Shout for joy…make a joyful noise…shout joyfully, all different translations making it clear that this is not about singing, it isn’t about ensuring the sound we make is beautiful, it is about throwing caution to the wind, letting go of our ‘Britishness’ and letting the joy in our hearts overflow in a way that we would generally keep under control. Can you imagine shouting for joy as this Psalm suggests? Maybe, during this time of Covid-19, your sense of joy feels fairly depleted. Maybe, you actually have rarely felt the kind of joy that would enable you to give yourself up to this kind of abandonment. Philippians is one of the most joyful books in the bible, in fact Paul mentions joy or rejoicing 104 times. And yet, he writes this book from a dingy, dark prison where he would have been flogged and shackled by the feet. In Acts, filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul and Silas sing songs of joy. Can you imagine that being your response in those circumstances? Their praise was so powerful that their chains fell off and the locked doors were opened supernaturally! So, how can we have this kind of joy in adversity? Our imprisonment in this lockdown time is hardly as bad as Paul’s must have been, and yet he found joy in his circumstances. What Paul discovered, was that his joy did not need to be anchored in circumstances but in Jesus.
In verse 4 it states, ‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise’. Consider the attitude you bring into God’s presence, when you come to worship. Is it with gratitude? So often our circumstances dictate our mood…but actually, by turning ourselves around and taking a different viewpoint, one of thankfulness and gratitude, it changes how we view the challenges we face. I was listening to swimmer Ross Edgley who took it upon himself to swim around the UK. He was asked how he managed to keep going when things were difficult, and he was being stung in the face by jelly fish. He replied that he always ensured he had hope, hope that what he was enduring now, wasn’t the end story. He also focused on just taking one stroke at a time, being in the present. So, he didn’t focus on the middle bit, the bit he might worry about…how far it was, what the weather would be like, would he be stung again by nastier jelly fish…just focused on the now and the end hope. Just as Paul chose to rethink his circumstances because he trusted in the end story, as believers who have that same hope of eternal life provided by the death and ressurection of Jesus, let’s keep our focus on him and remember ‘we are his people, the sheep of his pasture’ v3. We also have the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us in the here and now. So, whatever your circumstances, ‘Shout for joy’ and ‘Enter his courts with praise’ today.