REJOICING OVER GOD'S WILL
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There is a Jewish custom referred to a “Rejoicing Over the Law.” It occurs on the final day of the feast of Tabernacles. It is a time of the wildest rejoicing.
Not being a Jew by birth, I have my own celebration which I call “Rejoicing Over God’s Will.” I celebrate it all the time.
I will tell you what got me started on this essay. I awoke from a nap saying to myself, “How wonderful God’s will is. How perfect in every way. How wise. How fruitful. How peaceful. How loving, How righteous. How holy.”
I thought, I should write an essay on this topic so other people would find joy in doing God’s will.
As I have written in several other essays, this business about God’s will began when I was in the Berean School of the Bible, in San Diego. It was at South Boundary Street, on the north edge of National City, as I remember.
I had been a Christian for maybe two or three years, having been converted while serving in the Marine Corps during World War Two. I have no church background, no church experience, except for a brief time of singing in a boy’s choir in the Episcopal Church on the green in West Haven, Connecticut.
One of the common beliefs of the teachers and students at the Bible school was that while we are in the world we have to sin. No one is perfect. No one does God’s perfect will. The world is waiting for someone to do God’s perfect will.
I was a fervent Christian and I did not like the idea of always feeling guilty of sin. I did not like this at all! So I decided to put an end to it.
During one recess I got alone with God and I made this declaration: I said, “God, I want to do your perfect will. If You will help me, I will do whatever you say. As long as I am alive on the earth You will not be able to say You could not find someone to stand in the gap and make up the hedge before you.”
Several months later some of us Bible students were at a missionary service at Sixth and Fir, the large Assembly of God church in downtown San Diego. When the altar call came, I went forward. I was not married at the time. I said to the Lord, “I will go wherever You want me to go. Just say the word.” At the time the pianist was playing parallel octaves with great facility, I remember that. Suddenly I felt the Lord was going to speak to me. Did you ever have that feeling? So I turned over on my back next to the altar to listen to what God would say. I expected a grand pronouncement, like “you are going to have to go to Tibet wearing only a sweater.” What ideas about God we have! This took place about 1948. What God said was—and I remember it to this day in 2012: “I love you.”
That was it. I knew it was the end of the conversation. Back to recess at the Assembly of God Bible school.
After having made this somewhat sassy but sincere declaration to the Lord, recess was over and I went back into class. No student knew, of course, of my declaration to the Lord.
Someone at the back of the class prophesied: “If you mean what you have said, it will be a blessing to many people.”
I do not remember if it was the same day; but about that time I was sitting, getting ready for the New Testament Greek class to begin.
All of a sudden I had an out of body experience. I rose to about the ceiling. That was fine, but I had studied hard for that class and while I was exalted like this I could not remember what I had studied.
So back down I came. When I was back in my body I could remember the lesson.
Those days at Berean were spiritually high, as you can see.
Well, I had made a commitment to God that I would do His perfect will if He would give me the grace to do it. I had no idea what would happen.
Some time later I was sitting in the chapel at Berean reading my Bible. All of a sudden there was a Presence at my right hand. I do not know whether it was the Lord or an angel.
The Bible I was reading began to make sense in a way it never had before. It is difficult to explain. But things came to me that I had never understood or had not heard preached clearly.
The Bible has been unfolding to me ever since, and I have kept my word to the Lord. I have made some mistakes, but I repented, made things right, and pressed forward in Christ. Right now as I am typing I know of no area in my life in which I am being disobedient to God. If God shows me something wrong, I will confess it, ask forgiveness, and ask the Lord to help me never do that again—not for eternity.
So my conscience is clear at this moment.
Getting back to the Bible unfolding, if you want to know what has been revealed to me over the past sixty years you can read what I have written, at www.wor.org/book. You can be the judge, whether or not I am hearing from God.
Can you imagine the teachers and students at Berean saying we have to sin while we are in the world; and that no one can do God’s perfect will? While a bluff Satan has run on the Christian people.
We are not debtors to sin, according to the Apostle Paul.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:12,13)
Do the above two verses sound to you like while we are in the world we have to sin? Where did they get the idea that we are obligated to sin?
And as far as doing God’s perfect will:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1,2)
His good, pleasing and perfect will. Does that sound to you like Paul is saying no one can do God’s perfect will?
We have been lied to. It is my opinion that numerous believers throughout the Christian Era have performed God’s will for them perfectly. Yet, because of unscriptural teaching, they may not have had the joy, comfort, and peace that comes when we are at rest in the center of God’s Person and will and we know it.
“Rejoicing over the Law” is part of the feast of Tabernacles.
Here is a question: how does rejoicing over God’s Law differ from rejoicing over God’s will? When we understand this, we will understand the difference between the Law of Moses and the new covenant.
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10)
The above is the new covenant. Notice how it differs from the manmade covenant, the “four steps of salvation,” that is used today by so many Christian churches.
But back to the difference between the Law of Moses and the new covenant, and what this has to do with how rejoicing over God’s will differs from “rejoicing over the Law of Moses.”
The Law is written on stone, or parchment, or paper. The new covenant can be written only in the mind and heart of the believer.
The book we refer to as the New Testament is not the new covenant. Rather, it is the testimony of people who knew the Lord Jesus or who were inspired by the Lord to give instructions to the Christian churches. The New Testament is not the new covenant, because the new covenant can be written only in the mind and heart of the Christian.
The Law is in writing that a person can read, understand, and obey.
The new covenant is not in writing anywhere. The new covenant is Christ Himself, conceived and then formed in the heart and mind of the worshiper.
Both the Ten Commandments, and the new covenant, contain the moral law of God. The moral law of God to a great extent is what God is. Obviously, ten commandments cannot contain all that God is or desires.
In Exodus 20:3-17, the Ten Commandments are as follows:
- You shall have no other gods before me.
- You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
- You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
- Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Such is the moral law of God. Notice it defines the relationships between man and God, and man and man. There is nothing whatever wrong with this law. It is perfect.
However, the Jews, because of their human sin-nature, did not, in many instances, keep the law. Much of the text of the Old Testament is devoted to the sins of the Israelites.
The Law, while it emphasizes the sins we are committing, does nothing to help us, except provide endless animal sacrifices to make an atonement for our sin.
The Prophets were voices crying in the midst of the wilderness of sin.
The new covenant, on the other hand, while it defines the relationships between man and God, and man and man, provides a once-for-all, eternal atonement for us. But it does so much more!
Whereas the Law shows us the moral nature of God, the new covenant shows us God Himself. This is an awesome, awesome difference!
The Law gives us some specifics of behavior, such as when mold is found in the walls of a house. But it cannot tell us whether or not we should go for a walk or stay home. It cannot guide a pianist as to what piece he should perform at a concert. It does not tell a husband and wife whether or not they should adopt a child, or what child to adopt.
You might exclaim that Christ is not interested in such details. If you do, you do not realize the watchful care Christ exercises over each one of us.
He knows that if we go for a walk on a certain day, a phone call will ring during that time that requires immediate action.
He knows that a certain piece must not be played at a concert because it will offend some of those who attend.
He knows that the husband will live only a few weeks longer, and adopting a child at this time would not be appropriate.
So many times we escape disaster because the angels of God are watching over us!
No one could write a law that would cover every decision every person makes. So the Ten Commandments are a guideline, we might say; but it cannot possibly cover the three decisions listed above.
But the new covenant does, if we appropriate it correctly.
There are provisions the new covenant makes that are not part of the Law of Moses:
- The conception and forming of Christ, who Himself is the moral law of God, in our personality.
- The baptism with the Holy Spirit.
- Continual fellowship with the One who wrote the Ten Commandments and can guide us in the fulfillment of their intent.
- Each one of the Ten Commandments is greatly expanded under the new covenant. The Sabbath commandment, for example, is expanded to mean that at all times, day and night, we are resting in God, worshiping Him, and seeking His will. It is the rest of God, mentioned in the Book of Hebrews.
- The gifts and ministries given by the Holy Spirit.
- Eventually the fullness of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dwelling in us for eternity.
Each of the enablements mentioned above play a role as we are faced continually with decisions that must be made.
When the Jew gets up in the morning he or she may read a portion of the Law, and pray as well. He may face several decisions before he goes to work, none of which are covered in the Law.
When the devout believer living under the new covenant gets up in the morning, whether Jew or Gentile, he may read a portion of the Bible, and pray as well. In addition, he or she looks up to Jesus and says, “I want to do Your will today. Please help me with each detail.”
God’s will at that point includes more than the text of the Bible. It is the several decisions of the morning, such as getting up and making breakfast for the children and sending them off to school. In these days in America, one of the parents should accompany the child until he or she enters the school bus or the doors of the school.
Also, if the believer is used to listening to Jesus at all times, he may be warned that there will be serious trouble at the school that day and to keep the child home.
We are approaching a time of great danger in our country. Some of this will be in the form of persecution. We are not used to persecution, but I think the Spirit is speaking of persecution, and possibly civil war.
Each Christian needs to use the present time of preparation to learn to hear the warnings of the Spirit. The ability to hear the Spirit may save the lives of our children and ourselves in the not too distant future.
So the difference between the Law of Moses and the new covenant is noteworthy. Under the Law of Moses we carry the Torah on our shoulder and we rejoice over God’s Law. And well we may, for it is the first time the moral law of God has been made known to the world, except for its residence in the consciences of people.
The development of morality under the new covenant, as I said, proceeds from the writing of the eternal moral law of God in our mind and heart as Christ Himself is conceived and formed in us.
We might think of the inner development of the moral law in us as being the skeletal framework of the new creation that the Lord has promised.
Then our continuing effort to think as Jesus is thinking; speak as Jesus is speaking; and act as Jesus is acting; would be as the flesh and skin covering the skeletal framework.
We have the Divine morality engraved in our mind and heart, and then the flow of the Divine will giving life and form to that which has been engraved in our mind and heart.
We cannot carry God’s current will on our shoulder. It is we ourselves who are the flesh being made the Word, as Christ comes to maturity in us.
And so I rejoice, not over what is in writing, but the fact that God has given me a strong desire to do His will, and not my own, in every circumstance. Actually, His will is becoming my will as the idols are purged from my personality.
Surely His commandments are not grievous. To do what God wants me to do is the joy and rejoicing of my heart, just as it was and is of so many Jewish people throughout history. They have rejoiced at the thought of pleasing God.
I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. (Psalms 40:8—KJV)
(“Rejoicing Over God’s Will”, 4032-1)