Let us SERVE God with JOY and GLADNESS of HEART
March 2 Bible Reading: Deuteronomy Chapters 28-30
"Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you." (Deut. 28:47-48)
As we arrive towards the culmination of Moses’ leadership, God through His servant warns His people of the consequences of either obeying or disobeying Him while they dwelt in The Promised Land of Canaan. In the land of Moab, across the Jordan River which they had to cross over to enter their earthly habitation, Moses pronounces an array of blessings and curses upon the Israelites. These blessings and curses form Moses’ third address and constitute a recapitulation of the covenant demand. The blessings are in seen in the first fourteen verses (vv. 1–14), while the curses are listed in the next fifty-three verses (vv. 15–68). The point is clear: obey God and be blessed, disobey God and be cursed! The commandments and consequences get repeated many times because the children of Israel have already proven to be stubborn.
Moses had elaborated the blessings and curses according to the standard Near Eastern treaty pattern following the completion of the treaty stipulations. Three groups of punishment for disobedience are prescribed in the narrative: (1) internal calamities, such as death, despair, disease, and decline (vv. 20–46); (2) external judgments, such as defeat before the enemy (vv. 47–57); and (3) the transmission of judgment to Israel’s descendants (vv. 58–68). The threat of a severe judgment on the covenant-breaker seems to act as a stronger stimulus to correct behavior than any promise of blessing. The judgment of God is compounded in this discourse so that should they be guilty of disobedience, Israel would be cursed. Hence, the purpose of the judgments upon Israel was to show the certainty of God’s promises!
However, the expected response to God’s goodness was joy and a heartfelt willingness to do His will. If the Israelites would not serve God willingly with joy and gladness, they would instead serve their enemies in hunger, thirst, nakedness and in perpetual discontentment until they are totally destroyed from the face of the earth! Let us understand clearly that this principle holds true for us today as well.
God desires that we will have continual joy and gladness in our daily walk with Him for all that He has already done for us. This may be the reason why Apostle Paul has exhorted: "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4) We should not walk around moping, murmuring and complaining as the Israelites did during their wilderness journey (1 Cor. 10:10). Instead, God wants us to trust His providence, grace and love for us so completely that we will be witnesses of His goodness in our lives!
The joy and gladness should naturally flow out from our inner being in our daily walk and worship: “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2). “He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness” (Ps. 105:43). “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Ps. 32:11). “Let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God; yes, let them rejoice exceedingly” (Ps. 68:3).
It is God’s Word that exhorts us to "rejoice always" (1 Thess. 5:16). Moses understood this clearly when he penned the following verse: “Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” (Psalm 90:14). We need to trust God implicitly, believe His Word completely, and experience His joy continually pouring out from our hearts. However, if we do not serve God with joy and gladness, we will end up serving our enemy Satan with sadness and grief!
Today, let’s join with the Psalmist who declared: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord...to give thanks to the name of the Lord.’" (Psalms 122:1, 4)