In the presence of God is the fullness of joy and at His right hand are everlasting pleasures. What is the fullness of joy? You certainly have an idea. If you carefully count your blessings for a little while, you will recall an event or two when some great favourable thing happened in your life, some unexpected windfall, some landmark examination you passed in flying colours, some good job you landed, the birth of your first child after seven years of waiting, etc. Some joyful event that lifted you to cloud nine and the day it happened or you got the news it seemed you walked on the air and your heart and head were in the heavens.
As a typical village boy from Benue State (then) with lofty ideas of a better tomorrow, I had chosen in my JAMB form in June 1978 to read law at the University of Lagos at the end of two sessions at the Murtala College of Arts, Science & Technology in Makurdi. The average middle better is Nigeria aspired to be admitted to ABU Zaria in those days and anyone choosing a university in the South was thought to be aspiring to something above his league. Now, 1978 was the first year JAMB was going to conduct admissions into Nigerian Universities and the names of the successful students in all universities were going to be published in national newspapers. So from about the first week of September that year the publications started. In the first several publications, I did not even see University of Lagos lists and when they started publishing her lists, it seemed as if they forgot the Faculty of Law. Then it happened. On the 15th of October 1978, I was in front of the General Post Office in Kaduna where students seeking admissions gathered to try to locate their names in the papers. When I saw the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, my heart skipped a beat. As I perused the list and found the name of my friend and classmate Joshua Igono, hope came into my heart. When I eventually saw my name, I cannot now recall exactly how I reacted or whether the newspaper fell out of my hand. How I got to my sister’s house that day, I cannot now tell but for several days I walked on the air. If I made the mistake of falling asleep the exhilaration of gaining admission to the best faculty of law in Nigeria made sure I woke up in minutes. Of course, I immediately returned to my village and everyone soon heard I gained admission (certainly the first from my entire local government) to read law at the University of Lagos.
However, just like in your case, I eventually climbed down from cloud nine when I registered and started attending lectures in the faculty. The novelty wore off and gaining admission into that university did not mean much to me anymore.
But the fullness of joy in God’s presence is an everlasting could nine that instead of coming down will climb up to cloud eleven and thirteen and fifteen because of the great grace and goodness of God. Read with me Eph. 2:7 from the Amplified Bible: “He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come, the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favour) in (His) kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus.” I believe this is some idea of what David means by fullness of joy and everlasting pleasures in God’s presence.
I believe C.S. Lewis perfectly captures the ecstasy of God’s presence in the discourse between the children and Aslan the Lion (Jesus) in the last few paragraphs of The Last Battle (the last book in the series of seven books called The Chronicles of Narnia) when he wrote, “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be,” Lucy said, “We are so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”
“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?” Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. “There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the real morning.”
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion: but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is the end of the stories and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them, it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the great story which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
It cannot be more aptly stated, there is no way you will come into the presence of Jesus and “wild hope” and ecstasy will not seize your heart.
The hot pursuit of God’s presence was not only the central passion of David’s life, it also became the refrain, the recurring decimal in his praise songs. In Ps. 42:1-2, he said, “As the deer pants for the water, so I long after you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. Where can I find Him to come and stand before Him?” In Ps. 63 from verse one he said, “O God, my God, How I search for You. How I thirst for You in this parched and weary land where there is no water. How I long to find You. How I wish I could go into Your sanctuary to see Your strength and glory, for Your love and kindness are better to me than life itself.” Then verse 8, “My soul followeth hard after Three, Thy right hand upholdeth me. Ps. 84 from verse 1, “How lovely is your temple, O Lord of the armies of heaven. I long, yes, faint with longing to be able to enter Your courtyard and come near to the living God. Even the sparrows and swallows are welcome to come and nest among Your altars and there have their yong. O Lord of heaven’s armies, my King and my God! How happy are those who can live in Your temple, singing Your praises!”
David had incredible glimpses of God’s presence and His kindness. I have always wondered where the food they ate came from but I have no doubt now God provided it as He has done many times since. God had a meal with men. How welcoming, how loving, how accepting, how friendly and how favourable God must be!