The Joyful Sound

“Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” —Psalm 89:15

THE “joyful sound” referred to in our text would seem clearly to be that glorious theme song of the Bible which is found in its pages from cover to cover, that harmonious divine plan of salvation for a sin-cursed and dying race. It is first brought to our attention in connection with God’s sentencing of our first parents to death because they had transgressed his law. In symbolic language the Lord speaks of a “seed” that would bruise the “serpent’s” head. The “serpent” referred to is the one who was instrumental in inducing the disobedience of our first parents, and is referred to in Revelation 20:2 as the “dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan.”—Gen. 3:15

This “joyful sound” is also mentioned in Genesis 12:3, in the promise which God made to Abraham, the promise that through his seed “all families of the earth” would be blessed. In the plan of God this “seed” is in reality the Messiah, and all of God’s holy prophets of the Old Testament repeated, in one way or another, the joyful messianic theme song of God. When we get to the New Testament this message is referred to as the “Gospel”: “the Gospel of God”; “the Gospel of Christ”; “the Gospel of the kingdom”, etc. The word “Gospel,” as we know, means glad tidings, and certainly the glorious prospect of salvation for both the church and the world is glad tidings, a “joyful sound.”

God’s People Inspired

The Lord’s people throughout all the ages have been inspired and encouraged by the “joyful sound” of God’s messianic theme song. Paul wrote concerning Abraham, “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”—Heb. 11:9,10

A city is often used in the Bible to symbolize a government. We are not to suppose that Abraham understood many of the details of God’s plan to establish a worldwide government through the Messiah, who would become “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” But he did know that God’s promise to bless all families of the earth through his seed was all-comprehensive, and would require outstanding measures to be fulfilled. As was demonstrated in his willingness to offer Isaac in sacrifice, he believed in God’s power to restore the dead to life, and it is not unreasonable to conclude that he visualized the use of this almighty power in the fulfillment of the divine promise concerning his “Seed.”

But regardless of Abraham’s faith, and the vision of God’s plan which it may have given him, his concept of just how that promise would be fulfilled surely came far short of the reality. While Abraham did indeed look for a city, how could he have conceived the reality and grandeur of that city as John, nearly three thousand years later, saw it in vision coming down from God out of heaven, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”—Rev. 21:2

Yes, here in vision, John saw the fulfillment of Abraham’s hope; that hope which was based upon the promises of God. Even John was not clear at the time as to the full significance of what he saw in this marvelous portrayal of a city coming down from heaven. Relating his experience further, John writes, “And there came unto me one of the seven angels … saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”—Rev. 21:9,10

Strange Identification

How strangely John identified the “holy city” for which Abraham looked! In reality this “city” was “the bride,” “the Lamb’s wife.” But who was “the bride, the Lamb’s wife”? At this point in his vision on the Isle of Patmos John would know something about the “Lamb.” He had seen this Lamb as the one found worthy to loose the seals and open the “book” that was in the hand of the glorious One who sat upon the throne.—Rev. 5:1-6

He had also seen this Lamb as it “stood on the mount Sion.” And here he saw that with the Lamb there were “an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” (Rev. 14:1) He had also heard the announcement that “the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” (Rev. 14:7) Whether John had concluded that the “wife,” or bride, of the Lamb was that hundred and forty-four thousand which he had seen with the Lamb on mount Sion, we may not know. But we know now that this was the case, and that this is the “bride” which John had revealed to him as the “holy city” coming down from heaven.

Abraham, of course, could not know that the city for which he looked, whose Builder and Maker would be God, involved so much. For us today who are living in that blessed time of our Master’s second presence this is a gloriously simple truth. It means what is so clearly taught in the Scriptures; that the faithful followers of the Master of this Gospel Age, upon conditions of suffering and dying with him, will live and reign with him in his kingdom, and one of the symbols used in the Bible to illustrate this is the “bridegroom” and “bride” relationship. It is, then, “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” who is referred to in that wonderful text which says that “the Spirit and the bride say, Come. … And … take the water of life freely.”—Rev. 22:17

While this is one of the simple truths of the Bible, it is nevertheless one of the basic facts concerning the divine plan of salvation, that “joyful sound” of our text. And it is also a very revealing fact of that plan. Throughout the ages the Lord’s people who have heard the joyful sound of God’s grand theme song of salvation have longed for the time to come when the blessings promised through his prophets would reach the people.

Some, in their intense longing, have tried to hurry the coming of that glad day of blessing. But in this great truth concerning the “city,” which is “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” we learn that in God’s design the promised blessings will not be due to come until “his wife hath made herself ready” and “the marriage of the Lamb is come.” Prior to this there is no bride, no holy city which can come down from heaven, and no “bride” to say “Come. … And take the water of life freely.”

Moses Heard the “Joyful Sound”

Moses, the servant of God, and the one used so mightily by God in delivering his people from Egyptian bondage and in giving them his law, seems to have learned of God’s promise to Abraham from his mother, who was accepted by Pharaoh’s daughter to nurse him when he was delivered from the River Nile. He was reared in Pharaoh’s palace and apparently would have no other means of communication with his people.

But what he learned from his mother he learned well, and by faith laid hold upon it and was inspired by the glorious hope which it gave him. Writing about this Paul said, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”—Heb. 11:23-27

Paul’s statement that Moses esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” is more clearly understood when we substitute the title “Messiah” for “Christ.” Christ is a New Testament title, from the Greek word, Christo. Messiah was the word known to the Old Testament Worthies. Paul’s reference to it in connection with Moses indicates that this faithful servant of God was inspired by the messianic hope—the “joyful sound” of prophecy.

Messianic Afflictions

And Paul also reminds us of another facet of this great truth concerning the coming and work of a Messiah; namely, that it would not be a popular message in the world, and that those devoted to the messianic cause would not be a popular people. This too was suggested by the Creator at the time our first parents were sentenced to death. Not only did he say that the “Seed” of the “woman” would bruise the serpent’s head, but also that the seed of the “serpent” would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman.—Gen. 3:15

A heel wound is not a destroying wound, but it is painful. The “serpent,” of course, is symbolic of Satan the Devil, and Jesus informs us that those who were opposing him were of their father the Devil. (John 8:44) Here, then, was the seed of the serpent in Jesus’ day. But Satan has been successful in all ages in blinding and using people who would set themselves in opposition to the people of God. Jesus’ suffering and death were vital in connection with the salvation of the world from sin and death. So Satan’s attack only served to accomplish the divine will for him. The followers of Jesus in this age have the privilege of sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and this work of sacrifice and suffering is also vital to the divine plan.—Col. 1:25; II Tim. 2:11,12

Ancient Worthies Also Suffered

The suffering of God’s ancient people, such as Moses and the entire Ancient Worthy class, who held the messianic hope, is in a different category so far as the plan of God is concerned, but often it was not less severe than the suffering of the Lord’s people throughout the present age. Paul gives us a summary of many of the things suffered by the Ancient Worthy class when he wrote, “Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”—Heb. 11:36-38

The Bible furnishes a record only of those who were directly used by the Lord during those Old Testament times, and some, of course who were the friends, or associated with God’s faithful servants. The same might be said of the New Testament Worthies. We know from the records that there were literally thousands who during the Early Church period embraced the Gospel, the joyful sound, and dedicated their lives to its service, yet only an extremely small proportion of these are mentioned by name in the Book of Acts, and in the apostolic epistles.

So it was in ancient times. For example, Elijah, in his day, when being so violently persecuted by Jezebel and her husband King Ahab, wanted to die, and complained that he alone in all Israel had been faithful to the Lord. The Lord answered, explaining that there were even then seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. (I Kings 19:18) And we can safely conclude that these also, without its being recorded of them, suffered their share of the afflictions of the people of God, which was also true in other generations.

Daniel and the Three Hebrews

Even during Israel’s captivity in Babylon there were those among them who worshiped and served the true God, and who were given courage by the “joyful sound” that was heralded through his promises. Among these were Daniel and his three young friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In the Lord’s providences all four of these were elevated to high positions in the Babylonian government. Others in the government became jealous of them and plotted their downfall, and made charges against them.

In the case of Daniel’s three young friends the charge was that they had disregarded King Nebuchadnezzar’s command that all his high servants fall down and worship the image which he had set up. (Dan. 3:12) Then the king sent specially for these three young servants of God and demanded of them personally that they obey his decree. Their reply was, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”—Dan. 3:16,18

Thereupon the king ordered these three young Hebrews to be cast into the fiery furnace, which was heated seven times hotter than usual. The men who threw them into the fire perished with the heat, but the Lord sent his angel to protect and deliver his servants.

The test that was imposed upon Daniel was the denial of his privilege of offering prayer to his God for a certain period of time; the penalty for disobedience being that he would be cast into a den of lions. Daniel refused to give up his habit of prayer, and being spied upon, he was reported to the king and forthwith was cast to the lions. But again the Lord intervened, and Daniel was delivered.—Dan. 6

These were outstanding examples of faith in the love and care of their covenant-keeping God in those ancient times. The reason they had this faith is that they knew of God’s promises to his people; promises of a coming Messiah who would deliver them and all mankind from oppression and death in his own due time. They were not sure of immediate deliverance from the fiery furnace, nor from the mouths of the lions, but they endured, nevertheless, in order that they might be worthy of deliverance in that “better resurrection” spoken of in Hebrews 11:35

As we have noted, the Ancient Worthies were not given to understand as much concerning the “joyful sound” of truth as has been given to us, but it seems evident that they did realize the great truth of the resurrection of the dead. Paul establishes this point in Acts 24:14,15. And what a difference this made in their outlook! They knew that their eternal destiny could not be fixed by a Babylonian king, neither an idol-worshiping king of Israel or of some other nation. They knew that their real hope in God was in the fact that he had promised to bless “all families of the earth” through the seed of their father Abraham. It was this joyful sound of truth that was to them an abiding token of the Creator’s love and care.


Some time after David became king he expressed a desire to build a house for the Lord. The Prophet Nathan gave him permission to do this, but the Lord overruled Nathan’s word, and the prophet was instructed to say to David: “Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever.” (II Sam. 7:16) David was very appreciative of the Lord’s confidence thus expressed in him, but could not grasp the full significance of what this promise meant, and he said to the Lord, “Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant’s house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?”—II Sam. 7:18,19

David was awed by the promise which the Lord had made to him. He recognized that it pertained to the establishment of his ruling house “for a great while to come,” but he did not understand fully just how great a “while” was involved. He did not know that this was a promise involving the coming Messiah of promise, who in God’s due time would sit upon his throne. Nor could we understand this were it not for the fact that the New Testament reveals it to us.

This revealment is contained in Gabriel’s announcement to Mary informing her that she was to be the mother of the Promised One of Israel. The angel said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”—Luke 1:30-33

Thus we trace the glorious hope of a coming rulership of the Messiah down to Jesus, and find that he is the great One of the prophecies, and the central figure in the “joyful sound” of the Gospel. No wonder the angel which announced Jesus’ birth declared it to be “good tidings of great joy” which eventually should be “unto all people.” (Luke 2:10) Every time the precious messianic promises of God were mentioned by the prophets, joy must have filled the hearts of those who heard and believed. It had been a “joyful sound” to all the faithful of the past, and now that he was born it was “great joy” indeed.

Further Waiting

But the kingdom was not immediately established by Jesus. Indeed, it was not established at all by him at his first advent, although it was declared to be at hand in the sense that the King had come, and had initiated further preparation for his future rulership over the earth. Also at Pentecost the way was opened for the calling and testing of those who would, if faithful unto death, gain a place in the spiritual phase of the kingdom of heaven when it is fully established. There were yet to be more than nineteen hundred years of waiting, a period of waiting during which, as in the past, the faithful believers in the joyful sound of God’s plan would continue to be a persecuted and suffering people.

This began with Jesus himself. We would think that one who went about preaching a message of joy, and healing the people of their diseases—even raising the dead—would be hailed as a benefactor and exalted to a high position of honor and authority in his community and nation. But this was not true with Jesus. While the common people heard him gladly, even some of these were influenced to turn against this man who spoke as never man had spoken before, and they joined in the clamor for his death. And Jesus’ enemies succeeded in having him put to death on the cross.

But Jesus bore up victoriously under this attack, as did the faithful ones of the past who were similarly persecuted because of their zeal for the house of God, and for the joyful sound of truth which inspired them. Of Jesus we read, that “for the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Heb. 12:2

The Ancient Worthies were inspired by the hope of a “better resurrection,” and Jesus was inspired with the hope of sitting “down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He was also strengthened by the hope of being the Father’s agent, as the spiritual “Seed” of Abraham, for dispensing the promised blessings of life to a sin-sick and dying world. The joys—which were the joys of “the joyful sound”—gave him strength to endure the cross, and to despise the shame that his enemies heaped upon him. How he must have rejoiced in the glory which followed when he said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”—Matt. 28:18

His Brethren Also

The sufferings of Christ did not end with Calvary. One of the precious aspects of the joyful sound is that the Messiah of promise is not Jesus alone, but comprises also all those who, in their faith and devotion, suffer and die with him. This privilege of suffering and dying which was to be extended to Jesus’ followers was mentioned by him in his invitation to take up their cross and follow him.

Paul not only identifies Jesus as the promised “Seed” of Abraham, but also reveals that those who are baptized into his death are also a part of that seed, and “heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:8,16,27-29) Paul speaks of our filling up “that which is behind” of the sufferings of Christ. (Col. 1:24) So it is that the messianic people of God, described by Jesus as “the children of the kingdom,” have been a suffering people. Satan has “bruised” their “heel” also, and they have suffered the pain of these hate-inspired wounds of persecution.

But as the people of God they have not been destroyed. Even when death was inflicted upon their bodies, as with Jesus, their eternal life was hid with Christ in God, and they come forth in the “first resurrection” to live and reign with Christ. How joyful, then, is “the joyful sound.” One of the greatest aspects of this joy is that those who know the glorious plan of God have this evidence, this “witness of the Spirit,” that they are walking in the light of the Lord’s countenance.

May we never, even for a moment, discount the value and importance of the knowledge we possess of this “joyful sound,” nor minimize its power in our lives. The Lord’s people in all ages, even those of ancient times who had but a meager understanding of the plan of God, longed for the promised messianic kingdom to come. And we today, who know this old, old story better, are also longing to see the full establishment of that kingdom, to see that city for which Abraham looked “come down from God out of heaven.”

We know that now the kingdom is actually being established, that the King is present, finishing the work of taking out a people for his name, finishing the harvest work. How glad we are that nothing can interfere with the progress of this work, and that the timetable of the divine plan is accurately being carried out. The Lord has not revealed to us his due time for the completion of the Gospel-Age work, but let us patiently wait on him, knowing that he who gave his ancient servants patience and courage to endure, and helped Jesus to despise the shame, will also be with us while actively and patiently we wait for the full fruition of his promises in our individual lives, and then, through that “holy city,” extend his promised blessings of enlightenment, health, and life to “all the families of the earth.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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