The emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; state of happiness; exultation. The Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible for joy, exultation, rejoicing and being glad express various shades of meaning, different stages or degrees of joy. They variously denote gladness, basis or occasion for joy, dancing as with joy, spinning around with pleasurable emotion, exulting or leaping with exuberant joy, and glorying or vaunting oneself (in something).
JEHOVAH GOD AND JESUS CHRIST
Jehovah is called “the happy God.” (1 Tim. 1:11) He creates and works with joy for himself and his creatures. What he brings about makes him joyful. (Ps. 104:31) He wants his creatures likewise to enjoy his works toward them, and to enjoy their own work. (Eccl. 5:19) Since he is the Source of all good things (,Jas. 1:17), the chief enjoyment for all intelligent creatures, both mankind and angels, is in coming to know him. (Jer. 9:23, 24) King David said: “Let my musing about him be pleasurable. I, for my part, shall rejoice in Jehovah.” (Ps. 104:34) He also sang: “The righteous one will rejoice in Jehovah and will indeed take refuge in him; and all the upright in heart will boast.” (Ps. 64:10) The apostle Paul urged Christians to take joy at all times in their knowledge of him and his dealing with them, writing to them: “Always rejoice in the Lord [‘Jehovah,’ in some Hebrew versions]. Once more I will say, Rejoice!”—Phil. 4:4.
Jesus Christ, who was the intimate One of Jehovah, knows him best (Matt. 11:27) and he is able to explain Him to his followers. (John 1:18) Jesus is therefore joyful, being called “the happy and only Potentate.” (1 Tim. 6:14, 15) Out of love for his Father he is eager to do always the things that please Him. (John 8:29) Therefore, when the task of coming to earth, suffering and dying was set before him, in order that he might vindicate Jehovah’s name, “for the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame.” (Heb. 12:2) He also had great love for and joy in mankind. The Scriptures, personifying him in his prehuman existence as wisdom, represent him as saying: “Then I came to be beside [Jehovah] as a master worker, and I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time, being glad at the productive land of his earth, and the things I was fond of were with the sons of men.”—Prov. 8:30, 31.
Jesus desired his followers to have the same joy, telling them: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and your joy may be made full.” The angels had joy at the creation of the earth. (John 15:11; 17:13; Job 38:4-7) They also view the course of God’s people, taking joy in their faithful course and especially exulting when an individual turns from his sinful ways to the pure worship and service of God.—Luke 15:7, 10.
What makes God joyful
Jehovah’s heart can be made glad by his servants because of their faithfulness and loyalty to him. Satan the Devil has constantly challenged the rightfulness of God’s sovereignty and the integrity of all those serving God. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5; Rev. 12:10) To them apply the words: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Prov. 27:11) Jehovah’s people in the earth can cause God to rejoice by faithfulness and loyalty to him.—Isa. 65:19; Zeph. 3:17.
A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Since Jehovah is the Source of joy and desires joyfulness for his people, joy is a fruit of his holy spirit. Joy is named immediately after love in the list at Galatians 5:22, 23. The apostle wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, seeing that you accepted the word under much tribulation with joy of holy spirit.” (1 Thess. 1:6) Accordingly, Paul counseled the Christians at Rome that the kingdom of God did not consist of material things, so that one should be stumbled at another or should judge another on the basis of such things as what he ate or drank, “for the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.”—Rom. 14:17.
A HEART QUALITY
True joy is a quality of the heart, and can affect the whole body for good. “A joyful heart has a good effect on the countenance,” and “a heart that is joyful does good as a curer [or, “does good to the body,” NW, 1950 ed., ftn.],” says the wise writer of Proverbs.—Prov. 15:13; 17:22.
JOY IN GOD’S SERVICE
What Jehovah asks of his servants is not burdensome. (1 John 5:3) He wants them to enjoy his service. His people Israel were to enjoy the seasonal festivals that he arranged for them, and were to rejoice in other aspects of their life and worship of God. (Lev. 23:40; Deut. 12:7, 12, 18) They were to speak out about God joyfully. (Ps. 20:5; 51:14; 59:16) If they did not serve with joy of heart, there was something wrong with their hearts and their appreciation of his loving-kindness and goodness. Therefore he warned what would take place if they became disobedient and took no joy in serving him: “All these maledictions will certainly come upon you . . . because you did not listen to the voice of Jehovah your God by keeping his commandments and his statutes . . . And they must continue on you and your offspring . . . due to the fact that you did not serve Jehovah your God with rejoicing and joy of heart for the abundance of everything.”—Deut. 28:45-47.
The Christian, no less, should enjoy his service to God. Otherwise, something is lacking in heart appreciation. (Ps. 100:2) “The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold,” said one of God’s faithful servants. (Neh. 8:10) The good news the Christian proclaims was announced by God’s angel as “good news of a great joy that all the people will have.” (Luke 2:10) Jehovah’s name upon his witnesses and the truth as found in the Bible should themselves be a joy to them. The prophet Jeremiah said: “Your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah God of armies.”—Jer. 15:16.
Moreover, Jehovah’s just, right judicial decisions put into effect in the Christian congregation and in the lives of Christians are cause for joy, especially in a time when the world has thrown justice and righteousness to the ground. (Ps. 48:11) Then, the marvelous hope ahead surely gives strong ground for joyfulness. (“Rejoice in the hope ahead.”—Rom. 12:12; Prov. 10:28) Their salvation is a basis for joy. (Ps. 13:5) Additionally, there is the joy that the servant of God has in those whom he aids in coming to the knowledge and service of Jehovah. (Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19) Meeting together and working together with God’s people is one of the greatest joys.—Ps. 106:4, 5; 122:1.
Persecution a cause for joy
For the Christian who guards his heart, even persecution, though not in itself enjoyable, should be viewed with joy, for endurance of it with integrity is a victory. God will help the faithful one. (Col. 1:11) Additionally, it is proof that one is approved by God. Jesus said that when reproach and persecution come the Christian should “leap for joy.”—Matt. 5:11, 12; Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 4:13, 14.
OTHER JOYS PROVIDED BY GOD
Jehovah has provided many other things that mankind may enjoy day by day. Some of these are: marriage (Deut. 24:5; Prov. 5:18); being father or mother of a righteous and wise child (Prov. 23:24, 25); food (Eccl. 10:19; Acts 14:17); wine (Ps. 104:14, 15; Eccl. 10:19) and the multitudinous things of His creation.—Jas. 1:17; 1 Tim. 6:17.
FALSE OR NON-LASTING JOYS
Jesus speaks of some who would hear the truth and receive it with joy, but without getting the real sense of it. Such do not cultivate the implanted word in their hearts, and as a consequence soon lose their joy by being stumbled when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word. (Matt. 13:20, 21) Joy based on materialism is a false joy that is in error and will be short-lived. Also, one rejoicing over the calamity of another, even of one who hates him, must account to Jehovah for his sin. (Job 31:25-30; Prov. 17:5; 24:17, 18) A young man is foolish to rejoice in his youth in the sense that he gives in to following “the desires incidental to youth.” (Eccl. 11:9, 10; 2 Tim. 2:22) Similarly, love of merriment will bring one into a bad situation. (Prov. 21:17; Eccl. 7:4) Even the Christian who exults in comparing himself with others is in error. Rather, he should prove what his own work is and have cause for exultation in himself alone.—Gal. 6:4.
Jehovah promised to restore his people Israel after their captivity to Babylon. He did bring them back to Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E. and they greatly rejoiced when the temple foundation was laid. (Isa. 35:10; 51:11; 65:17-19; Ezra 3:10-13) But Isaiah’s prophecy (65:17) evidently has a greater fulfillment in the establishment of “a new heaven and a new earth,” in which arrangement all mankind will have joy forever under the “New Jerusalem.”—Rev. 21:1-3.
Under present conditions wickedness, sickness and death prevent full and undiminished joy. But in harmony with the Bible rule: “A wise king is scattering wicked people,” God’s king Jesus Christ will bring an end to all enemies of God and of righteousness. (Prov. 20:26; 1 Cor. 15:25, 26) Thus all obstacles to complete joy will be removed, for even “death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more.” (Rev. 21:4) Sorrow for those who have died will be completely gone, removed by the resurrection of the dead. This knowledge comforts Christians even today, who, on this account, do not “sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.”—1 Thess. 4:13, 14; John 5:28, 29.