Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit, as set out in Galatians 5:22, but what is joy in the biblical context?
My dictionary defines joy as, ‘the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.’
As we search the Bible for the use of the word we find there are enumerable occasions, both in the Old and the New Testaments where joy is experienced by God’s people. Invariably they are joyous because of something that has happened or because of something they believe will happen. In either case, they are pleased and happy. They may even be elated and want to express their delight by singing.
Such a response is found in Isaiah 35:10: ‘And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’
Paul in Romans 14:7 tells of the joy that is found in the kingdom of God: ‘for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’ Note that the kingdom of God is a present experience of those in the kingdom.
Matthew 2:10 provides us with an example of joy on account of something wonderful happening: ‘When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.’
The wise men from the East were seeking the Child who had been born King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2), and they were being directed to Him by a star (v 9). The Scriptures (v 6; Micah 5:2) affirmed Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, and there they found Him, worshipped Him and gave Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-12)
In an entirely different context, who would have thought affliction would bring joy to the afflicted? But James in his letter to the persecuted Christians of the Dispersion (1:1) wrote, ‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James 1:2, 3).’ And in verse 4 he assured them they would lack nothing.
Likewise, the Thessalonians experienced joy of the Holy Spirit in their afflictions: ‘And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe (1 Thessalonians 1:6).’
Habakkuk made a positive statement of intent when he proclaimed:‘Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:18).’ His ‘Hymn of Faith’ (3:17-19) pictures a bleak situation when crops fail and animals die, but regardless of any hardships to come, he professes faith in the God of his salvation, and he knows he will be blessed with joy because the Lord God is his strength (v 19).
Finally, I’ll leave you with a few passages which express joy,
‘You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fulness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).’
‘For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12).’
‘I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her (Isaiah 65:19).’
‘Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people (Luke 2:10).”’
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).”