Keep Your Joy!

‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ Nehemiah 8:10 KJV

When you listen to a great choir sing the Hallelujah Chorus, you realise that Handel was inspired by God. He wrote the entire Messiah in three weeks. He said the music literally ‘came to him’ in a flurry of notes and motifs. Yet he wrote it when his eyesight was failing, and he was facing the threat of dying in a debtors’ prison because of a mountain of outstanding bills. (No such thing back in the day as ‘declaring bankruptcy’—you went to prison until you could pay what you owed… which, of course, for most people, was never.)

Most of us find it difficult to create under stress, especially when physical or financial problems are at the root of that stress. And yet Handel did. How? He credits the completion of his masterpiece to one thing: joy. He is quoted as saying that he felt as if he would ‘burst with joy’ at what he was hearing in his mind and heart. Instead of dying, as he thought he would, he lived to see his oratorio become a cherished tradition and a popular work. And he also saw it succeed in raising vast sums of money for the poor.

The Bible says, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ And one of the first things Satan will attack is your joy. He knows it’s the spiritual and emotional fuel you run on.

Jesus said, ‘These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.’ (John 15:11 KJV) Note the words ‘remain in you’. So: no matter what happens, keep your joy!

SoulFood: Jer 14–17, Luke 4:1–13, Ps 98, Pro 14:34

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2020

Today’s Readings

Jeremiah 14–17 ()

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14:1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought:

  “Judah mourns,
    and her gates languish;
  her people lament on the ground,
    and the cry of Jerusalem goes up.
  Her nobles send their servants for water;
    they come to the cisterns;
  they find no water;
    they return with their vessels empty;
  they are ashamed and confounded
    and cover their heads.
  Because of the ground that is dismayed,
    since there is no rain on the land,
  the farmers are ashamed;
    they cover their heads.
  Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn
    because there is no grass.
  The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights;
    they pant for air like jackals;
  their eyes fail
    because there is no vegetation.
  “Though our iniquities testify against us,
    act, O LORD, for your name's sake;
  for our backslidings are many;
    we have sinned against you.
  O you hope of Israel,
    its savior in time of trouble,
  why should you be like a stranger in the land,
    like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?
  Why should you be like a man confused,
    like a mighty warrior who cannot save?
  Yet you, O LORD, are in the midst of us,
    and we are called by your name;
    do not leave us.”
10   Thus says the LORD concerning this people:
  “They have loved to wander thus;
    they have not restrained their feet;
  therefore the LORD does not accept them;
    now he will remember their iniquity
    and punish their sins.”

11 The LORD said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. 12 Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.”

13 Then I said: “Ah, Lord GOD, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” 14 And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15 Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.

17   “You shall say to them this word:
  ‘Let my eyes run down with tears night and day,
    and let them not cease,
  for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound,
    with a very grievous blow.
18   If I go out into the field,
    behold, those pierced by the sword!
  And if I enter the city,
    behold, the diseases of famine!
  For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land
    and have no knowledge.’”
19   Have you utterly rejected Judah?
    Does your soul loathe Zion?
  Why have you struck us down
    so that there is no healing for us?
  We looked for peace, but no good came;
    for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
20   We acknowledge our wickedness, O LORD,
    and the iniquity of our fathers,
    for we have sinned against you.
21   Do not spurn us, for your name's sake;
    do not dishonor your glorious throne;
    remember and do not break your covenant with us.
22   Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?
    Or can the heavens give showers?
  Are you not he, O LORD our God?
    We set our hope on you,
    for you do all these things.

15:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go! And when they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD:

  “‘Those who are for pestilence, to pestilence,
    and those who are for the sword, to the sword;
  those who are for famine, to famine,
    and those who are for captivity, to captivity.’

I will appoint over them four kinds of destroyers, declares the LORD: the sword to kill, the dogs to tear, and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. And I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem.

  “Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem,
    or who will grieve for you?
  Who will turn aside
    to ask about your welfare?
  You have rejected me, declares the LORD;
    you keep going backward,
  so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you—
    I am weary of relenting.
  I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork
    in the gates of the land;
  I have bereaved them; I have destroyed my people;
    they did not turn from their ways.
  I have made their widows more in number
    than the sand of the seas;
  I have brought against the mothers of young men
    a destroyer at noonday;
  I have made anguish and terror
    fall upon them suddenly.
  She who bore seven has grown feeble;
    she has fainted away;
  her sun went down while it was yet day;
    she has been shamed and disgraced.
  And the rest of them I will give to the sword
    before their enemies,
      declares the LORD.”

10 Woe is me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. 11 The LORD said, “Have I not set you free for their good? Have I not pleaded for you before the enemy in the time of trouble and in the time of distress? 12 Can one break iron, iron from the north, and bronze?

13 “Your wealth and your treasures I will give as spoil, without price, for all your sins, throughout all your territory. 14 I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”

15   O LORD, you know;
    remember me and visit me,
    and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
  In your forbearance take me not away;
    know that for your sake I bear reproach.
16   Your words were found, and I ate them,
    and your words became to me a joy
    and the delight of my heart,
  for I am called by your name,
    O LORD, God of hosts.
17   I did not sit in the company of revelers,
    nor did I rejoice;
  I sat alone, because your hand was upon me,
    for you had filled me with indignation.
18   Why is my pain unceasing,
    my wound incurable,
    refusing to be healed?
  Will you be to me like a deceitful brook,
    like waters that fail?
19   Therefore thus says the LORD:
  “If you return, I will restore you,
    and you shall stand before me.
  If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
    you shall be as my mouth.
  They shall turn to you,
    but you shall not turn to them.
20   And I will make you to this people
    a fortified wall of bronze;
  they will fight against you,
    but they shall not prevail over you,
  for I am with you
    to save you and deliver you,
      declares the LORD.
21   I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
    and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.”

16:1 The word of the LORD came to me: “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land: They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth.

“For thus says the LORD: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the LORD. Both great and small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried, and no one shall lament for them or cut himself or make himself bald for them. No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother. You shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.

10 “And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?’ 11 then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, 12 and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. 13 Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’

14 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.

16 “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the LORD, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. 17 For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. 18 But first I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.”

19   O LORD, my strength and my stronghold,
    my refuge in the day of trouble,
  to you shall the nations come
    from the ends of the earth and say:
  “Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies,
    worthless things in which there is no profit.
20   Can man make for himself gods?
    Such are not gods!”

21 “Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the LORD.”

17:1 “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars, while their children remember their altars and their Asherim, beside every green tree and on the high hills, on the mountains in the open country. Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your high places for sin throughout all your territory. You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”

  Thus says the LORD:
  “Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    and makes flesh his strength,
    whose heart turns away from the LORD.
  He is like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see any good come.
  He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land.
  “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
    whose trust is the LORD.
  He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
  and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
  and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
  The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?
10   “I the LORD search the heart
    and test the mind,
  to give every man according to his ways,
    according to the fruit of his deeds.”
11   Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch,
    so is he who gets riches but not by justice;
  in the midst of his days they will leave him,
    and at his end he will be a fool.
12   A glorious throne set on high from the beginning
    is the place of our sanctuary.
13   O LORD, the hope of Israel,
    all who forsake you shall be put to shame;
  those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth,
    for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.

14   Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed;
    save me, and I shall be saved,
    for you are my praise.
15   Behold, they say to me,
    “Where is the word of the LORD?
    Let it come!”
16   I have not run away from being your shepherd,
    nor have I desired the day of sickness.
  You know what came out of my lips;
    it was before your face.
17   Be not a terror to me;
    you are my refuge in the day of disaster.
18   Let those be put to shame who persecute me,
    but let me not be put to shame;
  let them be dismayed,
    but let me not be dismayed;
  bring upon them the day of disaster;
    destroy them with double destruction!

19 Thus said the LORD to me: “Go and stand in the People's Gate, by which the kings of Judah enter and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, 20 and say: ‘Hear the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. 21 Thus says the LORD: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. 22 And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers. 23 Yet they did not listen or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck, that they might not hear and receive instruction.

24 “‘But if you listen to me, declares the LORD, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it, 25 then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings and princes who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited forever. 26 And people shall come from the cities of Judah and the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the Shephelah, from the hill country, and from the Negeb, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and frankincense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the LORD. 27 But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’”

Luke 4:1–13 ()

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4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

  “‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
    and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

  “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to guard you,’

11 and

  “‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Psalm 98 ()

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A Psalm.

98:1   Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
  His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
  The LORD has made known his salvation;
    he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
  All the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.
  Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
  Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
  With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
  Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
  Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together
  before the LORD, for he comes
    to judge the earth.
  He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

Proverbs 14:34 ()

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34   Righteousness exalts a nation,
    but sin is a reproach to any people.

Wed 01 July, 2020


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