God’s Faithfulness and the Joy of Faith

August 18, 2019 ()

Bible Text: Genesis 21:1-21 |

Series:

God’s Faithfulness and the Joy of Faith | Genesis 21
Brian Hedges | August 18, 2019

C.S. Lewis said that “joy is the serious business of heaven.” This morning I want us to talk about joy. Joy is something that everyone desires, everyone’s looking for it, and something that all of us, I think, need in the depths of our being, the depths of our heart; and yet, joy is sometimes elusive. It’s hard for us to grasp, to get ahold of.

We look for joy in all kinds of things, don’t we? We look for joy in relationships with other people; we think that maybe that special someone will fill our hearts with unspeakable joy. Of course, relationships do bring great happiness into our lives; they also sometimes bring great pain and suffering into our lives. But even the very, very best relationship can’t fill our hearts with that ongoing, neverending joy, happiness, and wonder that we crave.

We look for joy in lesser things as well. We look for joy in accomplishments and success, we look for joy in possessions, in things that we acquire. We look for joy in different kinds of experiences, maybe always looking forward to the next big moment in our lives, maybe thinking of the next big vacation that you’re going to have or the next wonderful thing you’re going to do, the next thing you’re going to accomplish. None of those things actually meet the deepest longings of our hearts.

I believe that God cares about our joy and that the source of our greatest and deepest joy is found in God himself. Joy is the serious business of heaven, and I think one reason Lewis said that is because he knew that God is so serious about us having joy, but having joy in the right place. In fact, the Scriptures tell us he’s a jealous God; he’s actually jealous when we seek our joy in the wrong things.

Well, this morning we’re going to talk about joy, and we’re doing that in the Abrahamic narratives. We’ve been looking at the life of Abraham for 12 Sundays now, and today we come to Genesis 21 and the birth of Isaac.

You might say, “What does the birth of Isaac have to do with joy?” Well, we all know that when a child is born, that brings great joy, so there’s that. Many of us have experienced that in our lives. But Isaac’s name means “laughter.” That was his name. He was called “laughter.”

One reason he was called “laughter” is because God, through Isaac, was fulfilling this promise he had made to Abraham, and he was bringing the fulfillment of his covenant, he was bringing fulfillment of the things that Abraham longed for most in life; he was bringing great joy into the life of Abraham.

I want us to look at three stages, you might say, in the quest for joy. The first stage is the long wait for joy, and then we’re going to look at the birth of joy, and then life after joy has come.

I. The Long Wait for Joy

First of all, the long wait for joy. Really, this is just a summary of Genesis 11-20, right, because we’ve been 12 weeks (and 25 years in Abraham’s time) in the story of Abraham—25 years since God made the promise, a blessing that all centered in the gift of this child. Yet 25 years of waiting, and the child has not come, until Genesis 21.

Here was the promise that really governs all of Abraham’s life, governs the Abrahamic stories in Scripture, Genesis 12:1-3, when the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great; then you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Now, in order for Abraham to be the father of a great nation, he has to have a child, right? It has to start somewhere. It’s been 25 years, and the reason—it’s actually given to us before the promise is even given, in Genesis 11:30--the reason is because Sarai, his wife, was barren; she had no child.

It’s the juxtaposition of those two passages, Genesis 12:1-3 (that’s the promise, Genesis 11:30 (that’s the problem). It’s the juxtaposition of those two passages that gives you all of the narrative tension in the story of Abraham. God has made this wonderful promise, and it all depends on having a child, and Sarai is barren. There are no children. They go 25 years. They’re already old, and then they go 25 years before the promise is fulfilled. It’s the long wait for the promise, the long wait for joy.

I just want us to try to get into the emotions of what they felt for a minute. What is that like? Now, some of you know what that’s like. You know what it is to have hope deferred. You know what it is to long for something deeply and for it not to come. We all experience that to some degree in our lives. It may be that you long for marriage and the Lord has never brought a spouse into your life. It may be that you long for children and the Lord hasn’t given you the gift of children. It may be that you had your sight set on a certain career and the Lord has never opened up that job for you. It may be that you longed for a certain kind of family and the Lord hasn’t given you that kind of family.

But all of us long for something, and we know what it is to be disappointed in our longings. Abraham and Sarah felt that for 25 years. They felt the hope, they felt the initial thrill, you know, when they had received God’s word, “Oh! This is going to happen!” Then disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. You can just imagine, month after month after month, no conception, no child; then year after year, and the agonizing sense of disappointment, and then just the dull ache that maybe grows into skepticism. Is God ever going to keep his promise?

I think when you look at Abraham’s and Sarah’s story you can see two ways in which we tend to sabotage joy as we’re waiting for it, and I think we do this in our lives, when we are looking for joy and it hasn’t come. Here are the two ways.

(1) First of all, we do it by seeking for substitutes. This was Abraham’s mistake. Do you remember what Abraham did? He had a child by another woman. Now it was Sarah’s idea, but Abraham went along with it. He went into this slave girl, Hagar, and had a child by her, named Ishmael. It’s one of the ugliest stories in the Old Testament.

What is Abraham doing? He’s trying to help God out. He’s seeking for a substitute. It’s a different way of trying to achieve the promise. Even in Genesis 17, when God renews his covenant with Abraham and says, “I’m going to give you a son, and it’s going to be through Sarah your wife,” do you remember what Abraham says? He says, “Oh that Ishmael may live before you!” And the Lord says, “No; in Isaac the promise is going to come.” We do this. We seek for substitutes in our own lives.

(2) The second thing is cynicism, and you see that in Sarah. You remember in Genesis 18, when the three men come to Abraham, they come to his tent and they share a meal together, and they start talking about how “about a year from this time your wife, Sarah, is going to have a child,” and Sarah’s in the tent and she’s listening. She overhears this, and she just starts laughing. It’s not joyful laughter; it’s cynical laughter, it’s mocking laughter.

They confront her, and she says, “No, I didn’t laugh!” “No, but you did laugh,” and, “Nothing is too hard for the Lord.”

Well, this is what we do, also, in our lives. We have this deep longing for joy, but we try to fill it with other things (that’s the error of seeking a substitute) or we just grow cynical.

You know, C.S. Lewis was in many ways what I think of as the theologian of joy. If you think of Augustine as the theologian of grace, Lewis is to me the theologian of joy. He wouldn’t even have called himself a theologian, but it’s just all over the place in his writings.

This was part of Lewis’s experience before he became a Christian. Lewis was raised in the church, but very quickly as a young man, even before he was a teenager, he started not believing, not believing what the church taught. So he was growing in his agnosticism and his cynicism about supernatural religion and about belief in God and the supernatural and so on. At the same time, he was seeking for happiness in other things.

He describes what he calls this “inconsolable longing,” this deep longing in his heart, where he kept looking for it in experiences that he had, and it was a desire that he said was so strong, an unsatisfied desire which was so strong he said it was “more desirable than any other satisfaction.”

That was essentially how he defined joy, and his spiritual autobiography he called Surprised by Joy, and it was the growing experience of dissatisfaction in everything else, and then God sort of hunting him down until he finally came to a point of realizing that “God is real, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and he is the deep answer to my soul’s longings.” That’s how he found joy, but he only did it after many detours through substitutes and through cynicism.

What about you? Are you looking for you? Are you seeking for joy? Are you satisfied? Are you deeply, deeply happy in your life? I want to tell you that what you’re looking for is not going to be found in any experience that you can have this side of heaven, apart from a real personal encounter with God himself.

I was just reading something that Tim Keller wrote. Tim Keller is, I think, one of the great evangelists of our day, great evangelistic preacher and teacher. He was talking about a conversation he was having with a woman who was in college who’s very cynical about Christianity. She’s very hardened towards Christianity, didn’t believe Christianity at all.

She’s in college (and this was a few years back), and she loved the Harry Potter stories. I like the Harry Potter stories, too, so there’s nothing wrong with that. She just loved these, but she was in college, and she was kind of in a prestigious school, so she was kind of ashamed of reading Harry Potter, so she was always covering the Harry Potter books with other covers so you wouldn’t know what she was reading. Keller said it was the one chink in her armor, it was the one place where he felt like he could get in. So he asked her, “Why do you like these stories so much?”

She said, “Well, they kind of cast a spell on me.”

He said, “Here’s what I think’s really going on. Intellectually, you’re denying the reality of the supernatural, but I think there’s something in your heart that resonates with the mysterious and with the transcendent.” I’m paraphrasing here, but it resonates with the sense of wonder, “and you get it in the stories, but what you’re really looking for is in Christ.”

She said, “Hmm. Maybe so.”

I wonder what your experience is. Are you in the long wait for joy? Well, Abraham and Sarah were for 25 years, and then finally a child is born.

II. The Birth of Joy

That leads us right into chapter 21 and the birth of joy. I want you to see two things about this.

(1) We’re looking now at the birth of Isaac himself, and I want you to see, first of all, that Isaac was born according to promise. In the same way, joy comes according to God’s promise.

Look at verses 1 and 2. It says, “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.”

Now, do you notice there the emphasis is on God’s faithfulness to his promise? In fact, it’s three times. Three times: “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.” Then this child given in old age, in verse 2, “at the time of which God had spoken to him.” God’s faithfulness to his word, to his promise.

We’ve been singing in recent weeks a new song, and I love this song. The words go like this:

“Faithful you are,
Faithful forever you will be;
All your promises are Yes and Amen.”

The faithfulness of God. God is faithful to his word, he’s faithful to his promise, and Abraham discovered that. I want to tell you that this is, I think, true for every Christian. We will find our joy in the promise of God, in the revelation of God himself, in his word.

Just listen to what some of the writers and poets and prophets of Scripture say about joy.

Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”

Or Psalm 119:162, “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.”

Why do they say that? Was it because they just enjoyed the dynamics of Bible study? They enjoyed opening their study Bible--they didn’t have study Bibles back then, but they opened their Bible and they were reading, they’re studying, they’re cross-referencing; and it was just the joy of study? That is part of the joy for some of us. If you’re kind of the intellectual type, you just enjoy study. You enjoy digging into a book.

I don’t think that’s what they’re talking about. I don’t think it’s getting into the scroll itself. It’s what the words mean, and it’s the God of the word, to whom the words point. The most lavish language in Scripture about joy is language about God himself.

Psalm 43, where the psalmist says, “God, you are my exceeding joy.” He intensifies the language, “my exceeding joy.”

Or Psalm 4:6-7, “There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!’ You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”

Joy, but it’s joy found in the God of the word, who reveals himself in the word of God. It’s joy in God, but the vehicle through which we access that joy is the promise of God.

This passage, Genesis 21, is used in the New Testament, in Galatians 4, by the apostle Paul. In Galatians 4:28-29 Paul compares believers, the children of promise, to Isaac. He actually says that Isaac was born according to the Spirit. So I think there’s an application to be made here, that just as Isaac was born according to the promise and born according to the Spirit, so you and I, in our new birth, discover joy when we discover God and we find God in his word. We find him in his promise, and that’s where we find joy.

You remember the parable of the treasure hidden in a field? Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.” Then, in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has so that he can buy the treasure.

Anyone in this room a collector? You may like to collect things. There’s a handful. I don’t know what it is about people who are collectors--I am kind of a collector. I don’t know why, I’m just wired that way, but ever since I was a kid--I mean, it was baseball cards as a kid, then it was Star Wars action figures. Now it’s books by Spurgeon and things like that. I’ve matured a little bit in my collecting (it’s not just books by Spurgeon, books by other people too), but this is part of what goes on with a collector. It’s what you call the thrill of the hunt. It’s finding something rare. It’s finding those six volumes of Spurgeon that have been out of print for a long time, and there’s only a handful of copies of them out there! It’s the thrill of the hunt. You find something valuable and spend a lot of money in order to get that valuable thing.

That’s what Jesus is talking about here, and he says the kingdom of heaven is like that. There’s a joy that comes with the find, there’s a joy that comes when you find Jesus, you find what your soul is longing for, you find a satisfaction in him, you suddenly realize that this God you’ve been hearing about all your life--you suddenly realize, “Oh! It’s what I’ve always wanted! It’s what I was always looking for!”

You remember Martin Luther, what he said when he understood the gospel, he understood justification by faith in Christ alone. He said, “Here I felt that I was altogether born again, and the very gates of paradise were opened up to me.” Paradise! That’s the experience of a person who his born again through the word of God.

(2) The second thing we see here in the birth story of Isaac is that he was born in spite of impossibilities. He was according to promise and he was born in spite of impossibilities. Look at verses 5-7.

“Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.’ And she said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’”

This was impossible! She’s a barren woman. She’s an old lady. She’s a granny. And here she is, at 90 years old, and she gives birth to a child. It’s almost ridiculous. It’s an impossible story. This is why she had laughed in mockery in Genesis 18. She had laughed, but you remember what the Lord had said to Abraham? He said, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child now that I am old’? Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Of course, the answer is no, nothing’s too hard for the Lord. Nothing shall be impossible with God.

Did you know there’s another birth story that uses that exact language, in Luke 1, when the angel comes to Mary, the virgin, and says, “You are highly favored, and you’re going to conceive a child.” She’s a virgin; this is impossible! “You’re going to conceive a child, and this child is going to be the Son of the Most High, the Son of God.”

You remember what she said. She says, “How can this be?”

This is what he says. He says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God, for nothing will be impossible with God.”

The whole story of the gospel is that God does the impossible! That he saves the world through a child born of a virgin, that he saves the world through a king who dies on a cross, that he saves people in impossible situations.

I want to tell you two ways we can apply this in our lives, two ways we should think of this. If you are seeking joy and it eludes you and you’ve begun to feel so cynical that you feel like there’s no real satisfaction in life, “all I can do is just try to make my life less miserable, increase the odds of a less miserable life.” If you’re feeling that way, and there may be somebody here that feels that way, and joy feels impossible to you; I want you to know what is impossible with man is possible with God, and that God can meet the deep longings of your heart. He can do that. He can give you joy.

Here’s the second way. If you’re praying for someone who’s not a Christian and it feels impossible, it’s not impossible. I want to tell you, almost every night when I lay my head down and I start cycling through the wins and losses of the day, good things and bad things, things that are on my mind, the burdens that are on my heart; almost every night, the last thing I’m thinking about is one particular person that I am so deeply burdened for right now, and I’m praying, and it looks impossible. It looks impossible. How will they know the Lord? It looks impossible, and I’m praying, “Lord, do a miracle. Do a miracle.”

You should pray that, because what is impossible with man is possible with God. Every conversion is a miracle. The fact that you believe this morning is a miracle! It is a miracle if you’re a Christian. Every conversion is a miracle. Don’t give up in praying. The birth of joy.

III. Life after Joy Has Come

Then finally, number three, life after joy has come. There are four things we see that follow the birth of Isaac, and I think all four of these things show us something about the Christian life, life after we’ve encountered God, life after we’ve discovered Christ as our joy. What does it look like to be a Christian? Life after joy has come.

(1) Here’s the first thing: obedience. Look at verses 3 and 4. “Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.”

Those aren’t throwaway verses. The two things that Abraham does here were specifically commanded by God. God commanded him to name the child Isaac (Genesis 17:19), and he commanded circumcision (Genesis 17:12). This is the child of promise, the child of the covenant, circumcision is the covenant sign. Abraham is keeping the covenant. He’s doing what God commanded.

This is always the case in the life of the Christian. It’s not perfect obedience, and it won’t be with Abraham either, but it’s always the case in the life of a Christian that, after you have discovered Christ to be your joy, after you have come to faith in Jesus Christ, obedience follows, and it follows out of the joy. Joy is the impulse that gives rise to obedience.

This is not the same thing as law-based religion, where you obey in order to get the promise, where you view salvation as dependent on your obedience. It’s not that; it’s the other way around. It’s that God blesses, and then because he’s blessed, we want to obey.

Remember those old words from William Cowper:

“To see the law by Christ fulfilled,
To hear his pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.”

You obey because you want to obey. Obedience becomes the glad response of your heart to God’s grace and God’s mercy. I think Abraham was thrilled with what had happened, and he was glad to obey. It was probably the greatest day of his life when he named this little child Isaac and gave him the covenant sign.

(2) Here’s the second thing: celebration. Isaac’s name means “laughter.” Even the naming of the child is a celebration. Sarah’s words, which we’ve already seen in verse 6, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” She’s celebrating. Then there’s a great feast that happens probably a couple years later, in verse 8. They’ve celebrating, and the Christian life also involves celebration. It’s the dominant note, should be the dominant note in the life of a Christian, one of joy and one of celebration.

You remember Luke 15. You have three parables. You have the story of the lost sheep and the story of the lost coin and then the story of the lost son, the prodigal son. In each case, when the lost is found, what’s the response? Great joy! There’s great joy.

I remember when I was a kid, my mom, one day, lost her engagement ring, her diamond ring. She was so upset. She didn’t even know how she’d lost it, but she’d lost it, maybe cleaning or something. She was so upset. We looked and looked and looked, and it was like one of those parables, you know, searching the whole house to find the lost coin. We were searching everywhere to find that lost ring. She finally found it, and when she found it, she cried. They were tears of joy, joy and celebration at having found what was lost. A response of celebration.

We celebrate. We celebrate when we worship, we celebrate when we sing, we celebrate when we come to the Lord’s table. Our worship is to be celebration together. There should be joy when we’re here together on Sunday morning, because of the joy that Christ has brought into our lives.

I couldn’t find the quote, but somewhere John Stott commented on how Christianity is the great singing religion. So many songs, so many hymns. I mean, we have songs that go back centuries, all the way—well, really, all the way back into the Old Testament. The whole book of Psalms is a book of songs, right? Then certainly the great hymns of the church and the great contemporary songs of worship today. They all are songs of celebration, or most are songs of celebration. There is a place for lament; I understand that, I get that. I’ll talk about that when we get to the Psalms again. But celebration; the psalter ends on celebration and praise, and that’s the direction that we’re headed. It’s a foretaste of heaven, when we can experience that now.

(3) Obedience, celebration; number three, conflict. “Wait a minute! I thought you were talking about joy! You mean there’s conflict after joy? There’s still conflict after Isaac is born?” Yes there is, and there’s still conflict in the life of a Christian after you’re born again and after you find Christ as your joy; in fact, then the conflict really intensifies.

You see it right here in the text. Look at verses 8-10. “And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing.” The word here is a spin on the name of Isaac, but it probably carries the idea of mockery. He’s making fun of his younger half-brother. Verse 10, “So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.’”

What’s going on here? On one level, these are the consequences of Abraham’s sin, right? But there’s a deeper spiritual meaning. Paul sees the deeper principle here. He sees the principle between those who are born of the flesh and those who are born of the spirit. There’s a conflict. He actually talks about how those who are born according to the flesh persecute those who are born according to the Spirit (Galatians 4:29). There is a fundamental conflict between the Christian and the world, and there is a fundamental conflict between the two parts of the Christian, the born-again Christian and the principle of flesh, of indwelling sin, that still lives within. There’s still this principle within us, and there’s a conflict!

Listen: if you become a Christian, you are signing up for a life of battle. There’s going to be conflict, there’s going to be warfare, there’s going to be this tension in your life between the Spirit and the flesh. You’re going to feel that, and there’s only one solution to it. Ishmael has to go. “Cast out the slave woman with her son.” Ishmael has to go.

Now, we’ll see that on the narrative level, on the historical level, there was mercy and grace that God gave to Israel, but the spiritual principle here is that the things that war against your joy have to go. You have to kill the joy-killers in your life; you have to get rid of it. You have to mortify sin. We do it because of the deeper joy.

Flannery O’Connor, a great southern novelist of the 20th century, in one of her letters said, “Always you renounce a lesser good for a greater. The opposite is what sin is. My struggle to submit is not a struggle to submit, but a struggle to accept, and with passion. I mean, possibly with joy. Picture me with my ground teeth stalking joy, fully armed, too, as it’s a highly dangerous quest.”

You’re chasing after joy, you’re pursuing joy, and you’re doing it by renouncing the lesser good for the greater good. You renounce Ishmael for the sake of Isaac. We have to do that. There is a conflict in the Christian life.

(4) Then finally, life after joy has come involves obedience, celebration, conflict, and finally, it involves ongoing trust in God. This is number four, trusting God. You see this in Abraham’s response to this crisis with Ishmael, verse 11. “And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, ‘Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’”

What does this trust involve for Abraham? It involves letting go of Plan B, letting go of the second best. That’s what Ishmael was. Ishmael was the second best. He wasn’t what God had promised. Ishmael was the son according to the flesh. Ishmael was the son of the slave woman.

Abraham loved Ishmael. He was his blood child, right, and Abraham loved him. God promised to take care of him, but he was not the son of promise, and Abraham had to let him go. He had to send him away.

You and I have to learn this in our lives, that there are things in our lives that at one time we thought, “This will bring joy,” and a lot of those things are sin, right, or they’re second-best, but they’re not God’s best. They’re not what God really wants for us. Part of the life of faith is letting go of those second-best things and trusting God instead.

Trusting God also meant trusting God’s freedom and God’s sovereign purpose, because when God says, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named,” that is a principle that Paul picks up in Romans 9, the great chapter on the doctrine of election. The whole point of that chapter is to show that not everyone who claims physical descent from Abraham is a true child of Abraham, right? It’s not in Ishmael, it’s in Isaac. This was God’s sovereign prerogative. God chose Isaac as the promised son. “Through Isaac shall your offspring be,” and Abraham had to accept that.

You and I have to do that. Trusting God means accepting his sovereignty. It means accepting the fact that God is in charge and you’re not. Listen: no matter how long you try, you’re never going to be the king of the universe. You’re just not going to be. You are not going to have absolute control. To think that you will have control is an illusion, it’s a pipe dream; but there is someone who has control, and he is good, he is kind, he is loving, he is merciful, he has your best interests in mind; and part of trusting him means learning to trust him with the decisions that only he can make, trusting God’s sovereign freedom.

Then, trusting God means trusting him to be faithful to his promises. Now, God has been faithful to the promise concerning Isaac; now Abraham has to trust God to be faithful to the promise concerning Ishmael.

You see this reaffirmed in verses 13-14. “‘I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.”

Then, if you read the next paragraph, verses 15-21, you see that God does take care of Hagar. God hears the crying of the boy, and she discovers a well, Beersheba, this well. God takes care of them. God kept all of his promises that he made concerning Ishmael, but it was out of Abraham’s hands. Abraham had to trust. That’s what the life of faith means. It means ongoing trust in God and in his promises.

Do these things characterize your life? Obedience, celebration, conflict, ongoing trust in God? That’s what life after joy has come, that’s what it looks like. Where are you this morning? Where is the source of your joy, if you’ve found joy? What are you looking for? What are you seeking? I want you to know that everything in your life that brings you happiness is just a shadow of the real joy that God himself can bring.

I want to end with a quotation from one more of my favorite theologians. This one’s Jonathan Edwards, another theologian of joy. Listen to what Edwards said. He said, “The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven to fully enjoy God is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows, but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.”

There is an ocean of joy, of wonder, of unparalleled delight, “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” as Scripture says. It’s language that’s almost too much to believe, but it’s true. I want to invite you this morning into the joy and the wonder of knowing God through his Son, Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.

Gracious and merciful God, we thank you for your promise, thank you for the great Son of promise, who’s not just Isaac, but the greater Isaac, the one to whom Isaac was pointing all along, your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank you that in Jesus Christ there is an ocean of joy and wonder and happiness. Christ is enough to satisfy our souls. As we sing that this morning, may we sing it with sincerity, may we mean what we say, that Christ is enough for us.

As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, we come to eat bread and drink juice, but the bread and the juice are just symbols pointing us to the greater reality of Jesus, the bread of life, and the wine of blessedness, the one who gives us what our souls really long for. So may we come this morning with hungry hearts. May the nourishment that we receive these token elements, the bread and juice, may they point us to the deeper nourishment of our souls that is to be found in Christ, in the gospel. So draw near to us now and continue with us as we worship. We pray it in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.