Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything,
therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.
[Deuteronomy 28:47-48 NKJV]
What gives you joy? Not just something that makes you happy, but that reaches down within you and makes your heart leap with spirit-lifting exuberance. In yesterday’s meditation, No Greater Joy, we could see that for the apostle John, such joy was hearing that believers were walking in the truth of Jesus Christ.
Our small dog is prone to moping around the house, or to noisily fending off all manner of foes that threaten her sphere of influence, from pesky birds in the garden to fiendish delivery vehicles. But let her off the lead to run wild and free around the Glebe field, and her entire small frame is filled with unconfined joy in living. She swiftly transforms from fearful cowering to lively and joyful liveliness.
Small dogs are not alone in finding joy in the release from bondage. In Deuteronomy, we are shown what happens if we lose our joy and gladness of heart.
I was initially much troubled by the words your enemies, whom The Lord will send against you. This appears to present us with a vindictive God who sets harm in your way if you do not follow His way, something which seemed to contradict so much of my understanding of Him.
Looking at the word šâlaḥ, translated as ‘send’, reveals many shades of meaning, and rather than using the active interpretation of ‘to send’, has the passive quality ‘to let loose’. This changes the sense of these verses. Rather than provoking our enemies to assault us should we turn against God and serve Him no longer; Father God is himself compelled to release our enemies from the restraint in which He has held them.
This is a complex way of saying that if we abandon our life in Him, we lose our right to the abundance of everything that He bestows; all those things which His Holy Spirit gives which inspires the joy and gladness of heart in the deepest parts of us. Instead, we can find ourselves back in the old life, completely at the mercy of dark shadows and malevolent spirits which will drag us to the depths of despair, putting a yoke of iron on your neck.
Again and again, we are faced with the stark choice. Go your own way and face ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ as Shakespeare put it, or cling to the rock of your salvation, who will ‘take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them’, substituting despair for joy and gladness.
The key words here are ‘because’ and ‘therefore’. ‘Because’ we reject serving God, ‘therefore’ we serve Satan, who stands for all that is iniquity, leaving us ‘in need of everything’ because all has been lost.
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
[Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NKJV]
What we call crises, God ignores, and what God reveals as the great critical moments of a man’s life we look on as humdrum commonplaces. When we become spiritual we discern that God was in the humdrum commonplaces and we never knew it.