Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away His judgments against you, Zephaniah 3:14-15
Rejoice – When God’s amazing grace overwhelms you, it is nearly impossible to hold back your emotions. That’s perfectly OK. God intended us to feel His goodness. Sometimes we weep with joy. Sometimes we sing praises. Sometimes we dance and shout (but only if the church allows it J). All of these jubilant motions are part of this verb, samach. You can easily remember it if you think of the moving emotion of smack! When God’s grace comes to town, things happen – on the outside and the inside.
But there’s something interesting about this Hebrew word that we wouldn’t see without investigation. When Hebrew scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek, they translated this word with the Greek word euphraino. That’s not what we would have expected. Euphraino means “to be glad.” It emphasizes emotional moods and is usually associated with physical events like festivals. It’s a word for carnival happiness. We would have expected samach to be translated with the Greek charis, the usual New Testament word for “rejoice.” Charis is also the word for “grace.” In Christian circles rejoicing is usually thought of as a reaction to God’s forgiveness. Even in this verse from Zephaniah, the reason for rejoicing is just that – God has forgiven. But in the New Testament, euphraino fades into the background while charis leaps forward. Why?
Here’s one possibility. In the Old Testament, rejoicing occurs over specific events when God demonstrates His benevolence toward His people. Rejoicing is a one-at-a-time deal. Mixed into the sorrow of life are those moments when God breaks through and our hearts are thrilled. But in the New Testament, something even more amazing has happened. Jesus’ arrival signals a permanent presence of God in our midst. Jesus, the Son incarnate, has become one of us, abides with us and never abandons us. Rejoicing is an emotional response that is no longer limited to God’s temporary invasion. We rejoice now because everything has changed. The Anointed One has come! No circumstance in life is beyond rejoicing, for Emmanuel is here.
When the Hebrew scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek, they were still looking for the coming of the Messiah. But when He came, the face of the universe was permanently altered. Samach and euphraino, temporary exclamations of God’s glory, disappear in the dazzling presence of charis – permanent gladness.
Have you moved from samach to charis, or did you get stuck at euphraino? Is your rejoicing permanent? Are you an over-the-horizon person?