The Joy of Jehovah Is Our Stronghold
“This day is holy to our Lord, and do not feel hurt, for the joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.”—NEHEMIAH 8:10.
1, 2. (a) What is a stronghold? (b) How did David show that he took refuge in Jehovah?
JEHOVAH is an incomparable stronghold. And what is a stronghold? It is a fortified place, one of security or survival. David of ancient Israel considered God to be his stronghold. For instance, consider the song that David directed to the Most High “in the day that Jehovah had delivered him out of the palm of all his enemies and out of the hand of Saul,” the king of Israel.—Psalm 18, superscription.
2 David began that moving song with the words: “I shall have affection for you, O Jehovah my strength. Jehovah is my crag and my stronghold and the Provider of escape for me. My God is my rock. I shall take refuge in him, my shield and my horn of salvation, my secure height.” (Psalm 18:1, 2) Unjustly outlawed and pursued by King Saul, upright David took refuge in Jehovah, just as a person may run into a fortified place to survive some calamity.
3. Why did the Jews of Ezra’s day experience “great rejoicing”?
3 The joy that Jehovah gives is an unfailing stronghold for those walking in his way as integrity keepers. (Proverbs 2:6-8; 10:29) To have God-given joy, of course, people must do the divine will. In this regard, consider what happened in Jerusalem in Ezra’s day. The copyist Ezra and others imparted understanding through a meaningful reading of the Law. Then the people were urged: “Go, eat the fatty things and drink the sweet things, and send portions to the one for whom nothing has been prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord, and do not feel hurt, for the joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.” “Great rejoicing” resulted as the Jews applied the knowledge they had gained and held a joyous Festival of Booths. (Nehemiah 8:1-12) Those who had ‘the joy of Jehovah as their stronghold’ gathered strength for his worship and service. Since the joy of Jehovah was their stronghold, we should expect God’s people today to be joyful also. What, then, are some of their present-day reasons for joy?
“Nothing but Joyful”
4. What is one outstanding source of joy for Jehovah’s people?
4 One outstanding reason for joy is the provision Jehovah makes for assembling together. The assemblies and conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses bring them joy today, just as the annual festivals held by the Israelites brought joy to their hearts. The people of Israel were told: “Seven days you will celebrate the festival [of booths] to Jehovah your God in the place that Jehovah will choose, because Jehovah your God will bless you in all your produce and in every deed of your hand, and you must become nothing but joyful.” (Deuteronomy 16:13-15) Yes, God wanted them to “become nothing but joyful.” The same is true of Christians, for the apostle Paul urged fellow believers: “Always rejoice in the Lord. Once more I will say, Rejoice!”—Philippians 4:4.
5. (a) What is joy, and how do Christians acquire it? (b) How can we have joy despite trials?
5 Since Jehovah wants us to be joyful, he gives us joy as one of the fruits of his holy spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) And what is joy? It is the delightful emotion caused by the expectation or acquisition of good. Joy is a state of true happiness, even exultation. This fruit of God’s holy spirit sustains us under trial. “For the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) The disciple James wrote: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance.” But what if we do not know what to do about a certain trial? Then we can confidently pray for wisdom to deal with it. Acting in harmony with heavenly wisdom enables us to resolve problems or to cope with persistent trials without losing the joy of Jehovah.—James 1:2-8.
6. What relationship exists between joy and true worship?
6 The joy that Jehovah gives strengthens us to promote true worship. That is what happened in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra. Jews of that time who had the joy of Jehovah as their stronghold were strengthened to further the interests of true worship. And as they promoted the worship of Jehovah, their joy increased. The same is true today. As worshipers of Jehovah, we have grounds for great rejoicing. Let us now consider a few more of our many reasons for joy.
Relationship With God Through Christ
7. Regarding Jehovah, what reason do Christians have for joy?
7 Our close relationship with Jehovah makes us the happiest people on earth. Before becoming Christians, we were part of unrighteous human society that is ‘in darkness mentally and alienated from the life that belongs to God.’ (Ephesians 4:18) How glad we are that we are no longer alienated from Jehovah! Of course, it takes effort to remain in his favor. We must “continue in the faith, established on the foundation and steadfast and not being shifted away from the hope of that good news.” (Colossians 1:21-23) We can rejoice that Jehovah drew us to his Son in accord with Jesus’ own words: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) If we truly appreciate our precious relationship with God through Christ, we will guard against anything that could ruin it.
8. How has Jesus contributed to our joyful state?
8 Forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice is a great cause of joy because this is what makes our relationship with God possible. By his willful course of sin, our forefather Adam brought death upon all mankind. However, the apostle Paul explained: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul also wrote: “As through one trespass the result to men of all sorts was condemnation, likewise also through one act of justification the result to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life. For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners, likewise also through the obedience of the one person many will be constituted righteous.” (Romans 5:8, 18, 19) How joyful we can be that Jehovah God is pleased to redeem those of Adam’s offspring who avail themselves of such a loving provision!
Religious Freedom and Enlightenment
9. Why are we joyful from a religious standpoint?
9 Freedom from Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, is another reason to be joyful. It is divine truth that has set us free. (John 8:32) And freedom from this religious harlot means that we do not share in her sins, experience her plagues, and end up in destruction with her. (Revelation 18:1-8) There is nothing sad about escaping all of that!
10. What enlightenment do we enjoy as Jehovah’s people?
10 Understanding and applying God’s Word in life are causes of great rejoicing. Free from false religion’s influence, we enjoy ever-clearer spiritual insight provided by our heavenly Father through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Of all the people living on the earth, only those exclusively devoted to Jehovah have his holy spirit and the blessed comprehension of his Word and will. It is as Paul said: “It is to us God has revealed them [the things he has prepared for those who love him] through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10) We can be both grateful and joyous that we are enjoying the progressive understanding indicated in the words of Proverbs 4:18: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.”
Kingdom Hope and Life Eternal
11. How has the joyful Kingdom hope been shared with others?
11 Our Kingdom hope also makes us joyful. (Matthew 6:9, 10) As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have long proclaimed that God’s Kingdom is the only hope for all mankind. For instance, consider the year 1931, when we embraced the name Jehovah’s Witnesses by a resolution joyously acclaimed at 51 conventions around the world. (Isaiah 43:10-12) That resolution and a significant convention address by J. F. Rutherford (then president of the Watch Tower Society) were published in the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World. Included in it was another resolution adopted at that convention, one indicting Christendom for her apostasy and for treating Jehovah’s counsel with contempt. It also proclaimed: “The hope of the world is God’s kingdom, and there is no other hope.” Within a few months, Jehovah’s Witnesses distributed over five million copies of this booklet in all parts of the earth. Since then we have often affirmed that the Kingdom is mankind’s only hope.
12. What joyous life prospects are set before those serving Jehovah?
12 We rejoice, too, in the prospect of eternal life under Kingdom rule. The “little flock” of anointed Christians have a joyous heavenly hope. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” wrote the apostle Peter, “for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” (Luke 12:32; 1 Peter 1:3, 4) Today, the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses look forward to life everlasting in Paradise within the Kingdom’s domain. (Luke 23:43; John 17:3) No other people on earth have anything to compare with our joyful prospects. How we should cherish them!
A Blessed Brotherhood
13. How should we view our international brotherhood?
13 Being a part of the only God-approved international brotherhood is also a source of great joy. Happily, we have the most desirable associates on earth. Jehovah God himself pointed to our day and said: “I will rock all the nations, and the desirable things of all the nations must come in; and I will fill this house with glory.” (Haggai 2:7) True, all Christians are imperfect. However, Jehovah has drawn such individuals to himself through Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) Since Jehovah has drawn to himself people he considers desirable, our joy will abound if we show them brotherly love, esteem them highly, cooperate with them in godly pursuits, uphold them in their trials, and pray in their behalf.
14. What encouragement can we draw from 1 Peter 5:5-11?
14 All of this will contribute to our joy. Indeed, it is the joy of Jehovah that is the stronghold of our spiritual brotherhood throughout the earth. Yes, all of us suffer persecution and other hardships. But this should draw us together and give us a sense of unity as part of the one genuine organization of God on earth. As Peter said, we should humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, throwing all our anxiety upon him in the knowledge that he cares for us. We need to be watchful because the Devil seeks to devour us, but in this we are not alone, for Peter adds: “Take your stand against him, solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” And this joyful international brotherhood will never collapse, for we have the assurance that ‘after we have suffered a little while, God will finish our training and will make us firm and strong.’ (1 Peter 5:5-11) Think of it. Our joyful brotherhood will last forever!
A Life of Purpose
15. Why can it be said that Jehovah’s Witnesses have a purposeful life?
15 Joy is ours in this troubled world because we have a purposeful life. We are entrusted with a ministry that makes us and others happy. (Romans 10:10) It surely is a joyous privilege to be God’s fellow workers. In this regard, Paul said: “What . . . is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow. Now he that plants and he that waters are one, but each person will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.”—1 Corinthians 3:5-9.
16, 17. What examples can be cited to prove that Jehovah’s people have joyous lives of purpose?
16 Many examples could be cited to show that serving Jehovah faithfully results in a purposeful life that fills us with joy. Typical is this statement: “I looked around the filled Kingdom Hall [on the day of its dedication program] and could see eight members of my family present, including me and my wife and three of our children and their mates. . . . My wife and I have really had a happy, purposeful life in the service of God.”
17 It is also heartening to realize that at any age a person can embark on a joyous life of real purpose in Jehovah’s service. For example, a woman who learned Bible truth in a nursing home was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the age of 102. She thus finished her life with joyful purpose, ‘fearing the true God and keeping his commandments.’—Ecclesiastes 12:13.
An Unfailing Stronghold
18. What might be done to overcome despondency and to increase our joy?
18 The joy of Jehovah is an unfailing stronghold for the faithful. Yet, having this joy does not mean that we will never have dark hours like those that moved Jesus to say in Gethsemane: “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death.” (Mark 14:32-34) Suppose despondency has resulted from our yielding to selfish pursuits. Then let us change our life-style. If our joy has diminished because we unselfishly bear a heavy load of Scriptural responsibilities, perhaps we can make adjustments that will relieve stress and restore our joyous spirit. Moreover, Jehovah will bless us with joy if we seek to please him by vigorously resisting the sinful flesh, the wicked world, and the Devil.—Galatians 5:24; 6:14; James 4:7.
19. How should we view any privileges we have in God’s organization?
19 For reasons we have discussed, and for many others, we have great joy. Whether we are congregation publishers or are sharing in some form of the full-time service, all of us can have plenty to do in the Lord’s work, and this is sure to contribute to our joy. (1 Corinthians 15:58) Whatever privileges we have in Jehovah’s organization, let us be thankful for them and joyfully continue to render sacred service to our loving, happy God.—1 Timothy 1:11.
20. What is our greatest privilege, and of what can we be certain?
20 Especially do we have reason to rejoice in our privilege of bearing Jehovah’s great name as his Witnesses. Yes, we are imperfect and face many trials, but let us keep in mind our wonderful blessings as Jehovah’s Witnesses. And remember, our dear heavenly Father will never fail us. We can be sure that we will always be blessed if the joy of Jehovah is our stronghold.
How Would You Reply?
□ What is “the joy of Jehovah”?
□ How do Christians acquire true joy?
□ What are some reasons why Jehovah’s Witnesses are joyful?
□ Why is the joy of Jehovah an unfailing stronghold?