Reflections on Psalm 97: Joy

Reflections on Psalm 97: Joy

I would like to reflect upon Psalm 97 which was our morning psalm three days ago on June 14 as it has a large focus on joy, which as you all know is a focus which I personally love.  I have been keeping track, and out of the first 100 Psalms there have literally been half–fifty of them–which mention joy, gladness or delight in the Lord.  I think we can say this is a theme in God’s word!  Praise God that He wants us to have His joy in our lives.

Here are the first and the last two verses of Psalm 97 (NASB): “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; Let the many islands be glad….Light is sown like seed for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart. Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones, and give thanks to His holy name.”

God simply being who He is should produce rejoicing in our hearts.  He is Lord.  He created the heavens and the earth, and therefore He reigns over them both.  He will judge the world in righteousness one day.  Evil, sin and darkness will be put away forever.  And, most of all, He has chosen you to be one of His children through your faith in Jesus Christ.

Most of us, when we are aware of God’s presence and greatness, such as during worship together or reading a Scripture that speaks to us, feel joyful.  Our hearts are lifted up and we feel glad.  The Lord intends for this to happen.  The above verses tell us that light and gladness are sown in the hearts of the righteous, you and me, by God Himself.  To sow means to plant a seed.  God plants gladness in our hearts.  To be glad is to be in the will of your heavenly Father.

God’s Spirit does this planting.  Paul echoes this theme when he wrote “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).  

What does this mean for us in daily living?  It means that joy should be a daily part of our lives.  This may seem hard to you as there is so much in the world and in our lives which are not joy inspiring but discouraging, painful, wrong and sinful. So how can you have joy when you experience so much that is dark and robbing you of joy?

The answer is the last verse of the psalm, “Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones and give thanks to His holy name”.  The Lord is the source of your gladness, not your circumstances.  You can be sad about things in your life and in the world and still experience the joy of the Lord.  He is constant and unchanging and His Spirit lives within you no matter what is happening to you.  Sadness and joy are not mutually exclusive.  We have seen this in the Psalms where both are expressed in the same psalm. 

This is a command: “Be glad in the LORD”!  What a great commandment!  God’s will is not “be sad in the world” but rather “be glad in Me”.

And this joy is activated by giving thanks.  As you remind yourself and thank the Lord for who He is and what He has done in your life, that He is with you and that your sins are forgiven by grace and faith in Jesus, your heart is moved.   He has said that He will never leave you or forsake you, that you are the apple of His eye and a son or daughter to Him.  Giving heartfelt thanks for these truths will lift your spirit.  The Holy Spirit will stir the joy of the Lord which He planted in your heart afresh. 

We need joy in this dark world.  And the Lord has given it to us, joy in Him, the loving never changing One.  Let’s say yes to being glad in the Lord and practice giving thanks and rejoicing in Him.

Father, thank you so much for desiring me to have joy and to be glad in You.  I want that too!  I choose to give thanks to You today and every day.  Please help me to get my focus on You when the things of this world pull me down.  I want to praise You in the good times and the bad.  You reign, and I rejoice!