Is it irreverent to imagine God pumping His fist and shouting, “Yes!” If so, then how do we imagine God expressing joy?
Can’t really say He’d be on cloud nine . . . He towers over cloud nine, and every other cloud you can number. On top of the world? Over the moon? No, that doesn’t seem right. Of course He is, that’s where He dwells, the earth is His footstool. Pleased as punch? Don’t even really know what that means. Pumped? Stoked? Nah. Doing a happy dance? Seemed hardly fitting coming from King David, doesn’t seem right to picture in one’s mind the Almighty Creator doing a two-step. Nope. That’s doesn’t work either.
So how do we imagine God expressing joy before others? ‘Cause, I’m thinkin’, He does.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ~ Jesus
(Luke 15:8-10 ESV)
A few years ago, I noticed how the ESV breaks with the other translations on that last phrase. It’s most commonly translated “joy in the presence of God’s angels” — like it’s the angels who are rejoicing among themselves. But the ESV’s a bit different. To think of there being joy before the angels of God can make a big difference in how you understand who’s expressing the joy.
So what’s before the angels in heaven? What’s in their line of sight? Who are they in the face of? Who’s occupying the place before them? What’s in their presence?
Safest Sunday School answer ever: God!
And all the angels were standing around the throne . . . , and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God . . . ”
(Revelation 7:11 ESV)
So, if the angels are standing around the throne, and they fall on their faces before the throne to worship God, then isn’t God before them? And so again, if there is joy before the angels over one sinner who repents, then isn’t it God who’s doing the rejoicing? Like I said, I’m thinkin’ . . .
And it’s kind of consistent with the story Jesus told. It’s the woman, the coin-seeker, the finder in this lost-and-found endeavor, who calls together her friends and she’s the one doing the rejoicing. “Rejoice with me!” she says. So isn’t the mapping such that the woman represents God, who through Jesus came to seek and save the lost? Thus, isn’t it also God, then, who calls together His friends, the angels, and says to them, “Rejoice with Me!”
God rejoicing over one sinner who repents! What does that even look like? But maybe, more importantly, what does that tell us about our God?
Did He rejoice over me, when I believed? Like, really rejoice? Fist-pumping, “Yes” declaring, happy dance rejoicing? Maybe not like that. But however God rejoices before the angels — if we believe His word, if Jesus was telling a truth tale — then yeah, the God of Creation rejoiced when I was translated from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light. That’s a full-meal deal! That’s a lot to chew on!
My head knows He loves me. That He loved me so much He sent His one and only Son. I get that. But do I really get that He would love me to the point of rejoicing before the angels when I feebly confessed my love for Him?
And what could that look like?
The LORD your God is in your midst, a Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)
Singing. Loud singing. Is that how God shows joy before the angels, by singing over His redeemed people? Almost as hard to imagine as pumping His fist. But a lot more appropriate.
What amazing, abundant grace. Only for His ever-deserved, joy-filled glory.
Got 5 more minutes? This song came to mind as I was hovering over this . . . ’cause if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking . . . O how He love us!