Born for to Die

What if I am not here to live my “best life” but to give it all up?

I wonder as I wander out under the sky that Jesus my Savior did come for to die … 1

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. Hebrews 2:14–15 (NLT) 

Jesus, born for to die. The Son of God becoming flesh and blood, born a human being so He could die for all us human beings. I absolutely believe and am forever grateful for that. 

But recently I have been wrestling with something – maybe the hardest thing of all to wrestle with. What if I was “born for to die” too? What if that is the whole reason I am here – to die – so others might live? What if I am not here to live my “best life” but to give it all up? To live His life, the life He gave up for me? 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

But living His life means me dying. Jesus calls us to be His witnesses. Did you know that the Greek word means “martyr”? 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  

“Not my workers. Not my worshipers. Not my weekend warriors. My witnesses. It means those who will cease to live for themselves and learn to live with me and from me and through me and to me and for me.” — J.D. Walt, I Speak Jesus 

“[T]hose who will cease to live for themselves.” The Greek word is martus (μάρτυς ) – witness, martyr. You will be my martyrs. Rarely the way we usually think of a martyr, being killed for his or her faith gloriously in some foreign country. And, definitely not the modern psychological dysfunction self-glorification, self-pitying definition of the word. But through, what Elisabeth Elliot called, “little ‘deaths’.” 

“So my decision to receive Him, although made only once, I must affirm in thousands of ways, through thousands of choices, for the rest of my life—my will or His, my life (the old one) or His (the new one). It is no to myself and yes to Him. This continual affirmation is usually made in small things, inconveniences, unselfish giving up of preferences, yielding gracefully to the wishes of others without playing the martyr, learning to close doors quietly and turn the volume down on the music we’d love to play loudly—sufferings they may be, but only small-sized ones. We may think of them as little ‘deaths’.” — Elisabeth Elliot, A Path through Suffering  

For the joy set before him he endured the cross … Hebrews 12:2 

If I am to be like Jesus, if I can somehow realize that I was “born for to die,” then maybe I can (someday) “consider it all joy” when faced with all the “little deaths.” With the big deaths too. Some seem so very big. 

“The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

“Beware of only saying, ‘Christ was crucified for me’; say, too, ‘I am crucified with Christ.’” — Andrew Murray, Andrew Murray on the Holy Spirit 

Still wrestling … 

1 Lyrics by John Jacob Niles

Image of dead apple blossoms available under CC0 Public Domain 

Patches of Joy

A couple of weeks ago I published a blog called Grace Recognized. That is the definition of the Greek word translated “joy” in the New Testament – just recognizing God’s working around us. And many times, just as His voice is not a loud shout, but a still, small voice, His works of grace are found in what C.S. Lewis called “patches of Godlight.” I hope these quotes will bless you and help you recognize these patches of joy. 

“We – or at least I – shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have ‘tasted and seen.’ Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of experience.” – C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, San Diego: Mariner, 2002. 

I have a friend who is so deeply connected with God that he can see joy where I expect only sadness. He travels much and meets countless people. When he returns home, I always expect him to tell me about the difficult economic situation of the countries he visited, about the great injustices he heard about, and the pain he has seen. But even though he is very aware of the great upheaval of the world, he seldom speaks of it. When he shares his experiences, he tells about the hidden joys he has discovered. He tells about a man, a woman, or a child who brought him hope and peace. He tells about little groups of people who are faithful to each other in the midst of all the turmoil. He tells about the small wonders of God. At times I realize that I am disappointed because I want to hear “newspaper news,” exciting and exhilarating stories that can be talked about among friends. But he never responds to my need for sensationalism. He keeps saying: “I saw something very small and very beautiful, something that gave me much joy.”  

The father of the prodigal son gives himself totally to the joy that his returning son brings him. I have to learn from that. I have to learn to “steal” all the real joy there is to steal and lift it up for others to see. Yes, I know that not everybody has been converted yet, that there is not yet peace everywhere, that all pain has not yet been taken away, but still, I see people turning and returning home; I hear voices that pray; I notice moments of forgiveness, and I witness many signs of hope. I don’t have to wait until all is well, but I can celebrate every little hint of the Kingdom that is at hand.  

This is a real discipline. It requires choosing for the light even when there is much darkness to frighten me, choosing for life even when the forces of death are so visible, and choosing for the truth even when I am surrounded with lies. – Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son (full quote here https://generositymonk.com/2020/01/27/henri-nouwen-learn-to-steal-and-lift-up-real-joy/

Lord, make me see thy glory in every place. — Michelangelo 

Grace Recognized

If joy is grace recognized, then I begin to see why I have had such a hard time with joy.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:9-12 

Joy = xará (χαρά) 

To me, the verses above in John have been like a Rubik’s Cube. I kept moving the parts – love, commands, joy – around, trying to make sense of them. I have written before about having trouble grasping joy. But this time, as I looked at the meaning of the Greek word translated joy above, the light broke through and I felt the last piece slide into place. 

As in the movie Princess Bride, the word does not mean what I think it means. The definition says nothing about emotions or feelings. It does not focus on me at all. But rather, it turns and looks in wonder at God. The word simply means the awareness of God’s grace and favor; it is “grace recognized.” And if joy is grace recognized, then I begin to see why I have had such a hard time with joy. 

Xará is one of three cognates of, or words that derive from, the root xar- “favor, disposed to, inclined, favorable towards, leaning towards to share benefit.” The three are xaírō (“rejoice because of grace”), xará (“joy because of grace”) and xáris (“grace” the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people because He is “always leaning toward them”).1 

If you have never felt that kind of favor inclined towards you from humans, especially from your parents, then it is hard to recognize it from God. “[T]he Bible teaches that grace is completely unmerited. The gift and the act of giving have nothing at all to do with our merit or innate quality (Romans 4:4; 11:5–6; 2 Timothy 1:9–10).”2 If all the “favor” or approval you ever received was, or was perceived to be, earned, dependent on approved performance, fulfilling the fantasies and demands of others, then the idea of unmerited grace is foreign. Certainly, joy because of grace is a mystery

The Bible is clear that God’s joy, love and grace are all bound up together in Christ Jesus. According to Romans 5:6-8, grace is a demonstration of God’s love. 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless (sick, without strength, feeble, insufficient, unimpressive), Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

I know and believe this passionately. But I am beginning to see that for a long time I have been chained, deeply and unconsciously, to the insufficient and unimpressive parts of the above translation. The recognition, the awareness – the joy – of God’s unmerited grace has been like brilliant sunlight shining down briefly through a hole in dark clouds. Like a bright light hidden under heavy blankets of oppression. Maybe that is why Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light (Luke 8:16).” Maybe it’s so that I can see it too. 

Jesus’ joy is also the awareness of this grace. The grace that demonstrates the Father’s unconditional love. The grace and love demonstrated (freely extended to give Himself away) by Jesus who would endure the cross “for the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2).  

So, joy is not just another performance – how high I can raise my hands, how loudly I can sing. It is not another opportunity to fail to get it right, to be insufficient, unimpressive. But rather, it is “merely” a recognizing, an acknowledging, an awareness of the gift offered in his outstretched hands – 

the sun on my face 

bird-joy greeting the dawn 

the unfailing Presence 

a Father’s love leaning towards me 

blood running down a wooden cross 

… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame … Hebrews 12:2 (NASB) 

He is not here; he has risen … So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy (grace recognized), and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings (Rejoice!),” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Matthew 28:6-10 

1 All definitions from Bible Hub https://biblehub.com/  

2 What is the definition of grace? Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/definition-of-grace.html  

Image, A shaft of sunlight pierces the threatening clouds, by Mark Levisay  https://flic.kr/p/J9cBSr  

Nothing Is Too Hard

Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17 

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19i 

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27 

Nothing is too hard for God. Not the hard heart of stone you are praying for. Not the hard, seemingly impossible, situation.  

The Hebrew word translated “too hard” is pala (פָלָא). It means “to be surpassing or extraordinary.” It also means “to accomplish, to arise.” It seems like God is saying, “I am the miraculous God. I created you and this whole universe. Can you say that anything is too surpassing, too extraordinary, too marvelous for me to accomplish?”  

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 8:6 

When God says “nothing is too hard for me,” I suddenly don’t hear him saying it defensively, or even trying to argue or persuade. Maybe not even trying to encourage or inspire (though that is what happens). I hear him shouting out in victory that shakes the heavens and makes the earth tremble. I hear him laughing with joy. Joy for us. Joy of marvelous love. 

Is anything too hard for me? 

For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37 (ESV) 

iSee also Ezekiel 36:26

Image, Heart of Stone by Norman Scharabatka https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heart_of_stone.jpg  

The King’s Friend

Hushai was “just” the king’s friend.

Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend. 1 Chronicles 27:33  

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV) 

These are two verses that seem strange to put together. But that is what I felt the Lord doing recently. What could these verses have in common I wondered.

  The first verse comes after a long list of King David’s royal officials and their important responsibilities. One was in charge of the king’s storehouses, one was in charge of the field workers who farmed the land, one the vineyards, another the olive and sycamore trees. There were officials in charge of the cattle and the other livestock, the king’s property, the king’s sons, and Ahithophel the king’s adviser.  

And then at the end it says, “Hushai was the king’s friend.” As a performance-oriented person, tempted to salvation by works, that jarred me. Just his friend. The word for friend used here is a Hebrew word which means friend, companion, intimate. It comes from the verb form which means to be a special friend. But still, just a friend. 

So, what does that have to do with joy and peace in believing? I decided to look into the meaning of the Greek word for joy used in Romans 15:13 and I was pretty shocked. 

The Greek word is chara (χαρά). It means “cheerfulness, i.e. calm delight.” The verb form is chairo which means “calmly happy” according to Strong’s i

This surprised me because I’ve always thought of joy as expressed like David dancing with all his might – singing songs at the top of my lungs, jumping and clapping and dancing. 

Joy always has seemed like a doing thing to me, even something I had to manufacture, some kind of outward expression. Certainly not calm delight.  

There is another Greek word for joy or rejoice, agalliao (ἀγαλλιάω). And that one does mean “jumping for joy.” It is the word that Mary used in her song of praise: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices (jumps for joy) in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). 

But the joy expressed in Romans 15:13 is a different kind of joy. It’s a believing, firm, standing on the Rock, I know-it-in-my-knower kind of joy. So, it makes sense to me for this calm delight to be paired with peace. Peace is the Greek word eirene (εἰρήνη). It means, among other things, the “tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God.” 

According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament peace is, in its widest sense, the “normal state of all things.” Wow, I love that! Peace is what is supposed to be the normal state of all things, but especially between me and God. It is peace of soul. “Peace of soul is meant in Rom. 15:13, although this peace is possible only through the saving work of God which restores our normal state … it is a positive state inseparably connected with joy and faith.” 

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 4:25-5:2 

Let not your hearts be troubled (agitated, troubled, anxious, distressed, take away your calmness of mind). Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1 (ESV) 

But what does all of this have to do with being a friend of God? It’s the “doing something” thing again. The salvation by works thing. All of King David’s royal officials had works they did. But Hushai was “just” the king’s friend. I see now that there is no “just” about it in God’s mind. 

The miraculous thing is that God wants us all to be called the King’s friend. I believe it is His ultimate goal and passion. 

I don’t know about you, but the command to be joyful has been accompanied by a certain amount of guilt for me. I am not always happy and jumpy and clappy. I get weighed down with the effects of sin and the oppression and sorrow in this world. But I know – I know – that I am the King’s friend. Calmly delighted and happy, tranquilly assured of my salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord. 

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, being the special friend of God, having peace with God, is my normal state. And that is joy. 

I have called you friends … John 15:15 

You too can be God’s friend – Salvation

i Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Image copyright Jack Bair 

Count it All Joy — His eye is on the sparrow

I have had a hard time defining, much less capturing joy. Recently I read from Augustine that Jesus is joy. Then I discovered this wonderful blog …

I do have some difficult times so often with the defining of the word JOY. I have been riding it like a roller coaster up and down, round and round, off and on for many years. I’m coming to almost believe I might just be obsessed with the subject. I simply can’t let it go. […]

Count it All Joy — His eye is on the sparrow

Rock of Joy

Lately, my heart has been heavy, so heavy, with grief and pain for a lot of reasons – personal to global. Having a real struggle with that joy thing. Crying a lot, crying out to God. Then, all in one morning, the following blogs and daily devotionals show up in my email. A gift of grace and mercy. Emmanuel.  

Perhaps you are burdened with some sort of heavy grief. It could be over someone dear to you who is suffering, in trouble, or hurting. It could be a son or daughter who is backslidden, slowly sinking into the death of sin. Or it could be a loved one facing a severe, looming financial crisis. I say to all: Jesus Christ is moved by your grief. — David Wilkerson https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/burdened-heavy-grief?ref=devos  

The Oxford Dictionary defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” Psychiatry defines anxiety as “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” Anxiety is common to humanity; it lives on a spectrum and we know it when we feel it. But what is it, really? Here’s my take: anxiety is the felt experience of being unaware of the presence of God …  “Do not be anxious about anything.” Translation: be aware of the presence of God in all things all the time. — J.D. Walt 

Are you telling me that when I sing “Joy to the Word, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King” that I am proclaiming Jesus as King and Ruler of MY life? That “Let every heart prepare Him room” actually means room in MY heart? Are you wanting me to believe that every heart that dies to self is a heart that will sing? — blogged by Beholding Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/12/18/i-adore-selah/ 

To magnify God is to look closely at him and take careful notice of his actions and attributes. Mary, the mother of Jesus, did exactly that. We read an example in the account of her visit to Cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56) … For ten verses (Luke 1:46-55), Mary magnifies the Lord, examining the reason for her joy (vs. 46-49) and looking closely at God’s attributes and actions (50-55). Never mind her relative poverty, the misunderstanding and derision of others, or the uncertainty of the future. Mary focused on God who was working a miracle within her. — Nancy Ruegg https://nancyaruegg.com/2020/12/17/marys-joy-our-joy/  

How do I choose life? I am becoming aware that there are few moments without the opportunity to choose, since death and life are always before me. One aspect of choosing life is choosing joy. Joy is life-giving but sadness brings death. A sad heart is a heart in which something is dying. A joyful heart is a heart in which something new is being born. — Henry J.M. Nouwen 

In Psalm 30:5, the psalmist says joy is found on the other side of suffering — weeping lasts the night, ‘but joy comes with the morning’ … it is just as true that my night of weeping would give way, in due time, to a tearless joy. That’s what I think the psalmist means when he says that joy follows sorrow. There are waves of sorrow and pain and loss that break, big waves that break, over the unshakable rock of Christian joy, and these waves submerge the laughter in the surging. You can feel it: the surging surf of weeping that wells up unbidden from your heart. But they don’t dislodge the rock, and the waves recede in due time, and the rock glistens again in tearless sunlight … The rock of joy is submerged in grief, but it is not dislodged, overthrown, or removed. — John Piper https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-joy-come-after-suffering-or-in-it  

Image, Rocks and Surf in Iceland by Timbu https://flic.kr/p/SwwxzG

Joy Beyond

In this dark world the shepherd needs to be our LORD.

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. Hebrews 13:23 

This verse is a little oh-by-the-way postscript to the letter to the Hebrews. It is like “and, oh yeah, Timothy has been released from prison.” The way it is tacked on at the end like that really struck me. It communicated to me that this was a common occurrence. This idea of persecution for our faith is foreign to most of us in the United States. But there are thousands and thousands across the world for whom this, and worse, is still common. I was thinking about this when I read this from A.W. Tozer speaking to the Church here in the U.S.: 

“The gradual disappearance of the idea and feeling of majesty from the Church is a sign and a portent. The revolt of the modern mind has had a heavy price, how heavy is becoming more apparent as the years go by. Our God has now become our servant to wait on our will. ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ we say, instead of ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ and the difference is as wide as the world.” — A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man 

The first emphasis keeps our gaze on ourselves. What we crave, what we need, what we think we deserve. Affliction is no longer unexceptional, it is unacceptable. The idea that “the lord is my servant, I shall not want,” keeps us in the little-lamb baby state always looking for the next blessing. When my heart’s attention is only on what God can do for me, it is easy to slide into errors like prosperity-gospel-type thinking. Trials and afflictions shake my cozy, planned-out little world and my faith wavers. 

But, the second emphasis puts our Lord on the throne (or realizes that he is on the throne). It opens our eyes and minds and hearts to Amazing Grace. The amazing, almost incomprehensible, uncontainable grace of the unfailing love of the Mighty God. Creator, King – God of gods and Lord of lords – who has bent down to pull us up out of the pit and lead us into His very Presence. Unworthy, self-centered, rebellious as we are. When the emphasis is on the LORD, gratitude and thanksgiving and praise naturally flow. We are enabled to bear the Shepherd’s rod and staff of testing and discipline willingly and joyfully. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds James 1:2 

This is a hard saying whenever, but it is especially hard when our assumption is that the job of the lord (small “L”) who is our servant-shepherd is to lead us to good pasture and quiet waters and make us feel good. 

“The prosperity gospel believes that God wants to reward you if you have the right kind of faith. If you’re good and faithful, God will give you health and wealth and boundless happiness. Life is like a boomerang. If you’re good, good things will always come back to you. Think positively. Speak positively. Nothing is impossible, if you believe …. 

“In his sermon on the mount, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will never have to deal with infertility. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive a Porsche 911. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will never have medical complications or financial hardship.’” — Rachel Chimits, Do Bad Things Happen to Godly People? i 

But if our eyes are on our majestic LORD and his Amazing Grace we can expect afflictions – In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33) – but we can consider it all joy because we see beyond – But take heart! I have overcome the world. 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 

The joy was beyond for Jesus (and that joy was us, by the way, us with him). The joy was beyond the scorning and mocking and shame. It was beyond imprisonment, testing and afflictions and suffering and death and the cross. And if we are going to persevere to that joy we need to be following our Lord (capital “L”), who is also our Good Shepherd. We can trust that shepherd through anything. We can trust knowing we will hear his voice leading and guiding. We can trust the One who has gone this way before, knowing that our hard way produces good – for us and for others – and he will be with us all the way. And if we do that, the joy beyond will be here and now too. 

In this dark time, let us follow the Shepherd who is our LORD.  

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4  

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

[P.S.] I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. Hebrews 13:20-21, 23 

i Rachel Chimits’ complete blog post here https://worldchallenge.org/blog/do-bad-things-happen-godly-people?ref=em1020 

Photo copyright 2009 by Derek Bair

The Shout

Could it be, in the place where God dwells, in eternity where there is no time, that all these shouts are the same shout echoing out into eternity?

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? … On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:6-7 

In Job 38, God asks Job where he was when the cornerstone of the universe was laid to a shout of joy. The Cornerstone is later identified as Jesus Christ. 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. Ephesians 2:19-20 

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6 

And the angels shouted for joy when this precious Cornerstone was laid. This shout of joy is one of those themes or threads that run all through the Bible.  

Jesus came to die with a shout. 

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 (NASB) 

 Jesus ascended back to heaven with a shout. 

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. Psalm 47:5 

And he will come again with a shout. 

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NASB) 

Jesus, himself, shouted out on the cross. 

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out (shouted) in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 

And you might wonder, why am I including this shout of agony and despair in the list of joyful and triumphant shouts? Because this shout is the whole reason for the joy. This shout is the whole reason we can sing and shout in victory and be overcome with joyous celebration. He died that we might live. He was rejected by his Father God that we might be eternally accepted as beloved children. This Cornerstone that was laid at the foundation of the universe, this “Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), he was God’s purpose and provision from the beginning. And looking ahead and seeing the redemption and salvation of the world, the heavens and the earth and the angels shouted the great shout of joy.  

Could it be – think about it – in the place where God dwells, in eternity where there is no time – could all these shouts be the same shout echoing out into eternity? The earth shouting for joy; the heavens shouting for joy. Even the mountains and trees shouting for joy?  

Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; For the LORD has redeemed Jacob And in Israel He shows forth His glory. Isaiah 44:23 

The Psalms say, “Shout with joy to God, all the earth!” (Psalm 66:1), and are we not also called to join in this joyful shout? Jesus says at his triumphant arrival in Jerusalem that if his disciples praising him are silent, “the stones will cry out.” Let us drown out the stones and the trees and even the angels with our joyful shouts! 

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Psalm 95:1 

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy (be overcome, cry out, shout for joy, give a ringing cry). Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness. Psalm 96:11-13  

But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Matthew 25:6 (NASB) 

Photo by Jack Bair

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