Philippians 4:4 and Psalm 32:11 —Rejoice in the Lord!


Written by Paul J. Bucknell on April, 01, 2021

Philippians 4:4 and Psalm 32:11 —Rejoice in the Lord!


A comparison of Philippians 4:4 and Psalm 32:11 brings deep insight into the character of joy that should shape every believer’s life.

The Spirit of Joy

Any reader of the Old and New Testament will discover the oft-repeated theme of joy (211 times in NASB). It’s surprising, especially if one has no religious background or is unfamiliar with the Bible. People commonly speak of excitement or happiness, but not of joy.

This study takes a brief look at the theme of joy in the Bible. We will focus on Paul’s usage in Philippians 4:4, which I propose is partially based on Psalm 32:11. The writers of the New Testament frequently reference the Old Testament. Each discovery brings a delightful surprise to the reader.

I vividly remember how the Lord used the truths of Psalm 4:4 in my early Christian life to encourage me, perhaps because my old, pre-Christian, days were marked by sadness. For this study, Psalm 4:4 becomes our springboard into joy!

Philippians 4:4

Let’s begin with a brief study on Philippians 4:4. The verse is short, and yet, it easily becomes fodder for many powerful and stirring messages.

“Rejoice in the Lord always;

again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4)

I’ll make three observations.
The repetition of the word “rejoice” is significant. It emphasizes its importance. Earlier I mentioned how odd it is for some to connect joy with religion. I understand! I grew up groaning about going to church; I experienced everything but joy and delight.

    1. Repetition

Since becoming a genuine follower of Jesus, I discovered Paul’s rich meaning through these words. Similarly, God’s redemptive work brings excitement to true believers as God’s love radiates in their hearts, generating much personal admiration for God and devotion to Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death was gruesome, but His dedication to sinners like us exudes a deep, inner joy.

Although joy originates in the Lord, it rings true in our hearts, bringing thanks and praise to our God. Paul exhorts God’s people twice in this short sentence to rejoice in the Lord.
The joy of the Lord delivers a lasting, sustaining joy, no matter what hardships a believer faces. The believer’s preoccupation, then, is not with a comfortable life (though we enjoy that) but in the delightful way that the Lord accompanies us through life. Enjoyment dramatically differs from this inner joy in the Lord.

2. Always

The joy of the Lord delivers a lasting, sustaining joy, no matter what hardships a believer faces. The believer’s preoccupation, then, is not with a comfortable life (though we enjoy that) but in the delightful way that the Lord accompanies us through life. Enjoyment dramatically differs from this inner joy in the Lord.

The Roots of Philippians 4:4’s joy is found in Psalm 32:11.

There is no time or situation where the joy of the Lord should be absent from one’s heart. In Philippians, unprincipled men unjustly threw Paul in a Philippi jailhouse. As we read chapter 1, we discover how the Apostle Paul’s joy never ceased for a moment. This joy, then, rests in a factor outside of the situation, which leads us to our third point.

3. In the Lord

This joy derives its ongoing, powerful presence from our relationship with the Lord and His promises to always be with us. As we see in the pages of God’s Word, even when faced with excruciating situations, Paul, without flinching, twice urges God’s people to rejoice. Excuses are not allowed.

If this were mere emotion, we would consider Paul’s words to be emotionally charged—as if he forgot about the realities of life. But this joy derives itself from Jesus’ words, “I will be with you to the end of the age.”

Jesus has risen, and He accompanies us through His Spirit to live out His will wherever He has wisely appointed us on this planet.

Summary

My purpose here is not to expand the beautiful teachings of Philippians 4:4 but to only sufficiently engage us to see the essential components, approach, and purpose of this verse. We want to continue and explore Psalm 32:11 to see what I propose is the source, though maybe not the only one, where Paul gathered the confidence to proclaim Christians everywhere boldly and always to rejoice in Jesus the Christ, the anointed Yahweh.

Psalm 32:11

David, in Psalm 32:11 highlights numerous truths, seemingly the same as Paul did a millennium and a half later.

“Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11).
In good Hebrew poetic style, David repeats himself in a slightly alternative way, often with some added highlights.

1. Repetition

“Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;

and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

But here, David repeats himself within the first line with a similar meaning, “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice.” He continues with “shout for joy” in true poetic style, but he repeats himself early on, which distinguishes this verse, making it similar to Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say rejoice.”Repeated twice.
David does not use the word “always” here, but the “always” that Paul later uses are seen through the three times David repeats himself.
The repetition of the strong words creates a scene pointing to Paul’s “always.” We can also emphasize this strong language by observing the whole of Psalm 32 in its context.

2. (Always)

  • Be glad in the Lord
  • Rejoice, you righteous ones
  • Shout for joy

David wrote Psalm 32 when wandering about in the deep mire of guilt caused by unconfessed personal sin. “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away; through my groaning all day long” (32:3 and 4).

I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. (Ps 32:5)

In his troubled spirit, God forced David to view what a wretch and fool he had been—knowing full well that He deserved God’s judgment. David, however, goes on to speak of confessing his sin and finding forgiveness—uncapping the well of joy from God’s forgiveness.

And so we see that David grapples with a problem believers face today—they are guilty of sin. Do we not all wrestle with how the Lord will deal with our sin? Will God ever forgive us? The discovery of the Lord’s forgiveness becomes the profound, constant reminder of God’s abounding grace.

Even in such a problematic plight, David and we also find forgiveness in the Lord, which brings about joy in our lives and leads us to our third point.
David not only tells us to delight in the Lord but why the joy penetrates so deeply into his soul. God amazingly forgave him, a sinner.

    3. In the LORD

At first view, we wonder how David can differentiate himself from the wicked (32:9-10), but the difference originates in the sinner who turns from his sinful ways. David, in verse 11, considers himself one of the “righteous ones” and “upright in heart.” He shares a hatred for sin, resulting in an attachment to God’s people.

This focus on the Lord (lit. Jehovah, Yahweh, the literal translation) parallels Paul’s words. Paul’s delight in Jesus Christ in the New Testament replicates the confidence that David found in the abounding grace of the LORD.

Summary

David highlights the depth of his joy as he discovers the magnitude of God’s mercy and forgiveness, illustrating how God rescued him from his personal sin. Being forgiven, he exhorts others to have this same confidence in God our Savior and exude in the joy of God’s salvation. The joy rests in God’s forgiveness rather than in life’s unpredictable circumstances.

Psalm 32:11’s Pathway to Philippians 4:4

We cannot authoritatively state that Paul gathered these words, passion, and excitement from David in Psalm 32—but I remain convinced of it. Paul, like David, saw himself as one that could not find his righteousness in his life or in the law.

Before his transformation from Saul to Paul, he was so blind, seen in his hunting down of God’s people, that only the light of Christ could expose his arrogance and mistaken notions. Paul doesn’t mention this deliverance in Philippians but solely on Christ’s righteousness.

7 But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. 8 More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things —indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God” (Phil 3:7-9 NET).

The source of Paul’s joy is Christ. True joy begins and ends with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and His life offered in death for our sins on the cross. Our joy originates in Christ’s redemptive work and manifests itself by celebrating Jesus’ ongoing glory.

I love how Paul picks up on David’s repeated exhortation “to rejoice!” Paul picks up where David left off, leaving no question of God’s goodness as demonstrated in Christ’s salvation of sinners.

Conclusion

Paul follows David’s lead by repeatedly exhorting God’s people to hold onto an ongoing joy by living in light of Christ’s majestic work. This joy is constant and powerful enough to display this hope in all of God’s people—even if persecuted, wrongly blamed, mistreated, raped, or left for dead.

The focal point is “in the Lord,” that is, in Yahweh who came to earth and died for us sinners (Phil 2:3-11; Isaiah 53).

Rejoice in the Lord always.
Again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord Always! (Phil 4:4)

Study Questions for Rejoicing in the Lord

  1. What two verses are discussed and compared in the above article?
  2. Identify the significance of repeating words in the same line. Do you ever do that? Why might the apostle?
  3. Why did Paul use the word “always” in Philippians 4:4?
  4. Do you think Paul means always? Why or why not? Use the context of the whole Book of Philippians to amplify your reasoning.
  5. Does David repeat this same exhortation to rejoice? Explain any differences or similarities.
  6. David also states the source of joy to be “in the Lord.” Look through Psalm 32 and note the reasons the Lord personally blessed David; give reason to bless Him.
  7. Explain why Philippians 4:4 might have originated in Psalm 32:11. Are you personally convinced? Explain.
  8. Have you been able to rejoice in the Lord regularly? Explain.
  9. What situations make it hard for you to “always” rejoice in the Lord?

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