We are going to begin a study this week that will actually take us through the next two weeks. This morning I want us think about rejoicing, celebrating, and what it is that gets our juices flowing and our heart racing. I also want us to think about what causes God to rejoice.
The word, “rejoice,” is a key word in understanding the parables of Jesus in Luke 15 as we see a shepherd, a woman, and a father rejoicing when they find what was lost. Because the word, “rejoice” is so crucial for understanding Luke 15, I’ve been studying this little word that is so jam packed with meaning and significance for us.
There are several words in Hebrew that are translated “rejoice” in our Bible, but I want to focus on just a couple of these words for us this morning. These two words are used over and over again to describe the attitude of God, people, and even inanimate objects in the midst of their experience. The first word that I want to share with you is the word, “samach.” The word means, “To rejoice, be glad.” It is a popular word in the Hebrew Bible as you can find it used 152 times. As I mentioned to you earlier, the word is used to describe people, God, and even the heavens and trees. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In Psalm 104:31-32 we see the word used in reference to God.
31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works– 32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. (Psalm 104:31-32 NIV)
In 1 Chronicles 16:30-31 we see that the heavens are being invited to rejoice because God reigns. Read along with me.
30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!” (1 Chronicles 16:30-31 NIV)
In Isaiah 14:5-8 we read an account of God breaking the power of the wicked. As God destroys the wicked those who suffered from the injustice and abuse rejoice in God’s rescue. In verse 8 we read, “Even the pine trees and the cedars of Lebanon exult over you…” The trees are full of more than leaves, they are rejoicing over God’s mighty acts.
The second word that I want to introduce you to this morning is the word, “giyl” and it has the same meaning as the first Hebrew word we looked at—it means, “to rejoice, exult, or be glad.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says,
The root meaning is ‘to circle around’ from which such ideas as ‘to circle in joy’ are readily derived. The root meaning is more applicable to vigorous, enthusiastic expressions of joy…
That’s some excitement isn’t it! To be filled with such joy and excitement that what you are experiencing causes you to “circle around,” to move. Have you ever been so excited that you just had to get up and move around?
When I read the definition of the word I had a mental picture of my high school teammate, Kevin Clark. We called him, “Cro,” because Kevin wore a really large helmet, really large, like a cromagnon man would wear if he were playing football. Kevin was a big offensive lineman and he had this routine at the end of all of our games. When the final whistle would blow and we had won, Kevin would run up and down the field with his arms spread wide like he was flying. He would throw in a summersault now and then just for fun. It was the funniest thing you ever saw! Kevin knew how to rejoice!
People rejoice over all kinds of things today don’t they? Some rejoice because they won the lottery, others rejoice over the fact that they are getting married or expecting a child, some rejoice that their team won, they got a promotion, or the new Harry Potter book came out. There are a million different reasons why folks rejoice.
In Scripture you also find a wide variety of reasons why people rejoice. In Psalm 104:15 you find that some rejoice over wine that makes the heart glad. In Proverbs 27:9 we read where perfume and incense make people rejoice. In Proverbs 10:1 a wise son makes his father rejoice. In Proverbs 12:25 we read,
25 An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. (Proverbs 12:25 NIV)
In Exodus 4:14 we read where Aaron rejoiced when he saw his brother Moses. In the Song of Solomon 1:4 we read where the young man rejoiced over his beautiful wife. As I told you, there are many, many reasons why people rejoice both today and in days gone by. Most often in God’s Word people rejoice over the Lord and what He has done. Let me give you a few examples. In Psalm 9:2 the Psalmist says that he will rejoice in the Lord. 2 I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:2 NIV)
In the book of Nehemiah we read about the time when Nehemiah and the Israelites dedicated the wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah says,
43And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. (Nehemiah 12:43 NIV)
The last example I want to show you is found in Psalm 119:14 where the Psalmist is rejoicing over the fact that he has put his hope in the Word of God. Read along with me. 74May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:74 NIV)
In the New Testament we find the same kind of rejoicing going on. In the Scripture that we will be studying for the next couple of weeks we find that Jesus used three words that are translated, “rejoice, joyfully, rejoicing, celebrate, and be glad.” During the next two weeks we will see what moves the heart of God, what causes God and the hosts of Heaven to break out in an exuberant celebration. This week we will take a look at the first two parables, the lost sheep and the lost coin, and then next week we will devote our time to looking at the parable of the lost son. Let’s read our Scripture and get started.
1Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4″Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. 8″Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:1-10 NIV)
For us to really understand the significance of the opening of our Scripture for today you have back up to the last verse of Luke 14. Jesus was teaching a large crowd about the cost of being His disciple. As He brought the discussion to a close Jesus said, “…He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:35 NIV) Jesus invites those who desire to really “hear” His message, to take it to heart, to draw close and pay attention. Immediately following this we read the beginning of Luke 15.
1Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. (Luke 15:1 NIV)
Who was it that heeded Jesus’ call? Out of all of those who were present and heard Jesus’ words, who was it that accepted the invitation to draw near and truly hear? Tax collectors and sinners. Not seminary professors, Bishops, preachers, Pharisees, or those who hung out at the Christian bookstores of Jesus’ day, but tax collectors and sinners. Those who were looked down upon and castigated by the religious types in society. This wasn’t an isolated event in the life of Jesus. He was always around those whom the rest of society looked down upon. In Luke 19 we read about Jesus’ encounter with a man named Zacchaeus.
1Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” 8But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NIV)
Tax collectors were hated people in Jesus’ day. They were hired by the Roman government to collect taxes. Anything they could collect over the amount required by the government they could pocket. The people hated them because they knew the tax collectors were taking advantage of them. Why would Jesus give His precious time to someone like Zacchaeus? He answers the question for us–10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10 NIV)
Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus was choosing His disciples, we read about one of those He chose, a hated, scandalous man who ended up writing the Gospel of Matthew. You will learn about him as Levi. Read along with me from Luke 5:27-32.
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. 29Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 31Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-32 NIV)
How could He? Why would He? Who in their right mind would choose someone like Levi to be their disciple? The Pharisees and the teachers of the law would certainly agree with me. They asked Jesus why He would even eat with the undesirables of society. Jesus answered them.
31Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32 NIV)
Why did Jesus come? “To call sinners to repentance.” You could put it this way—“To find the lost.” Plain and simple. Now, with this foundation laid for us let’s look at the first parable Jesus told in Luke 15—the story of the lost sheep.
Jesus says that there was a man who had one hundred sheep. Ninety-nine were safely in the pen, but one was lost, grazing out in the hill country where predators could easily make an evening meal out of it. The owner of the sheep left the ninety-nine and went looking for the one that was lost. Jesus says,
5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:5-7 NIV)
Jesus tells us that in the same way that the man rejoiced over finding his lost sheep, God rejoices over the sinner who repents. Even more than this: Jesus tells us that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over the one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. That made the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law furious. It makes us furious too doesn’t it? Sure it does. If you disagree with me then I want you to think about it for a minute.
You’ve been coming to church for years. You serve on a committee, sing in the choir, and shuffle your schedule on a regular basis so that you can help when there is a need at the church. You don’t ever get your name put in the church newsletter, no recognition ever comes your way, and it doesn’t bother you because that is not why you do what you do. Then one day, some woman from straight off the street comes through the doors on a Sunday morning on her way home from a long, long night of partying with her friends. While she is in church she hears the Word of God and the Spirit of God convicts her about the life she has been living. At the invitation she gets up from her seat and comes forward. She confesses that she is a sinner, confesses her faith in Jesus, and at the final “Amen,” everyone in church makes over her like she’s won the Nobel Peace Prize. What’s up with that! Nobody ever made a fuss over you and you’ve been serving faithfully for years.
We, like the Pharisees, don’t like the fuss made over lost sinners who are found by the Savior. Oh, it’s not that we don’t like them, or that we aren’t glad that they are going to heaven, it’s just that they need to prove themselves before we go throwing a parade for them right? You know I’m right.
That’s not God’s style. That’s not God’s way. God rejoices. No questions asked. It’s time to rejoice! It’s time to celebrate. He was lost, lost as a goose, but now he has been found. She was on her way to destruction, but the Lord found her in the nick of time. Somebody get excited. Somebody hoot and holler and act like something big just happened! That’s God’s way of welcoming the lost.
Let’s take a look at our second parable for today found in Luke 15:8-10. This is called the parable of the lost coin. Jesus says,
8″Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10 NIV)
Once again, Jesus’ story centers around something that is lost and is finally found and what follows. The woman in the story had ten silver coins, but she had lost one. The woman diligently searches. She lights a lamp and sweeps the floor to see if it is hidden under anything in her house. When she finally finds the coin she says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” Jesus uses the joy experienced by the woman to teach us about the joy experienced by God and all of the hosts of heaven when one sinner repents. Just one. When one sinner repents God gets excited. When one sinner repents all of the hosts of heaven get excited. When one sinner repents what does the Church do? Do we get excited?
Why does God get so excited about one sinner repenting? That’s a great question to ask. God gets excited because a sinner who repents is turning his or her life on a life of sin and sin is what destroys God’s people. James gives us some insight into the sequence that takes place when we choose to walk away from God and into a life of sin. James writes,
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15 NIV)
God does not delight in watching His people destroy themselves by living a life of sin. There has been a lot of talk this past week about Lindsay Lohan, the twenty-one year old actress who rose to fame by the time she was fourteen. Lindsey has had two DUI’s in the past couple of months. She was found with cocaine on her when they took her to the police station this past week. She is imploding before our very eyes. When I heard that she had been arrested this past week the radio announcer said that she had a movie being released this Friday called, “I Know Who Killed Me.” I thought to myself, “I know who is killing you too—you.”
Jay Leno spoofed Lindsay’s arrest, people have been criticizing her and putting parodies on YouTube about her, but I want you to know that what is happening to her grieves the heart of God. She is lost and needs to be found. If the day comes when she is found and she turns around and repents of her destructive ways—Heaven will rejoice!
As I have been studying Luke 15 this past week it has really caused me to stop and ask, “What is it about God that gives Him such a passionate love for people who thumb their nose at Him, curse His name, and live diametrically opposed to His will and ways? The bottom line question for me is, “How could God love a mess like me with such an everlasting love?” I read this quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon that brings me to my knees.
Oh, when I think of sin I cannot understand how a sinner can be saved; but when I think of God, and look into his heart, I understand how readily he can forgive. “Look into his heart,” saith one; “how can we do that?” Hath he not laid bare his heart to you? Do you enquire where he has done this? I answer, yonder, upon Calvary’s cross. What was in the very center of the divine heart? What, but the person of the Well-beloved, his only begotten Son? And he hath taken his only begotten and nailed him to the cross, because, if I may venture so to speak, he loved sinners better than his Son. He spared not his Son, but he spares the sinner; he poured out his wrath upon his Son and made him the substitute for sinners, that he might lavish love upon the guilty who deserved his anger. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Number One Thousand; Or, “Bread Enough and To Spare, July 16, 1871, Metropolitan Tabernacle.)
Oh my friend, we do not deserve the dogged determination of Almighty God who searches for us with undying passion until He finds us. I’ve got news for you, we are like the sheep and the coin. Like the sheep we are wayward. A sheep can no more find his way home than he can knit a wool sweater. Sheep put their head down and begin to eat away at anything that looks good. We do the same thing. We chase after anything that looks good never stopping to think about where it will lead us. It will lead us to destruction and death my friends.
We are also like the lost coin. The coin was lifeless and so are we apart from Christ. We look at the birth of a child as the beginning of life, physical life, and it is, but a child is born dead spiritually. James said that the body apart from the Spirit is dead. (James 2:26) This is why you will notice that the shepherd and the woman went searching for what was lost instead of the lost trying to find their way home. God is seeking, He is searching, He is relentless in His efforts to draw you and me to Himself. I pray that this will be the day that those of you who are lost will hear the Master’s voice and be found. Let Heaven rejoice! Let the heart of God sing as you come forward this morning and give me your hand and Jesus your heart.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 29, 2007