The Joy of the Lord
“The joy of the LORD is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10 This verse is often quoted as encouragement and rightly so. A few years ago, I read an article written by a Messianic Rabbi, he wrote with a slightly different perspective of this verse. Intrigued, I delved into the story and discovered for myself.
In the day of Ezra and Nehemiah, after a lengthy captivity in Babylon, they returned with a group of Jewish exiles to their homeland of Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s role was to lead the people in rebuilding the walls of the city. There was great (not so kind) opposition from the neighboring folks, half the men stood guard while the other half worked on the wall, it was an all hands on the wall event, each family working on their assigned section.
Upon the completion of the wall, Ezra brought out the written law of Moses. As he opened it, ALL the people stood up, it had been years seen they had seen it or heard it. As Ezra read and praised the Lord, the people were so overwhelmed; they bowed their faces to the ground weeping as they worshipped. What an agonizing tender moment. They were realizing just how far they had gone from their God – their covenant God. At this moment, in this is realization, it is here Ezra and Nehemiah declare to them, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep…” Nehemiah continues, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9-10)
A people who were once far off had now come home. Not only geographically, but home to their God. They labored side by side for one cause, their hearts rendered open when hearing God’s word. HERE, God-was-pleased. He found joy in their unity, in their renewed awareness of Him. God in His everlasting love and mercy was no longer to be feared in their disobedience and apathy, He was joyful of and for them. Nehemiah was telling the people, “Oh find strength in knowing God is pleased with you, He finds JOY in YOU!” It is His joy, your strength.
How many of us glance over our shoulder and see the mess behind us, we see our straying, our lack of God. When we do come home, repentant and gaining a fresh awareness of HIM, we want only to bow our head in disgrace. Oh beloved, “Do not grieve!” God is the God of our now! By all means, worship – bow low! But. At some point, RAISE YOUR HEAD! Be strengthen, He is pleased, He is overjoyed. Be strengthened that He finds joy in YOU!
The joy of the LORD is your strength. His joy, your strength.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)