God’s Essential Oil – Joy!
Reading: Joshua 2-6
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. Joshua 3:17 (NIV)
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant had a very noble and serious job! As the people of Israel prepared to cross the Jordan river into the land God had promised them, and with war imminent, it was the priests carrying the ark who took the lead.
Carrying the ark on its poles, the priests stepped into the flooding River Jordan, then watched as the water ceased to flow, the water having “heaped up” somewhere way upstream. They then “stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” Considering the nation probably numbered into the millions, they must have stood there for a long time.
The ark was no doubt a heavy thing to carry, both physically and spiritually. Physically because it was covered with gold, with the lid being solid gold, and spiritually because those carrying it were in a sense carrying the very presence of God. It was certainly not a job for the feeble or the faint-hearted.
Being in the service of God is still not for the feeble or faint-hearted. It is a noble calling. But carrying the Presence of God into the world can be hard work, both physically and spiritually. Even Jesus faced hardship and suffering, with long days and endless demands placed on him from those who desperately needed to experience the Presence of God in their lives. Yet that was why he came, that we might be welcomed into the very Presence of God.
If I am to continue with my part in this noble calling, I'm going to need perseverance, to keep pushing on even when things are uncomfortable. That doesn't sound like much fun really, unless I can also get myself infused with life's “essential oil” – joy. Fortunately, God specialises in joy! Jesus came to bestow on me the “oil of joy” (Isaiah 61:3). Because the Holy Spirit lives in me, I am his dwelling place, and 1 Chronicles 16:27 tells me that “…strength and joy fill his dwelling.” (I note strength and joy are together). The fruit of the Spirit's work and presence in my life includes joy. (Gal 5:22).
I suspect that the secret to letting joy truly infuse my life is firstly to bring daily to God everything that would contaminate that essential oil – sin, worries, annoyances, frustrations, hurts – and secondly, to daily practice those three short verses that so beautifully summarise God's plan for my life: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess 5:16-18
As well, I need to pray for those who serve God in positions of leadership and responsibility in the Body of Christ. They carry a heavy load, and they deserve my respect and support.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19-20). Thank you Lord for joy. It's one of my favourite things! How wonderful that it's in joy that my strength is found – who would have thought they went together?! Help me Lord to bring to you daily everything that would make that oil of joy rancid, that you would purify joy and perfect holiness in me.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:10-12 (NIV)