Joy in the House—Home Is Where the Heart Is
Anchor Texts: I was glad when they said unto me; let us go into the house of the Lord. Psalm 122:1
What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me? Psalm 116:12 O, give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth forever.
I called upon the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and set me in a large place. I will praise: for thou hast heard me and art become my salvation Psalm118: 1,5,21.
The Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad. 126:3
Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.4:7. For thou Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands.92:4
Finding lasting happiness and durable joy has always proven an elusive quest and the Psalmists in this regard are no exceptions to this inviolate truth. But it seems that some of these individuals for the most part have managed to buck the trend and achieve the seemingly impossible. They have, through Divine discernment, gleaned from their collective experience the necessary ingredients for a bedrock happiness that is as solid as it has proven durable. I was glad when they said unto me; let us go into the house of the Lord! Individual joy blossoms and thrives in a collective joy. This is at first blush an alarming and retrograde paradox, particularly in the current age where individual performance and individual achievement is celebrated in almost every arena of human existence. Yet this man of action, who arguably had seen the world from all sides, is declaring explicitly that his happiness, his joy reaches its zenith with the prospect of sharing in the context of God’s fellowship.
I am loath to confine the house of the Lord solely to a physical place, but regardless of technical definition, according to this psalm writer the prospect of being in God’s presence fills him with unbridled joy. Why should this be so? Is this simply the rumination of an ancient, rural unsophisticated wayfarer? Or, is this the timeless prescription for the fullest expression of life? I will go with the latter analysis, for this, a king of enduring stature, was by any measure, the antithesis of the unsophisticated. He is so certain of the prescriptive, that he declares with final resolve, that this will be the sum of his life from here onwards: … and I will dwell in the house of the lord forever! 23:6.
If this sounds like unchartered territory, it is because so few seem to venture here, much to the dismay of God. That the house of God is put off limits is an ongoing individual, as well as a collective and universal dilemma is immensely disturbing to this man who has seen the benevolent hand of God on the arc of his life. As a result this Psalmist now takes deliberate and decisive steps to remedy that dangerous and needless predicament. What does going into the house of the Lord mean? Is this a one-time or even periodic visitation or is this indicative of the trend of one’s life, the set of the sail, the new compass heading.
What does one do in the house of the Lord that perpetuates happiness? Why is this individual positively beaming at the prospect of being in the house of God? It seems mystifying that a sinner would welcome the prospect of being in the presence of God who declares: the soul that sinneth it shall die and reinforces that statement (as if it needed any reinforcement!) with this unmistakable statement of cause and effect. The wages of sin is death! I was glad when they said unto me; let us go into the house of the Lord. What am I missing here? How do I reconcile these irreconcilables? What is there in the house of the Lord that would provide a basis for my joy?
Being in the house of God is synonymous with entering into the presence of God. It is far less a physical meeting place (Acts 7:48, 17:24) than it is the opening of one’s life to the inflow of God (John 4:23, 24). With this connection established, joy, happiness and peace, the highly valued byproducts sought by every human being flow abundantly. That’s why the Psalmist is ecstatic; he understands perfectly (bear in mind that this man has seen life from all sides) and is convinced of the only right way. His joy is at once anticipatory and experiential, both intimately linked.It is experiential because the psalmist now knows what he has missed; anticipatory because he senses that there is so much more to be had now that he is connected to the source.
So, how do I appropriate this not so secret power to live my life to its fullest potential? I am after all commanded as it is to covet good things, and I do believe that this joy I do need now! For this writer, the transformation from fearful sinner to joyful worshipper came much later than I was willing to acknowledge. Despite the years of religious exposure and the practicum that naturally accrues to anyone who travels in the middle of the pack, my heart transplantation was not near the top of the list of priorities. Because I had never acknowledged that I needed a radical change, my life floated along on the passive currents of accommodation always in sight of the well-lit coastline of acceptable group norms. By an obligatory evolutionary operating system, such concerns regarding the direction and destination as well as the quality of one’s commitment are unlikely to be raised, hence the need for a meaningful shift, to say nothing of a transformation are always stillborn. That was the status quo before the Divine conquest and the adoption of a new guidance system. And now like the famous psalmist before me who found joy and gladness in the presence of God, I now have caught a glimpse of the light that shone in his heart; and this Divine illumination now safely guides my path, a lamp unto my feet, a flame in my heart. And again like the psalmists of yore, I am overjoyed at being in the presence of God, a place where forever may just be the beginning.