Psalm 119 is one long and exuberant song of delight in God’s Word. Multiple descriptions of God’s Word are punctuated with repeated exultations of joy in God’s Word (Ps. 119:14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 111, 143, 162, 174).
My favorite line is “I rejoice at your word, as one that finds great spoil” (v. 162). I love the imagery of someone who turns a corner one day only to find a huge pile of treasure left behind by a marauding army – and it’s all his. Can you imagine what that would feel like? That’s how we should feel when we open the Bible. So let me suggest a number of ways in which we can experience joy in God’s Word.
We find joy in its existence: Spurgeon said, “This great joy is sometimes aroused by the fact that there is a Word of God.” There is a book in which God reveals himself. What a find! Unless God had revealed himself we could never have known Him.
We find joy in its origin: Compare your response to a letter from your utility company with the great joy of receiving a letter from an absent relative or friend. The origin of the letter determines how much pleasure it gives us. Therefore, when reading the Bible, the more we consciously realize that this is God’s Word to us, that the ultimate author and speaker of these words is God, then the more joy there will be in reading it.
We find joy in its reliability: When our new gadget comes with patchy instructions written in poor English, it’s not very inspiring is it? The unreliability of the words make us question the reliability of the gadget. But when we read the Bible, it’s an immense joy to know that this book in our hand is unlike any other publication in the world. It is 100% truth. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
We find joy in its authority: In a world so full of conflicting opinions, ideas, and ethics; in a world where everyone is right and no one is wrong; in a world where everyone does what is right in their own eyes; in a world where the most solid words are “I think…”; in such a world, it’s a joy to have God’s Word come to us with ethical authority in its “Thus-saith the Lord,” with its thou-shalts and thou-shalt-nots, and with its verily-verilys. Its certainty sweeps away all the doubts and questions.
We find joy in its clarity: Ever picked up a book and been totally frustrated at being unable to understand any or much of it? What a misery! Not so with the Bible. Although “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” (Westminster Confession 1.7).
We find joy in its sufficiency: Although we might sometimes wish the Bible was bigger, or more detailed and specific in some areas than others, God has given us enough inspired Scripture to know Him and know what to believe about Him and do in response to who He is. Our faith and duty is either expressly set forth or may be deduced from it. It lacks nothing essential to our faith and life.
We find joy in its teaching: The Christian brain especially loves to learn and the Word of God is an endless source of learning. We will never come to the point where we can say “I know it all now.” Not the most learned professor nor the most mature Christian in the world will ever exhaust its riches or plumb all its depths. And yet it’s so suitable to teach children also. As someone said it’s shallow enough for a child to paddle in and deep enough to challenge the biggest elephant.
We find joy in its grace: There could be no joy if this was a book of mere law of do’s, don’ts, guilt, condemnation, and judgment. But finding its pages packed full of grace for the guilty and mercy for the miserable, we find great joy. Many of us can take you to a text or passage that God used to open our eyes and give us new life. What laughter fills our hearts and mouths when we read the words that God used to bring us alive from the dead, to open our eyes to the beauty of Christ.
We find joy in its cleansing: It’s so good to come home to a refreshing shower if we’ve been working in a dirty yard or workshop. What an exhilarating feeling to step out of the shower and feel clean again. Similarly, as we read God’s Word it cleanses us from the filth of this world and of our own hearts (Eph 5:22).
We find joy in its strength: Sometimes we’ve faced difficulties in life and thought about giving up. Then God’s Word has spoken into our lives and given us renewed energy, motivation, drive, and enthusiasm. We are given mental strength, spiritual strength, emotional strength, and even physical strength. We are strengthened to face difficulties, to serve, and to suffer (Ps. 119:50).
We find joy in its guidance: So many times we have wondered what we should do, where we should turn, and the Word of God has made the decision clear. What joy when the fog lifts and the way ahead is obvious!
We find joy in its warnings: We are all thankful for warning signs on the road, to slow us down lest we fly off at a dangerous bend. Similarly, God’s warnings about hell should be a joy to us as they serve to keep us from danger and motivate us to show others the warnings too. We don’t resent them but gratefully receive them from the God who knows far better than we do what is good for us.
We find joy in its promises: Spurgeon said, “It is a good thing to mark your Bibles when you have received a promise. Mark the margin with T and P, and let it stand for ‘tried and proved.’”
We find joy in its suitability: It’s a constant wonder that God’s Word is so suitable to so many different people in so many different places at so many different times in so many different circumstances. As a pastor, I’m continually amazed by how the Bible speaks to every situation in our culture. It is so real and so relevant.
We find joy in its communion: Unlike any other book, as we read God’s Word, we actually enter into communion with its author, we enter into communion with God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. As we read its pages the triune God comes out of the book and into our hearts.
We find joy in its unity: One of the greatest pleasures in reading God’s Word is to see how each Testament fits the other, how earlier books shed light on later books and vice versa, and how it all fits together as part of one great and grand plan of redemption.
We find joy in its hope: The Bible is full of anticipation of a brighter and better future, holding out before us the prospect of the new heavens and the new earth in which dwells righteousness. It’s like reading a travel brochure to the world’s greatest destinations, and knowing that you are going to all of them at once.
We find joy in its songs: God’s songs in the book of Psalms have been a delight to many Christians’ souls throughout the centuries and up to this day. They thrill our hearts and soar our souls heavenwards.
We find joy in its balance: Although the Bible warns us against worldliness, it also encourages a love for this world. The worldliness that it warns us against is accepting and following the norms, the values, the philosophies, and sins of this world. But it also encourages us to value, cherish, care for, and enjoy this world, meaning this physical world that God created and still sustains.
We find joy in its worldview: The Bible gives us a lens to view the world, a framework with which to understand this world, its history, its present, and its future.
We find joy in its freshness: How many times we’ve come to read a portion of God’s Word and it comes alive so that it feels like we’ve never read it before. The old becomes new, the old story comes with new power.
No wonder David exclaimed: I rejoice at your word, as one that finds great spoil.