Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15, NKJV)
I had occasion to rejoice and to weep with others this week. Good news joyfully shared brought joy and relief, reflection, and thanksgiving. Sad news of loved ones passing from this life brought resignation and resolution, gratitude for a life well-lived, and prayers for strength to go onward. Christians are ready to rejoice with those who rejoice. Free of envy, jealousy, and pride, we delight in each other’s good fortune. Christians are also ready to weep with those who weep. We have shed tears of sorrow with eyes of faith trained on Jesus, hanging on the cross for our sins. We know what it is to be sorrowful for our sins. Yet, our sorrow turns to joy as we remember His empty tomb, resurrected to die no more. Our hope is in Christ, so we soothe our momentary afflictions and sorrows with expectations of eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:16-18). We all walk paths of pain, regret, and loss, which help us comfort one another when sorrow comes (Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-5). Rejoicing and weeping with each other means we know each other, we share our lives with each other, and we love each other. Why do we do this? Because we are “members of each other” (Rom. 12:5).
3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:3–7, NKJV)
Jesus taught the parable of the lost sheep in response to those who complained He “receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk. 15:1-2). This slur was against Jesus and those who came to hear Him. The record shows Jesus was teaching these lost souls, not endorsing their sins. The parable illustrates the compassion of the Lord toward the lost. His work of teaching them the gospel was heaven’s work of seeking and saving the lost (Lk. 19:10). The parable also reflects heaven’s joy when one sinner who repents. We cannot escape the linkage of the sinner’s repentance to salvation. God is seeking the lost, and when the lost repent, they are “found” (saved). Instead of chastising Jesus for trying to save sinners, these complainers revealed themselves as ones who needed to repent; they needed saving, too. Like Jesus, compassion for the lost drives us to teach them the gospel, persuading souls to repent toward God and have faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).
11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; 12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord. 13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth. (Psalm 96:11–13, NKJV)
Throughout history, the Lord God has come in judgment against sin. The most notable being the flood in the days of Noah, which is a type of the fiery day of the Lord yet to come (2 Pet. 3:5-10). The Bible records God coming in judgment against cities and nations (Jude 5, 7). He stirred up nation against nation to render His punishments against their sins (Isa. 13:1, 17-22; Isa. 14-24). God’s creation in heaven and on earth rejoice when God applies His justice against evil. Righteousness and truth are His standards of judgment (Rom. 2:1-5). We dare not minimize and forget that God reigns and blesses good while calling evil to account. Jesus promised a day of judgment for all who reject Him and His word (John 12:48). If you cannot rejoice in God’s righteous judgments of truth, then it is time to repent and honor God (Rom. 2:4-5). James’ exhortation still rings true, “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (Jas. 5:8-9).
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17, NKJV)
The apostle Peter speaks of judgment commencing at God’s house. Since it has been almost two thousand years since he wrote this, we can safely conclude what started then continues to be true now. God’s house is the church (Heb. 3:4-6; 1 Tim. 3:15). So, we readily admit the church of Christ has and will undergo judgments. Judgment in this verse means “the process of judgment (separation) leading to a decision” (Vine, I:222). Peter has been discussing intense persecutions already happening to Christians. He said God’s people should not think it a strange (foreign, novel) thing when trials come upon us (1 Pet. 4:12). Instead, he exhorts us to “rejoice” since such trials are our fellowship with the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 4:13; Phil. 3:10). God blesses and comforts Christians who suffer for His name’s sake. Accepting reproach for our faith without shame, we are to glorify God in the name “Christian” (1 Pet. 4:14-16). To be ashamed of being a Christian judges us unworthy of Christ (Mk. 8:38). Suffering for one’s faith in Christ separates the faithful from those who abandon their faith to escape reproach. Thus, persecution has the effect of judging Christians. It separates the unfaithful from the righteous. Since Christians are saved through such difficulties, it becomes obvious that those who “do not obey the gospel of God” will not be saved (1 Pet. 4:17, 18).
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (Psalm 51:12, NKJV)
Joy is connected to salvation from sins. When the Ethiopian believed and was baptized “he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). The Philippian jailer and his household rejoiced after they believed and were baptized in obedience to the word of the Lord (Acts 16:31-34). God’s gracious forgiveness refreshes the soul with a joy that “no one can take from you” (John 16:22). How then could it be said that the joy of God’s salvation needed to be restored to David? Simply because David had separated himself from that salvation’s joy by his sins of adultery, deceit and murder (2 Samuel 11-12). His ability to rejoice in God’s salvation was restored because he acknowledged his sins and God washed him of his sins (Psalm 51:1-4, 7-9). We cannot sin and expect salvation and its joy to continue with us. Such would be a high-handed view of holiness that disrespects God and His justice (Psalm 51:4). Sin brings shame, sorrow and death. It does not perpetuate joy. Salvation brings joy because of the victory of faith we have in Jesus (1 John 5:4). Jesus gives His faithful disciples the joy of salvation, and exhorts all who follow Him to “be of good cheer” because He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).
33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. (John 11:33–35, NKJV)
The tender affection of Jesus is seen as He shares in the grief of Mary, Martha, and others who attended these sorrowful sisters. Jesus loved this family with warm affection (phileo, John 11:3, 36) and with active goodwill (agapao, John 11:5). By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had died four days earlier. Jesus predicted his death would be a great occasion for God’s glory to be seen and for the Son of God to be honored (John 11:4, 14). Soon, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead in a powerful display that He is the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26, 38-44). So, why did Jesus weep? Because He cares when we hurt. He comforts us in ways only the Son of God can (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16). By doing so, He shows us how to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Jesus also weeps over our sins and its effects (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 6:23). Our sin grieves Jesus (Genesis 6:5-6; Mark 3:5). Jesus weeps when people refuse His word and bring upon themselves divine judgment (Luke 19:41-44). Far from taking pleasure in the death of the wicked, the Son of God seeks to save the lost (Ezekiel 18:31-32; Matthew 18:11-14). Instead of bringing tears to the eyes of the Savior, may we repent and do God’s will, bringing joy to heaven (Luke 15:7).
And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9, NKJV)
The day of which Isaiah speaks is the great day of spiritual feasting for all people in the mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 25:6; 55:1-7). It is the day of redemption, the time of Messiah’s sovereign reign (Isaiah 2:1-4). It is the day of salvation that now exists in the kingdom of God, the church which Jesus built (Matthew 16:18-19). We rejoice in the day of salvation made by the Lord (Psalm 118:22-24). Today’s verse foretells the celebratory praise of salvation given to God by the redeemed – those who inhabit His holy mountain (Isaiah 11:9; 56:7). These “have waited for Him” and His salvation. We will share in future glory with Jesus when we continue to trust God and do not falter (Colossians 3:1-3). We are full of joyful expectation; therefore, we will wait on the Lord for the salvation He faithfully gives us in Christ (Isaiah 40:27-31). While we wait for the Lord we “rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,” confident that we will receive the goal of our faith, even the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:8-9). The prophet’s expectant praise of God by His people is fulfilled by the church as Christians worship Him “in spirit and truth” for the great salvation He has given us in the Son (John 4:23-24; Acts 2:40-42, 46-47; 1 John 5:11-13).
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20, NKJV)
We must remember to rejoice in the right things. Jesus had sent out seventy of His followers to the cities where He was about to go, giving them miraculous powers to accompany their preaching of the kingdom of God (Luke 10:1, 9). They returned with joy that “even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (Luke 10:17). Jesus rejoiced with them in seeing the power of Satan being overwhelmed by the power of God as they did His work (Luke 10:18-19). Then, He quickly turned their attention to why they should rejoice. By doing so, He turned their joy away from the potential of pride in themselves (“subject to us,” Luke 10:17) to the humble faith needed to do heaven’s work (“your names are written in heaven”). As you do the work of God and rejoice in the gospel’s power, remember you are not the source of your joy, God is. He is the One who makes your victory over Satan and sin possible. You do not write your name in heaven, God does that when you faithfully do the work He gives you to do (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 20:12, 15).