This month God has taught me so much about obedience, his will and joy. I hadn't realized previously how completely linked they are. In studying joy and the Father's will recently he took me to two different passages Leviticus 9:22-24 and Hebrews 12:2. Both dealing with pleasing sacrifices to God first in the old testament Tabernacle and then on the cross.
Leviticus 9:22-24, “Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down.
Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.”
There is no other place to find joy than in God’s glory and satisfaction. The above passage shows how Israel obeyed in every way God's command to build him a dwelling, for the purpose of communion, and the joy his favor ignited as a result of their obedience. Joy is always the result of God's favorable response to our obedience. We find joy when our hearts love the will of God. We rejoice when we see his plan unfold, because our hearts are in line with his; loving truth, righteousness, his glory. It appears God's greatest response to our obedience is his presence, which is the cause of true joy; even sorrow turns to joy in his hands.
So often, however, we choose our own way and exchange joy for sorrow. If we seek joy and wonder why it alludes us, it's wise to examine our obedience, nothing kills joy like living for our own pleasure. (On the surface we may not see our own pleasure as the evil it is, sometimes it's disguised in self-righteousness, fairness, accomplishing things for God but the motivation is the key, is it for God's glory or mine.) Sorrow is always meant to drive us into the heart of the Father. The lack of joy is a warning sign to get our attention. Here are some more verses on joy: Psalm 16:10-11, 19:7-9; Prov 10:28, John 15:10-12; Jude 1:24
Hebrews 12:2, says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." I had originally thought that the joy set before Jesus in enduring the cross was the salvation of men, but I don't think that anymore. I believe the salvation of men has always been the Father's plan and I believe Jesus came to earth to do the Father's will. However, I honestly don't think Jesus was fixing his eyes on us as the prize while on the cross and I'm glad, because man is never the focus. I believe he was fixing his eyes squarely on his Father, it's the only way he could endure the sacrifice and likewise the only way we can. I believe love for us flowed out of that, but love for the Father was the source. I think the distinction is important because it sets the example for us. First of all it shows us God is the priority, even the salvation of man isn't really about man, it's about God's glory. Second it shows us the right reason for obedience is not for reward but is a response of adoration. Nothing short of delighting in the Father's will can compel us to die to our own desires and live for his. Oh God, that our hearts would beat in tune to your will.