources.Africa,China,RussiaandIranhave far greater resources in many ways than we. This little band of starving, diseased, half-naked soldiers defeated one of the mightiest nations in the world primarily because of some principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
There are millions today who have this philosophy, “We feel that no truth is self evident, but are sure that men were not created at all, but evolved from lower forms of life or non-life and therefore have no inalienable rights except to express himself in his own way.” If that idea continues to gain momentum, the downfall of this nation is certain.
Meanwhile, let us rejoice in the Lord for all the things we do have, and strive to live in such a fashion that the good will outweigh the bad. Even if our nation goes “down the drain” we can still rejoice in the Lord for our personal relationship with him and the blessings He will give to us individually.