"Again You Shall Take Up Your Tambourines"

What’s the Whole Counsel of God?

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
Again you shall take up your tambourines,
And go forth to the dances of those who make merry.

I stressed doctrine last Sunday morning, because Paul stressed doctrine. He is innocent because he declared “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

The sun is shining. The sky is deep-sea blue. The temperature is in the seventies. The wind is gentle. The air is crystal clear and clean. The tulips are half-way up. And you want to leap for joy, not study doctrine.

Me too.

I am not interested in a religion that offers anything less than “fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). And I don’t just mean deep, weighty delights that come in moments of heart-heaving discoveries of God’s faithfulness in tragedy. I do mean that! There is too much cancer and killing in the world not to mean that—until the curse is lifted.

But I also mean what baby sheep do: “You shall go forth leaping like lambs from the stall” (Malachi 4:2). I love the April sunshine. And the warmth on my skin. And the breeze in my face. I love the yelping of Abraham as he comes home from school testing his high notes. I love the (almost-gone) uninhibited affection of Barnabas. I loved Kevin Karlsgodt’s exuberance when Peter caught the music in the temple during “Gloria” last Sunday.


That’s a rare word isn’t it? We grow out of it at about eleven, I think. We try to find it again in a hundred artificial ways. But it’s gone. We’ve grown up. We know too much now.

Or could it be that we know too little? Could it be that we have grown up half way? Out of the naïve exuberance of childhood into the cloud-covered realism of half-adulthood.

Re-enter doctrine. “The whole counsel of God.” What is it?

It’s the new foundation of exuberance when the naiveté of childhood won’t work anymore. But it’s different. The old foundation could not handle reality. But the new foundation sees everything—cancer, nuclear weapons, environmental crises, terrorism, abortion, burned out cities, broken marriages, bummed out kids, depression, etc.—it sees and feels everything. But does not break or sink.

This is “the whole counsel of God.” If you intend to dance in the April sun, just remember, either you do it with your eyes closed, or you do it on the great granite tableland of “the whole counsel of God.”

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, because… (whole counsel of God).”

Learning (the whole counsel of God) to leap with you,

Pastor John