You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound.”

Psalm 4:7

 

As I mentioned in last Sunday’s Life for Leaders edition, I recently attended my son’s graduation from college. On a bright and breezy day in New York City, my wife and I joined with tens of thousands of other parents to celebrate the accomplishments of our children. They had finished college and were ready to “commence” their new life (at least that’s what we were hoping). In Yankee Stadium, where the ceremony was held, there was abundant joy.

In the agrarian society of ancient Israel, abundant joy came on the heels of abundant harvests. When the people planted their grain and grapes, they could never be sure how it would all turn out. If the right combination of factors, especially rain, sun, and fertile soil, came together, then there would be plenty to eat, and even something left over to be traded, sold, or given to the poor. When the grain and grapes were plentiful, the people rejoiced plentifully.

According to Psalm 4:7, however, the Lord gave the psalm writer more gladness than he had felt over a bountiful harvest. Sometimes this gladness was a result of tangible blessings from the Lord. At other times, the joy came from God’s presence and protection (4:8). When the “light” of God’s own face shines upon us (4:6), then we can know the fullness of joy. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we are free from cares and burdens. But it does mean that our joy is not dependent on circumstances, but rather on the love of God for us . . . something that never fails. When we live in God’s love and grace, we experience joy that goes far beyond that of a graduation ceremony or a great feast. It is, in the words of 1 Peter 1:8, “an indescribable and glorious joy.”

NYU graduation at Yankee Stadium
Photo of the 2015 NYU commencement in Yankee Stadium © Mark D. Roberts, 2015.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

When have you been very joyful?
What helped you feel this way?
Have you experienced the “greater joy” of God’s presence and favor?
When?
How might you be even more open to God’s joy today?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, thank you for the good gifts of this life, for abundant harvests, for dear friends and family, for achievements and honors. Thank you for creating me with the capacity for joy.

Even more, I thank you today for the “greater joy” that comes from you. How grateful I am that you make yourself known to me. How much I appreciate your presence and protection.

O Lord, may I live in your joy more and more each day. May I share that joy with others, drawing them into a deeper relationship with you.

I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.

P.S. An earlier version of this devotion appeared at The High Calling as “Abundant Joy!” This material is used by permission under a Creative Commons license.