Unblameable

Now to Him who is able (has the power)

to keep (guard, watch, protect) you

from stumbling (falling, failing, sinning, erring),

and to make you stand (stand immovable, stand firm, stand unharmed, stand ready, stand prepared)

in the presence of His glory

blameless (without blemish, faultless, unblameable)

with great (exceeding, extreme) joy,  

to the only God our Savior (Deliverer, Preserver),

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

be glory,

majesty,

dominion

and authority,

before all time and now and forever.

Amen!

Jude 1:24-25 (NASB)

He Will Circle You With Joy

For the LORD your God has arrived to live among you (is in your midst, is with you).

He is a mighty savior (He is strong, brave, valiant to save, deliver, liberate, rescue, give victory).

He will rejoice (exult) over you with great gladness (exceeding joy, rejoicing). With his love, he will calm all your fears (quiet you, rest).

He will exult over you by singing a happy song (He will circle you with joy, spin around with violent emotion, with a ringing cry, singing, shouts of praise, rejoicing, joy, triumph).

Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

Satiate us

Satisfy (satiate, sate, surfeit, fill full, glut) us

with your unfailing love (goodness, merciful kindness, faithfulness),

in the morning (break of day, coming of sunrise, the bright joy after a night of distress)

that we may sing for joy (be overcome, cry out, shout for joy, give a ringing cry of triumph)

and be glad (rejoice, exult, brighten up, cheer up, have joy)

all our days (times, years, day’s journey, yesterdays, todays, tomorrows).

Psalm 90:14 (NIV)

Command Joy

“Considering” afflictions as joy is not a victimized resignation or an unpalatable duty. It is leading with joy, commanding joy, it is taking authority [over self] and ruling, deeming, esteeming, judging my testing and trials as joy.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2-3 (NASB)

Wait! Don’t delete yet. I know, this is probably everyone’s least favorite verse in the Bible. I know I have secretly heard an accusing “You should” at the beginning of this verse. It is a very hard verse and one that I have wrestled with. Amplified a little it says:

Consider it all – each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything – joy when you encounter or fall into as to be encompassed, fall into something that is all around, be surrounded with various trials, or putting to proof, knowing that the testing, or proving or trial, of your faith produces endurance – steadfastness, constancy, cheerful or hopeful endurance.

I have been there, fallen down the hole, encompassed, surrounded with affliction and trouble. “Consider it all joy” sounds almost flippant when you are having a very hard time seeing light let alone joy. But looking at the Greek meanings of some of the words in this verse, especially the word translated “consider,” helps a lot in our understanding.

First, what is joy? The Greek word for joy is chara and means cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness.i It also means “joy, gladness, the cause or occasion of joy, of persons who are one’s joy.”ii People who are our joy, as when Paul wrote the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:20), “Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” It is the word Jesus used when he said, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 NASB). And also in Hebrews 12:2 where it says, “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.” And in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Jesus is the treasure in the field and we find Him with joy. So, we are His joy and He is ours. He promised to be with us always, through all the trials, and in His Presence there is fullness, abundance, satiety of joy (Psalm 16:11b).

The last word in James 1:3, translated “endurance,” is hupomone in the Greek. Hupomone means cheerful, or hopeful endurance, perseverance, steadfastness, constancy. The very root of hupomone is the word meno, which means to abide or remain, as in abiding in the Vine (see The Art of Remaining Present). The only way we can learn to endure or persevere through refining and pruning, is to remain present, remain in the Vine.

I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful … Remain (meno) in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me … I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15: 1-2, 4, 11 NIV)

So, it is possible to have joy in troubles, knowing that God is pruning us and that the pruning makes us more fruitful in this life, and it means that he considers us his children (Hebrew 12:5-8), and that, most wonderfully, he is always with us through it all.

And lo! (behold! see!) I am with (amid, among, together with) you always (daily, individually and collectively, all manner, all means, thoroughly, whatsoever, wholly, whosoever), to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b (NASB)

Through all those “alls” in “consider it all joy,” he is there with us.

But, the most amazing, and hardest word, in this verse is the one translated “consider.” Many English words seem wimpy and almost apathetic in comparison to the original languages. The Oxford English Dictionary defines consider, in this context, as to “regard (someone or something) as having a specified quality.” So, the verse would say, Regard troubles and afflictions as having the quality of joy. Or, it can mean “believe; think,” as in, Believe it all joy. It also means to “look attentively at,” as in, Look attentively at joy when you encounter various trials. Finally, it can mean to “take (something) into account when making an assessment or judgment.” So, the verse could say, Take joy into account when assessing or judging the meaning or value of your afflictions.

Those last two English meanings are getting very close to the Greek, but still not everything that I need when I am sinking over my head and reaching up for the third and last time for something to grab unto – all but “look attentively at,” if what I am fixing my eyes on is the joy of Jesus. But the original Greek word, hegeomai, is amazing.

I was so surprised to find out that the word translated “consider” in this verse has a prime and root meaning of “to lead.” Strong’s defines it as, “to lead, i.e. command (with official authority); figuratively, to deem, i.e. consider,” to “(be) chief, count, esteem, governor, judge, have the rule over, suppose, think.” So James 1:2 could say, “Lead with joy” or “Command joy.” It means to command in an official authoritative capacity, and in that capacity to judge or assess. It means to rule over, to govern. So, what does this mean? “Considering” afflictions as joy is not a victimized resignation or an unpalatable duty. It is leading with joy, commanding joy, it is taking authority [over self] and ruling, deeming, esteeming, judging my testing and trials as joy. This verse is not unlike the psalmist’s command to self in Psalm 42:5 (NASB):

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.

This is still not any easy thing to do. But fixing my eyes on Jesus – as the joy set before me, as he fixed his eyes on me – makes it easier. Douglas Taylor, when dying of liver cancer, wrote in his blog (Works Worth Declaring Oct. 11, 2012), “[Thomas] Watson has some very encouraging things to say [in his book, All Things for Good, 1663]. He actually affirms that afflictions make us happy. How can that be? The answer is that, if they are blessed to us, they bring us nearer to God … When the dove could not find any rest for the sole of her foot, then she flew to the ark. When God brings a deluge of affliction upon us, then we fly to the ark of Christ. Thus affliction makes us happy, in bringing us nearer to God. Faith can make use of the waters of affliction, to swim faster to Christ.”

Help me Lord not to sink in despair and self-pity, but to lead with joy, to command joy, and to swim faster to You.

i Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible ii Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

Image copyright Sheila Bair 2018

The Mutual Gaze

Have you ever seen two lovers staring into each other’s eyes, or have you been one? When my husband and I were going together we could sit and gaze into each other’s eyes forever, it seemed, without saying a word, and be perfectly happy and content. That same kind of mutual gaze appears in the Bible between God and the apple of His eye, His delight and love – that’s us!

“When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. The sweet language of experience is ‘Thou God seest me.’ When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chapter 7, The Gaze of the Soul)

“God looks at us lovingly, searching for room in our hearts. Knowing this, how can we not turn our attention to God? In the measure you desire Him, you will find Him. He so esteems our turning to look at Him.” —St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, 26.3

“Meanwhile brethren, that we may be healed from sin, let us now gaze on Christ crucified; for ‘as Moses,’ saith He, ‘lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Just as they who looked on that serpent perished not by the serpent’s bites, so they who look in faith on Christ’s death are healed from the bites of sins.” – Augustine, Tractate XII ch.3 Homilies on the Gospel of John

Have you ever seen two lovers staring into each other’s eyes, or have you been one? When my husband and I were going together we could sit and gaze into each other’s eyes forever, it seemed, without saying a word, and be perfectly happy and content. That same kind of mutual gaze appears in the Bible between God and the apple of His eye, His delight and love – that’s us!

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes (gazes at) the sons of men; his eyes examine (try, prove) them … For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright (straight, level) men will see (gaze at) his face. (Psalm 11:4 and 11:7 NIV)

At first, these verses may sound kind of scary. He is examining me to see if I am upright? Sounds like I am being judged. Can I only gaze back if I pass the test? Job 36:7 says “He does not take his eyes off the righteous.” But who is righteous? In this verse God is looking down at us, and the righteous are gazing back at Him. Sometimes God is gazing only hopefully, as in Psalm 14:2, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” He is always looking for somebody who is looking back.

But, if I had to depend on my own merits I would never be able to look him “full in his wonderful face” as in the beautiful hymn by Helen H. Lemmel, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. In my own strength I will always fall short; I will always fail and hurt those around me. But he loved us and yearned so much for us to have that relationship with him, to be able to gaze back, that he made a way through Jesus. In Numbers 21 the people of Israel were being bitten by poisonous snakes and dying. God gave Moses instructions to save them: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived” (Numbers 21:8-9). Jesus refers to this incident in John 3:14-16 when he said,

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

So just as the Israelites had to look at the metal snake and believe that it would heal them, so we look up at Jesus hanging on the cross and believe in what he accomplished there. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Me and you, the righteousness of God! He did that for us so that we could gaze back, unafraid, unashamed. In Hebrews, Paul urges us to “fix our eyes” on Jesus.

Let us fix our eyes (consider attentively, look, turn the eyes away from other things and fix them) on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy (gladness, persons who are one’s 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 NIV)

Jesus had his eyes fixed on us as he endured the cross – the “persons who are one’s joy”† – and the joyful fellowship we would have together. Let us turn away from all things that would keep us from gazing back – sin, rebellion, self-centeredness – and fix our eyes on him as we walk with him on our journey, for we are his joy and he is ours! Let us pray with David:

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4 NIV)

Keith Green put it so well.

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clear
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear

I want to take Your word and shine it all around
But first help me just to live Lord
And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to You

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

(from Oh Lord You’re Beautiful by Keith Green)

“O Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to Thee and be satisfied. My heart longs to respond, but sin has clouded my vision till I see Thee but dimly. Be pleased to cleanse me in Thine own precious blood, and make me inwardly pure, so that I may with unveiled eyes gaze upon Thee all the days of my earthly pilgrimage. Then shall I be prepared to behold Thee in full splendor in the day when Thou shalt appear to be glorified in Thy saints and admired in all them that believe. Amen.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

† Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament