What is Joy?

Losing Joy During Difficult Times

Given current events in May 2020 many have expressed losing joy during these difficult times. Instead they are experiencing fear as their primary emotion.

Joel 1:12 also speaks about losing joy during difficult times. It describes a time when the entire nation of Judah’s joy dried up.

NET  Joel 1:12 The vine has dried up; the fig tree languishes– the pomegranate, date, and apple as well. In fact, all the trees of the field have dried up. Indeed, the joy of the people has dried up!

  • Verse 1 of Joel informed us that Joel is a prophet speaking to the Israelite nation on behalf of the LORD. Verses 2-12 then describe the dire current events being experienced.
  • Verse 11 talks about the loss of the wheat and barley crops. Wheat is typically harvested in spring to early summer from a single planting that takes 7-8 months to grow. Barley may be harvested in both the spring and fall from separate plantings that need 6-7 months to grow.

Now in verse 12, the loss of grapes and figs are mentioned again along with pomegranates, dates, and apples. These fruits have harvest times ranging from June to December depending on the specific variety. If starting from seed, these fruit trees could take from two to ten years before a harvest could be enjoyed!

The verse goes even further to say that all trees have dried up!

Absolutely no produce to harvest for a long period of time is the current situation for Judah.

If the Israelites held back some seed for future plantings the earliest they could expect to have grain to eat for themselves and their animals would be in six to seven months provided it is the right time to replant barley.

Understanding the seriousness of Judah’s situation what emotions are you feeling?

How does Joel 1:12 describe the emotional state of Judah because of this situation?

Joel applies the dried-up state of the food supply to the people saying their “joy has dried up!”

What is joy?

What is the biblical definition of joy?

A word search in both the Old and New Testaments yields 171 verses that have translated either Hebrew or Greek with the English word joy. Many of the verses demonstrate joy to be exactly what is stated in the Merriam-Webster definition above.

But joy for believers both then and now has a much deeper meaning than simply having bountiful supplies, success, or good fortune. The presence of joy in a believer’s life indicates the believer has a sense of the Lord’s very presence encapsulating their journey on this earth while anticipating the future hope of eternal life. This joy is not dependent on the circumstances they find themselves navigating. Instead their joy is fully focused on who the LORD is and the promises He has provided in His Word.

If this is the case, why does Joel, via the LORD’s counsel, say the people’s joy is dried up?

What is the LORD communicating to this nation through Joel about their current circumstances as it relates to their relationship with HIM?

Throughout the last twelve verses of this chapter, Joel has been sharing God’s counsel to a nation that is in serious circumstantial jeopardy. He has graphically described their plight.

I believe the LORD, through Joel, is reminding the community of His promise to Solomon and all Israel at the completion of the temple in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

ESV  2 Chronicles 7:13-14 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The LORD is affirming that He is aware of their plight and will do something about it if they will humble themselves to pray and seek HIM and turn from their sinful ways.

How can we apply this to our current events today?

As restrictions begin to lift there are extreme opinions either in favor or against resuming a public life practice as previously enjoyed. Certainly, the most fanatical viewpoints are what make mainstream headlines in our news and social media outlets. Much of the underlying current in this is a great sense of fear. Or an extreme sense of sarcasm. Neither of which promote joy in one’s soul.

How do we keep from losing joy during these or any difficult circumstances?

I am thankful for the study on Joel these past few weeks as it has kept my perspective in check. Today’s verse coupled with the passage from 2 Chronicles tells me that my role today is the same as the role of the Israelites in Joel’s day. I am to humble myself to pray, seek the LORD and turn away from my sinful ways.

Believer, will you join me in humbling yourself to pray and seek the LORD, turning from your own sinful ways so that the LORD will heal our land and hearts to a restoration of joy instead of fear?

  • ESV  Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.
  • ESV  Psalm 4:7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. 8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

How has studying Joel been helping you?


Barbara Lynn

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