At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.Nehemiah 12:27
It is proper to dedicate. And it is proper also to celebrate when God has brought us to a place of achievement. The Holy Spirit has been careful to include in this account the three aspects that make up true celebration. One of the primary elements of true celebration is the expression of joy. It is amazing to me how many Christians never appear to be joyful. They are always gloomy and grim. I am reminded of what a little girl said upon seeing a mule for the first time:
I don't know what you are, but you must be a Christian because you look just like Grandpa! There are a lot of long-faced Christians around. There are times of sorrow and sadness, of course, but Christians ought frequently to exude a sense of joy because they have something to be joyful about. Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is liking the present moment because it pleases us. But joy is much deeper and more long-range. Joy appreciates the past, the present, and the future, not because the circumstances are pleasing, but because the heart is right with God. These people were happy because the wall was finished. But they were joyful because God had helped them to finish it. Aware of God's love and acceptance, they therefore were joyful.
There is another clue hidden in this paragraph that tells us what celebration should be based on. Verse 30 tells us that purification is necessary to celebrate. You cannot do it with a hypocritical heart. It becomes a festival of empty words. Many people seem to be afraid of this word purity. They think it describes a self-righteous kind of person. But purification in the Christian life stems from the same philosophy that motivates us when we wash dishes. You do not set your table with dirty dishes, do you? God does not do His work with dirty vessels! We need a periodic cleansing of our lives and hearts. In the New Testament, it is a simple process. It is not by ritual but by confessing our faults and believing that God has forgiven them. Confess your sins. Then believe that God cleanses you, that He forgives you, that He has restored you to His favor. This is what fills the heart with joy.
There is still a third element in this that is found in verse 31. Thankfulness is always part of true celebration. These people were thankful. Are we properly thankful? Do we give thanks every day to God for the blessings we are enjoying at the moment? We are so trained by the media to grumble and complain, to insist on something we do not have, to focus on that instead of on all we do have. One of the first signs of a growing, maturing spirit in young Christians is that they begin to give thanks to God for what He has poured into their life; for the opportunities that are before them; and for the present blessings and liberties that they do enjoy. So there are the elements that make up celebration: joyfulness, purity, and thanksgiving.
Lord, forgive me for so often forgetting all that I have to celebrate. Teach me to celebrate all You have done for me with joy, purity, and thanksgiving.
How do we distinguish joy from happiness? What are three elements in celebrating life as God intended? Do our lives reflect these three elements?