Celebrate with TremblingDecember 15, 2013 - 8:10 pm
“Serve the LORD with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.”—Psalm 2:11
The Talmud, Judaism’s oral tradition, shares the following story:
The guests were all gathered at the wedding of a prominent Sage’s son. As the celebration got underway, some guests approached a man name Rabbi Hamnuna and asked him to sing. And so he sang: “We’re all going to die one day! We’re all going to die!”
What? Could there be a more inappropriate wedding song? What was Rabbi Hamnuna thinking?
This story is told to illustrate a verse in Psalm 2: “Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.” What does it mean to celebrate with trembling? One would think that celebration and trepidation are on opposite ends of the spectrum. What does one have to do with the other?
The Sages explain the verse in this way —wherever there is celebration we should infuse a healthy dose of trepidation, as in Rabbi Hamnuna’s doleful song at the wedding celebration. The Sages cite another example, also at a wedding, where in the midst of celebration, the bride’s father took an expensive crystal goblet and smashed it on the ground.
Certainly, that is bringing trepidation to celebration, but we still have not explained why.
The reason is because at our most joyful moments, we risk losing a proper perspective on life. As the bride and groom enjoy their wedding day, everything is perfect. They are happy and full of hope. The wedding reception is exquisite, the music is playing, there is a grand feast, and everyone is merry.
But what happens when life isn’t so picture perfect? What happens when that same couple encounters adversity? What about a day in their future when there is little money in the bank, the kids are cranky, and the house is a mess? Are they still happy then?
By infusing celebration with trepidation, the message is this: Happily ever after can only be achieved when it isn’t dependent upon outside circumstances. It’s only when we can find joy during the difficult times that we can find true contentment in life. Life isn’t always a picnic and the sun isn’t always shining. However, our wish for the bride and groom is that together they can weather any storm and find peace and joy in each other’s arms and in God’s loving embrace.
Friends, let’s not get caught up in the outer trappings of life. Happiness is not in the superficial or material things that give us a temporary lift. True joy comes when you are living with a healthy dose of trepidation, but still find plenty of reasons for joyful celebration.