Lutheran Church Extension Fund

Lessons on JOY from a united Israel

Monthly theme: Joy and Unity

Reading time: two minutes.

Joy fuels ministry. That I’m certain of.

It seems to me that dissension is the hole in the tank.

Can you help me wrestle with this?

The joy of seeing God at work will carry you through plenty of hardships. “You made me find joy in what you have done, O LORD, I will sing joyfully about the works of your hands” Psalm 92:4. “God did that” will keep you going. I hear this from church workers all the time.

God is always at work. So, what sucks the joy right out of us? I’m more and more convinced that the main culprit is when unity in the body of Christ (church, home, ministry team, etc.) crumbles.

Lose the unity, lose the joy. What do you think?

I’ve served in joyful churches and in churches that made we want to quit. Peace, harmony, shalom, unity prevailed in the joyful ones.

Conflict was the common theme in the others.

I see the same thing unfold in the history of Israel as a nation. Joy follows unity. Despair follows dissension.

We all learned this in Sunday School, if you think about it. Exodus? “Horse and rider: thrown into the sea. God did that!” and let the celebration begin.

Track the history of the Passover remembrance. It was commemorative. “Let’s remember what God has done and what he’s doing now! We were there!”

And it was also communal. We gather as one. We celebrate the goodness of the Lord together. Different tribes. Different regions. Not much in common but this: God has rescued us from death by his power and his love.

Move on to the rest of Israel’s history. Judges? A fractured nation. Not much joy to be found.

King David is anointed, and his every effort is to rally the nation together as one. The golden age of Israel under David and Solomon is marked by the joyous celebration of the great festivals, all gathered as one to remember the Lord’s goodness in the Exodus, in the Firstfruits, in the Harvest, in the Atonement.

And when the nation is divided, you can just feel the joy leaking from the tank. No gathering. No celebrations. No joy.

Josiah gets it and tries to restore the unity and the joy, but it’s short lived.

Ezra and Nehemiah get it, but the legalism of the post-exilic period replaces “God did that” with “We did that” and there’s nothing much to celebrate about self-righteousness.

Help me out here. At Grace Place Wellness, our mission is to help discouraged church workers reclaim the joy of ministry, and I’m just wondering about the relationship between unity and joy.

Maybe that’s what Jesus had in mind when he talked about peacemakers. We’re praying and working hard for you to find the keys to unity in the church so that you might be daily replenished by the joy of celebrating together, “Look at what God is doing in our midst!” That’ll keep you going!

What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear from you this month as we explore the connection between unity and joy.

Leave me a comment! Thanks for reading.