Many of us unconsciously share to some extent the common perception of God that portrays Him as a brooding figure focusing on whether we are obeying His laws or not. It’s hardly a joyful picture and is reflected in countless pictures of Jesus as the suffering servant weighed down with the cares and sins of humanity. As I thought about this fact recently, three scriptures came to mind which show God in a very different light, and which I plan to focus on a little more, from now on.
First, in 1 Timothy 1:11 and 6:15-6, Paul speaks of “the blessed God;” and the word “blessed” is actually from the Greek word makariou/makarios meaning “happy” – “the happy God” – which really says it plainly, although the meaning is blurred in many translations.
The next scripture that comes to mind is Luke 15:7: “ … I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Joy in heaven doesn’t mean with the angels but not with God. Saying joy in Heaven is like saying dinner at the White House. The president will be participating. When we say joy in heaven we have to remember it is God’s house, it’s His party, and we need to see this as a reflection of the personality of God. Joy in heaven is synonymous with the joy and happiness of God.
The final scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 25:14-30 – the parable of the talents. This is an interesting parable at many levels, but it’s only recently that I noticed a detail I had not thought about before. The master goes away, leaving talents in the care of his servants. At his eventual return the servant given five talents shows how he has doubled them through his work. The master then says to that servant: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Notice the master does not say “You have done well, so come and take on some of my heavy responsibility of checking on people,” but rather, “Come and share your master’s happiness!” All translations have it that way. There is nothing that lets us get away from this simple meaning.
We could probably add dozens of scriptures from the Psalms and elsewhere showing that those who walk in God’s ways are happy and that must, of course, apply to God also. Despite His compassion and care for those who hurt now, God sees the big picture. He knows what He has planned and that ultimately all the hurt and sadness of physical existence will be wiped away (Isaiah 25:8, Revelation 21:4) and that it will have been worth the pain (Romans 8:18). So God is a joyful God who looks beyond the present pain – just as He tells us to do.
So when we keep this in mind, it seems to me that in our own lives and in our portrayal of God to others we should actively work to combat the common perception of God that leaves out the obvious happiness and joy that is part of His nature. The lesson for me is that if God can be joyful because He is able to look to the end result – with God’s help, so can I.