The combination of “Bible” and “command” usually has some solemn, and sometimes grim, connotations. And understandably so. Especially in the Old Testament, there is an unavoidable connection with God’s commands with his consequences — some of which appear uncomfortably harsh. Especially for our modern sensibilities.
So if someone asked after the most common command in the Bible, your mind would probably immediately jump to some serious “do nots”, “shall nots”, reprimands, and rules.
But what if someone told you God’s most repeated command in the Bible was to be happy?
Before launching into an elaborate theological counter-argument, let’s take a closer look at this point. In his article on Desiring God, Jon Bloom highlights the following as the most repeated Biblical commands:
“Praise the Lord”
“Do not be afraid”
As Bloom points out, all of these are commands, in essence, to be happy.
If we begin seeing the Word of God as a whole, maybe that isn't so hard to believe. We start piecing together the image not of a wrathful God, but of a loving, gentle Father. We begin to see that just like a loving parent forced to discipline an unruly child, God had a heart behind his actions. That includes every reprimand, warning, and command. Both in the New Testament and now.
"There is a direct connection between loving God supremely, loving others as ourselves, and our being authentically happy. We don’t sacrifice one for the other. When God commands us to love him with all we are, or to love others with the same care and concern and grace and compassion and patience with which we love ourselves, he is not commanding us to sacrifice real, lasting, true, satisfying happiness. He’s commanding us to pursue our real, lasting, true, satisfying happiness.”
Bloom goes on to talk about how "faith-filled obedience leads us to joy":
"God only commands his people what will bring them ultimate happiness. That’s why, for those who discover the secret, “his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).”
As Bloom points out, the discovery of this secret was enough to make David break out into song — literally a whole love song written about God’s commands! (See Psalms 19:7-11 for this incredible Scripture)
And maybe Bloom is making a bigger point here, challenging many of our perhaps skewed perceptions of God. God is by no means a genie in a bottle, a relentless prayer-wish granter… but He is also not a harsh, strict, rule-obsessed justice-enforcer either. God doesn’t call us to live exclusively for happiness in this life, but He wants to give us a taste of it, as best as this fallen world (and our fallen nature) will allow for it. And that's always been the point of all His commands. Even the often controversial Old-Testament commands were never intended to hard us, belittle us, or make our lives joyless or difficult. They were given out of love. And to bring us closer to Him — in joy.
Besides, look at how the story ends: no tears, no pain. Just happiness, fulfillment, love, and a huge celebration. And that says something about our God.
Maybe a better perception of our Father — through the lens of His most repeated commands — will give us a greater appreciation for His Word as a whole.
Maybe even enough to make us burst out into song.
Cristina Rutkowski Ford is a Richmond-based artist, writer, and creative communicator. Along writing, creating, and finding God in the details, Cristina channels her passions into her work as editor of Crosswalk.com.
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