House of Joy
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Jesus is a joyful person. As we look at this verse, we can see that there was something that motivated Jesus to endure the terrible sufferings of the cross. He was looking past the sufferings to the time when He would be back with His Father again. What an incredibly joyous time that must have been. The Son who had been painfully tortured and murdered and who had been cut off from the presence of His Father was now risen from the dead, victorious. The Son’s mission was accomplished and now the Father whose heart had broken to have sent His Son to such suffering was reunited together with Him. There could be no more joyful time than this. What a wonderful reunion! The knowledge that He would see His Father again motivated our Savior when He was faced with the cross. Symbolically, in the temple, Jesus our Great High Priest looked past the sufferings of the altar to the joy that would be in the Holy of Holies. He knew that He would not reach the Holy of Holies without first visiting the altar. Jesus knew that there would be wonderful joy in the presence of His Father when He successfully completed His mission. It was joy that motivated Jesus to provide our salvation, the joy of pleasing His Father and being reunited with Him, the joy of rescuing untold numbers of people from sin, and the joy of the glory to come.
The religions that man has fashioned often pervert the worship of God to be pompous and stuffy. This type of worship does not represent what Jesus was like at all. As we examine the gospels we see Jesus frequently doing the opposite of what the religious people of His time thought He should be doing. If Christ were on earth today, I am sure that the same would still be true. Christ would not be considered good enough for many churches today because He would not conform to their dead, pretentious, and joyless religious ritual.
As we look at Jesus the way the gospels portray Him, we see joy in many ways. When He was born, the angels joyously proclaimed His birth to the shepherds. We see Jesus at the start of His ministry going to a wedding, a joyous celebration. We see Him taking the time to play with children. We see Him rescuing the disciples from drowning in a storm. We see him healing many people with disabilities. Surely these were all joyous occasions. When you read the gospels, watch for the many signs of joy in our Savior’s life.
Jesus wants to live in a joyful place. Since Jesus is a joyful Person, it should not surprise us to find that it is His desire to have joy in the place where He lives. We can see that the place where Jesus lives is joyful as we read the description of heaven in Revelation. Heaven will be filled with joy. We can also see Jesus’ desire to have joy in His dwelling place as we look at the design of the house of God. Even the building site was a joyful place.
“Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea the Lord will dwell in it forever.” Psalms 68:16
When we examine the architectural details of the temple building, we can see joy springing up all around us. The whole place is alive and teaming with joy.
First let’s look at the altar. At first glance, the altar does not seem to be a joyous place since the sacrifices took place there. Animals were killed in this place, how can that be joyful? Consider, however, the joy of knowing that you are forgiven. How could there be joy in the heart that is bearing the burden and guilt of sin? Consider the joy of thanksgiving in the hearts of those who brought offerings out of gratitude to their God. The altar did not have joyful things taking place there, but the result of what did take place was joyful. Without Jesus going to the altar of the cross, we would not be forgiven. With no forgiveness, we could not know God and there would be no true joy. If there were no altar, the temple would not be a joyful place. The cross was awful, but the result was joyful, because now we can know God; now we can fellowship with God without sin getting in the way; now we can be in the presence of God.
The second item we come to is the great sea. It is easy to see the joy in this item with its beautiful brim like a flower. It is joyful to be made clean. When I was growing up on the farm, I remember how dirty I would get after a day of hard work baling hay. I would be covered with itchy dust and sweat. It was extremely refreshing to wash and be made clean. When we are covered with the filth of sin and then wash in the Word and are made clean, it is refreshing and joyful.
“Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:3
As we approach the temple and look up we see the great golden heights of the porch gleefully leaping to the sky in joyous praise of our Savior’s love.
There, in front of the porch are the pillars that look like trees. They bear great numbers of fruit. These are not like the tree that Jesus cursed because He couldn’t find fruit on it. No, these trees are loaded, and their fruit is beautiful, surely they will be blessed. As we look closer, we realize that the fruit is the fruit of the Spirit, and that some of the fruit is joy itself.
As we walk into the temple building, we see the doors lifting up their heads looking for the hope of the joyous return of Jesus.
As we admire the beautiful carvings on the walls we see the theme of joy shining through as well. The knop is doing its work, joyfully scattering seed, looking forward to seeing some of the seed sprout, spring forth from the ground, and bear a bountiful crop of its own. The flower blossoms in the radiating warmth and pure, shining, glorious light of the loving Savior. The palm tree waves triumphantly in the wind as the King passes by. And the cherubim soar in elation to think that they can be in the presence of God.
Gold covers everything. We are rich, joyously rich, beyond comprehension! God has given us the most precious covering.
Ahead of us, we see the remains of the veil, and we marvel at the strength of character of the One who tore it. What grace that God would do this for me! What joy that God wants us to come before Him!
Finally, as we enter the Holy of Holies and see the Ark of the Covenant we realize that we are in the very real presence of God Himself. We know that in the ark, at the heart of Who He is, God has kept His Word. What a wondrous joy to know that our Lord is faithful to His Word. It is the basis upon which we have life.
The grand statues of cherubim on either side are spreading their wings in all encompassing triumph as victors in an army would raise their arms after winning a battle. Yes, God has won the battle; Jesus is victorious over Satan! Hallelujah, let us celebrate with Him. Satan has no hold on us. Christ, the great and glorious King, reigns over all!
We see joy radiating forth from every corner of the architectural details of the temple building. Every one of our senses shouts for joy. Take a deep breath now. Since cedar wood was used in its construction, the temple even smells joyful. Listen… You can hear musical instruments. There are cymbals, harps, lyres, and trumpets, lots of them. And there is the grand choir singing its anthem, “For He is good, for His mercy endureth forever!” If the choir did not sing, every stone of the building would erupt into jubilant praise. Our heart overflows with tears of gratitude. The whole building is jam-packed, filled to bursting, with light and glory and thanksgiving. This is the type of house God wants to live in, a house of joy. Every bit of this joy is in celebration of the infinitely wonderful God who dwells here.
People can be a house of joy. There are some examples of people in the Bible who were houses of joy. God wants us to realize that we can be houses of joy as well.
In the book of Luke chapter two we see a man named Simeon in the temple when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus as a baby there to be circumcised. As we read the story we realize that this man seems to bear interesting similarities to a door in the temple.
“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.” Luke 2:25
From this we know that Simeon was looking for Jesus to come. The title of Consolation of Israel that is used here is referring to the Messiah. Simeon was lifting up his head looking for the special One, the anointed One, who would bring salvation not only to Israel, but to the whole world. We know from the things that Simeon said that he was full of joy at the appearance of his Lord. Simeon felt that the purpose of his life was fulfilled and that he could now die in peace with assurance that God had sent Jesus to provide salvation. Nothing that could ever happen in the rest of his life would ever be able to top this wonderful joyous occasion. As Simeon held the baby Jesus in his arms he said:
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32
Now notice something fascinating. The doors to the temple were double doors. Simeon was not the only one who was lifting up his head and looking for the appearing of the Lord. In the story we are also told about a woman named Anna who appears to be the second door in this picture. She had been lifting up her head in hope looking for the coming of the Messiah as well. She gave thanks to God for sending Jesus. She was excited about Whom she had found and with joy in her heart told others who were also looking for the Savior to come.
Both Anna and Simeon were helping the temple to be a house of joy for Jesus. The reason for their joy is that they were in the presence of God and they realized it. This is the key to being a joyful person. A joyful person is one who understands that they live in the presence of God. God’s presence is very real to them. A joyful person is looking forward to the day when they will be in God’s presence more fully when they see Him someday, face to face. Psalm 16:11b says “…in thy presence is fullness of joy…”
There are many verses in the Bible which describe Jerusalem or the house of God as a place of joy. (For example: Nehemiah 12:43; Psalm 27:6; 42:4; 137:6, Isaiah 32:13; 65:18, 19; Lamentations 2:15; Luke 24:52, 53) Jerusalem was the city where the temple was located. Jerusalem is described as a place of joy, because that was the place where God’s presence was. There is joy in the presence of God.
Before Jesus was born, when Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she went to visit her cousin, Elisabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. When Mary entered the house and greeted Elisabeth, John the Baptist leaped wildly for joy in Elisabeth’s womb. There is joy in the presence of our God.
Notice something interesting here. God wanted to demonstrate that there could be joy in the hearts of all people. Notice the range of people God included in these stories.
We see an age range from those like John the Baptist who are so young that they aren’t even born yet, to those who like Simeon are so old that they are expecting to die soon.
Both men like Simeon and women like Anna can have joy in the presence of Jesus.
We also know from the statement that Simeon made that both Jews and Gentiles were included. “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” We see the rich, well-educated wise men as well as the poor uneducated shepherds rejoicing in the presence of Jesus. God has made it clear that no one is to be excluded from the joy of being in the presence of His Son.
How can we do this? How can we live more fully in God’s presence? God is omnipresent. He is already everywhere, but He makes His presence known in a special way to those who draw near to Him. The Bible says that when we trust in Jesus as our Savior, God’s Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts. The closer we walk with God in fellowship with Him, the more real His presence becomes in our lives. If we would like to have joy more fully in our lives, then we need to live lives that God would be pleased to draw near to. The more we learn to love God, the more God will reveal Himself to us. Notice that Anna, Simeon, John the Baptist, and the shepherds were joyful when Jesus was revealed to them in some way. The following verse brings out the importance of showing God that we love Him by keeping His commandments. As we show our love to God, He will reveal Himself to us more fully and we will live a joyful life.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John 14:21
In the third chapter of the book of Acts we find a story of a man who appears to be curiously similar to the porch of the temple in many ways. Peter and John had gone to the temple to pray. As they approached the temple, they saw a lame man lying at the gate to the temple. When the lame man saw Peter and John, he asked them for alms. Peter told the man that he did not have silver or gold, but that he would give the man what he had. Peter said “…In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6b) Peter then grasped the man’s hand “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.” (Acts 3:8,9) The people then ran to see the man in Solomon’s porch, and Peter preached to them.
How, you might wonder, is the lame man like the porch? How are we like the porch? How does joy fit in?
1. First, we see that the man’s condition was hopeless. The man was lame. He could not walk. This is a picture of us before we are saved. Before trusting Christ, we are miserable and needy, unable to reach God by ourselves, unable to walk with God. The Bible states that the man had been lame since the time he was in his mother’s womb. All of us are sinners since the time we were conceived. Psalm 51:5 says “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The man had never known the joy of leaping when he was playing as a child. The man had never known the joy of walking with someone he loved. Those who are lost in sin have never known the joy of leaping in praise to God. They have never known the joy of marveling at God’s love as they walk with Him. There was nothing that any doctor could have done to help the lame man recover. Without God, there is nothing that any psychologist or any other person can do to remove the guilt of sin. There is nothing any human being can do to make us whole.
The man’s location. The man was laid daily “at” the gate of the temple. The man was not inside of the temple. Before we trust Christ, we are not in the temple. Though we may long after it, we do not know the joy of being in God’s special presence.
2. Secondly we will look at the healing of the man. When the man was healed, we see Peter reaching down with his right hand, grasping the man’s hand and lifting him up. This serves as a beautiful picture of what God has done for us. We were unable to rise up out of sin by ourselves. The Right Hand of God reached down, lifted us up and made us whole. Jesus is the Right Hand of God. It was through Jesus that God reached out to mankind and offered us His Hand that we might be lifted up.
- Thirdly, we see the hallelujahs of the man.
When the man was healed, we see him doing three things: leaping, walking, and praising God. First let’s look at the leap.
The leap of joy. This is where we start to get the idea that this man might be like the porch on Solomon’s temple. How high do you think that this man would have leapt if it had been possible? Even though the man was not physically able to leap as high as the porch on Solomon’s temple, the man was so overjoyed that his spirit was rocketing to great heights. As we look at the grand height of a hundred and eighty feet that was used in the porch of Solomon’s temple, we realize that architecturally the porch on Solomon’s temple was a picture of a leap toward the sky. The man’s leap was pure joy. Architecturally, the grand porch appears to also have been a leap of pure joy.
Walking toward God The man was not only leaping, but also walking. Where did the man head after he was healed? The story of the lame man took place in Herod’s temple, not Solomon’s, but after he was healed, we see the man in a structure in Herod’s temple called “Solomon’s porch.” This porch in Herod’s temple did not approach the height of the porch that was at the front of Solomon’s temple. I think, however, that by mentioning this location, God may perhaps be giving us a clue to help us to realize that this man is similar to the porch on Solomon’s temple. Notice that at this point the man had walked inside the temple and in doing so had moved closer to the presence of God. After we are saved, and the Lord lifts us from the depths of sin, we should begin walking toward Him, drawing nearer to God.
The Bible says that all the people saw the man. They knew who he was, were amazed at what had happened and came running to see the miracle. This was not just a few people. The Bible says that there were about five thousand men there. Could you imagine that great crowd running? Their reaction of amazement reminds us of the great height of the porch on Solomon’s temple in that everyone saw it, and must have been amazed by its height and would have wanted to come see it more closely. Everyone saw the man and everyone was amazed by what had happened. What did God want all the people to see? What did He want to attract them to behold?
First, the people saw the change in the man who used to be lame. He used to be helpless, having to be carried around by others, having to lay around all day. Now he was leaping and walking. He used to live a life of drudgery because of his disability, but now he was excited and joyful, praising God. He used to beg, but now he gave thanks for what God had done. The sudden change in this man, the leap upward, is what caught the people’s attention. The great height of the porch on Solomon’s temple, the architecturally abrupt leap skyward is what caught the attention of all who passed by.
Now how should we be like this? When we trust in Christ, there should be a sudden change in our lives. We who were once so attached to earthly things are suddenly vaulting toward heavenly things. We who were hopeless suddenly find new hope and live a life of joyful praise to God. We who were stuck outside of the temple are now in the temple and are walking toward God. We who were so crippled by sin are now spiritually healthy, freed from sin, and rejoicing. When the world sees a sudden change in us after we trust in Christ, we can be like this man; we can be a porch that all the people see.
Secondly, notice that after the man was healed, the sacrificial love of Christ was displayed for all to see. As Peter, John, the healed man, and all the people stood on Solomon’s porch, Peter began preaching, revealing the sacrifice of Christ to the people. Peter told the people that they had killed the Savior and called on them to repent and have faith in Christ so that they might be saved. Symbolically the porch on Solomon’s temple lifted high the gold, appearing to represent the sacrifice of Christ. In a similar way, Peter lifted high the story of the sacrifice of Christ at this event for all the people to see. This is what God wants us to do as well. When people notice the change in our lives and are curious about what happened, we need to lift high the story of the sacrifice of Jesus so that they can see it and know the way to salvation.
A thankful heart for a changed life Not only do we see the man leaping and walking, but he was also praising God. His life had been changed in an awesome way. He had a thankful heart as he entered into the temple, into the presence of God.
“Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” Psalm 95:2
Thanksgiving is another key if we would live a joyful life. A joyful person is focused on what God has done for him. He does not dwell on all of his problems. God has been so good to us if we would but think about it and realize it. The Bible is full of blessings that the Lord has provided to us. If you need joy in your life, start thinking about the positive things that God has already done for you. Pray to God; sing to God with thanksgiving from the heart.
You can be a house of joy. Perhaps you are thinking that you could never have joy like Simeon or Anna or the lame man who was healed. Maybe you are thinking that your life is too full of problems to be joyful, but that is not the case. You can be a house of joy just as much as they were. Joy is not a giddy happiness. Joy goes deeper.
Even though you might be going through the most difficult time of your life, you can still have true joy in your heart. As we have seen, joy comes by living more fully in the presence of God. This is shown by Psalm 16:11b which says “…in thy presence is fullness of joy…” We can have joy because we know that the One who loves us more than anyone else is there walking with us. We can sense His presence in our lives. We know that He is aware of what is going on in our lives and that He cares. We know that no matter what happens He is carefully crafting our lives to be something glorifying to God.
God doesn’t want us to try to set our roots back down into this world; no, we have been set free from the world. The person who has joy is celebrating the freedom he has from sin and the world. God wants the person who has been set free from sin to celebrate his freedom with joy walking closely with God, every day becoming more holy in the sight of God.
The joyful person is trusting Jesus. The joyful person is resting all of his weight on the foundation. When we rest all of our weight on the foundation, there is no weight in our heart, and joy is the result. Jesus has borne the weight of guilt, the weight of sin, the weight of death, and the weight of all our cares. The souls of those who are weightless soar with joy! Let us trust in the Master Carpenter. He knows what He is doing in our lives as He shapes us to be in His image.
We can have joy in our lives as we walk each day in obedience to God, turning from sin and trusting in Him with thanksgiving in our hearts.
“O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee, but I have known Thee. Joy, joy, joy. Tears of joy.” Blaise Pascal1