Every portion of Scripture contains infinite truth, but some portions seem specially designed to give us pause to consider how bankrupt our appreciation and even our apprehension of God-breathed truth really is. One such portion—not a paragraph, not even a complete verse, but a single clause—provides a wonderful example of this idea. The entire verse reads: “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psa. 16:11). Let’s note just the middle clause—“in Your presence is fullness of joy”—considering it backwards so to speak.
“Joy.” We use the word all the time, sometimes casually, sometimes profoundly. It’s one of the words that is, to use a quaint expression, “better felt than ‘telt.’” We have some concept of joy if we have experienced it; nevertheless, defining it is a little challenging. Several Hebrew words are translated joy. According to Strong, this particular noun means “blithesomeness” or “glee.” What then are “blithesomeness” and “glee”? The Random House Dictionary defines the adjective blithesome as “light-hearted, merry, cheerful” and the noun glee as “openly shown exultant joy; exultation; demonstrative pleasure.” Living as we do with a sinful nature, beset by the wickedness of the world around us, and feeling the effects of a sin-cursed world, it may seem almost sinful to suggest such heights of happiness. But the fact remains that “joy, real joy, wonderful joy” is the inheritance of the believer. Such joy is at once a genuine and ebullient sense of peace, safety, contentment, wonder, amazement, satisfaction, and thankfulness. Believers may have that in some great measure right now; eternity will find us bubbling over with such joy fully, perfectly, and moment-by-moment forever.
“Fullness of joy.” If the concept of joy makes our puritanical natures squirm, then fullness of joy must make us exceedingly uncomfortable. But God, through His servant David, assures us of no less. Here is a joy without alloy. No sin, no condemnation, no guilt, not even the memory of these as personal offenses cling to it. Although we have a measure of joy now, it remains diluted by the sins that so easily beset us, by the stubborn presence of our fallen nature, by the collective memories of past sins, though forgiven, still not forgotten, by the ominous thought that we may fall into sin again at any moment, and even by legitimate burdens for the sins and needs of others. Though we may sometimes experience great spiritual rapture when we enjoy the fellowship of the Lord, we will never know fullness until we reach heaven. But fullness of joy will be the atmosphere in which we live then—always and forever, never paling, ever enthralling.
“In Your presence.” Of course, David has it right, the right perspective, that is. We live plagued by fear, tormented with dread, overwhelmed with pain, and generally beset by problems. Our concept of joy involves having these removed, and that is surely part of the joy we will experience. Furthermore, we live in a world that requires us to obtain stuff, and we often find that stuff attractive—so attractive that we may think it is the source of joy. Well, heaven will provide us with “things” of various sorts. But neither are these the ultimate source of our joy. No, David, avows, in what becomes almost a definition, that true joy is to experience the unmitigated presence of the Lord, to be in His fellowship without any filter or barrier caused by sin or even the reality that exists now, namely our less-than-perfect holiness. Sometime before her funeral, my mother listed our text as one of her favorite verses. A second one she mentioned as a favorite, I believe, illuminates this one: “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake” (Psa. 17:15). Fullness of joy results from being clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, being delivered from the presence of sin, experiencing “the redemption of our body” (see Rom. 8:23), complete Christ-likeness, basking in the fellowship of His presence, and serving Him in glory. We can neither fathom nor deserve such blessings, but they are ours by grace in Christ.
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