“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, all I remember was his pitch with a slightly different interpretation, I decided to dig in and study it for myself. My results? I too agree with the Rabbi. Let me share my observation and help paint the picture that I believe to be God’s heart.
In the day of Ezra and Nehemiah, a group of Jewish exiles numbering around 50,000 had returned to their homeland of Jerusalem, this after a lengthy captivity in Babylon. 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, A-L-L the people stood up. They hadn’t heard this in ages, LITERALLY! They were so overwhelmed, the bowed their faces to the ground and worshipped. In this worship … they wept. What an amazing sight that would be, to see so many tender to the Word of the Lord. They were realizing just how far they can gone AWAY from their God. Their covenant God. THIS is when Ezra and Nehemiah declare to them, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep…” Nehemiah continues on, (read this slowly) “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 of their disobedience and apathy, He was joyful of and for them. They were 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, get our act together, gaining a fresh awareness of HIM, we want only to bow our head in disgrace. Oh beloved, “Do not grieve!” God is our God of our now! By all means worship, bow low, but at some point R-A-I-S-E YOUR HEAD! Be strengthen, He is pleased, He is over joyed. He is YOUR God. 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 one towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)