Posts tagged “The joy of the Lord is your strength

His Joy, Your Strength

“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)

 

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Oh Find Strength in Knowing….

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Recently someone dear to me shared they struggle with feeling unworthy.  Unworthy in the sense that they weren’t close enough to God, feeling they weren’t DOING enough for Him.  This person is setting aside time, focus and energy right NOW in this season of their life for HIM, His word, His people, like they never have before.  This morning, I awoke with this verse on my heart. “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” – Neh. 8:10  This verse is quoted often as encouragement, and rightly so.  A few years ago I read an article written by a Messianic Rabbi, all I remember was his pitch on a different twist, a new perspective on this verse.  So I grabbed my mug of coco laced with cinnamon, and began to dig.  My results?  I too agree with the Rabbi.  Let me explain in my own little way:

In the day of Ezra and Nehemiah, a group of Jewish exiles numbering around some 50,000 had returned to their homeland of Jerusalem, this after the 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 waiting. He is a covenant keeping God.   They were telling the people, “Oh find strength in knowing God is pleased with you, He finds JOY in YOU!”   Holiness and joy together!

How many of us too, deem ourselves unworthy.  We glance over our shoulder and see the mess behind us, we see our straying, our lack of … God.  When we do come ‘home’, we want to bow our head in disgrace.  Oh beloved, “Do not grieve!”  God is our God of NOW!   Yes WORSHIP, but R-A-I-S-E  YOUR HEAD!  Be strengthen, He is pleased, He is over joyed. He is YOUR God.

If you know someone who is discouraged, beating themselves up regarding their past, please forward this to them, be their Nehemiah and declare, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” 

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another one towards love & good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24)


His Joy, Your Strength

Ever hear, watch or read something juuusst slightly different, to where it causes your head tilt to the side as if in great contemplation?  Your eyes narrow,  your hand begins to slip upward as to ask a question?  THIS is where I have been the last few days as I have been studying the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  Where, you say?  Yep, couple of small books of the Old Testament.  You may recognize the verse, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  This is found in Nehemiah 8:10.  In my study I have come to an interesting conclusion of this verse.  May I share it with you, hang tight with me, you too may tilt your head.  My text is Nehemiah chapter 8.  When time permits, I encourage you to read both books.

I find it interesting that public reading of the scriptures was REQUIRED by law every 7 years, (WOW!) but due to the Israelites captivity (shame on those Babylonian dudes) it had been neglected.  No wonder the people stood up when the Book was cracked open ~ they praised and went to worshipping face down to the ground.   It had been Y-E-A-R-S.   I can’t imagine years without hearing or reading the Word.

There were no daily emails waiting for them in their inbox from a Christian website, no texted encouraging verse beeping at them.  No Kindles, leather-bound copies, or LARGE print for that matter (thank God for large print).  Hearing God’s word brought such conviction that they were grieved beyond measure. Over the years of captivity they had not sought relationship with their God – they just ‘went’.  Without much choice, they went where they were told, did as commanded, yet allowed a deaf ear to fall on their hearts.  The reading/hearing of God’s word had awaken something inside them, deep inside them.
 
Verse 9-11 (chapter 8 Neh.)  “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said “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.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”  
 
The day was sacred, God had showed up.  He was pleased with the return to Jerusalem, rebuilding the temple and wall. Now as the people gathered in unity, His word was again being read … considered and listening to.  God is pleased. 
 
Grieving for that culture was MUCH different from ours.  We grieve primarily in quiet.  THEIR grieving could lend towards a more violent mourning. The word Ezra uses to describe here means to WAIL, bitter intense weeping, in pain or humiliation.  The practice was ripping of clothing with loud crying. The folks were getting serious about their ‘discomfort’ of heart.  Hm… do WE allow ourselves discomfort of heart?  (read that again)  We are so over stimulated with life these days, the loudness of life, the busy-ness of life, and may I add the ‘technology’ of life, do we slow down enough to consider that slight twinge we feel of spirit?  Oh, we may define it as “I’m just a bit off these days.”  Could that ‘off’ be the nudge of heart, the brush of HIS hand across our soul?  The Holy whisper in our ear. I am trying (emphasis ‘trying’) to learn to respond to that nudge. Because I can assure you, for me at least, that nudge can turn to an all out swift kick.  God loves us THAT much.  (just sayin)

The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  We use this verse in a huge variety of circumstances.  When we are down  “… the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  When we are walking through a tough time, and we want to be happy, it again rolls off our tongue.   When reading a commentary on the book of Nehemiah awhile back, the author, a Hebrew by birth and scholar stated that the verse is taken out of context much of the time, now in my own study of the books of Ezra/Nehemiah I too am persuaded this way.

May I offer (not doctrine or fine print deep theological interpretation) just an observation.  In my own small mind, I would render that this verse to imply, the ‘joy’ is not ours, but Gods.  God is so stinkin pleased with the Israelites at this point.  They have returned, they worked alongside one another to rebuild. They rebuilt the Temple.  When rebuilding the wall, each man took his place, did his part.  While one built, others stood watch and protected.  Unity.  Then the Law was pulled out, at the people’s request  (see verse 1).  Their response?  Worship. Humility. True sorrow, and grief.

Nehemiah, (in my opinion) tells them, “Folks, stop grieving, yes you are humbled to be in God presence and hear His Word again, but God is pleased.  Get up off your faces (v. 6) His joy over you is great, find strength in His joy.  Now go, enjoy the Feast of Trumpets, eat and share with others.”  This is what the Holy Spirit has been ‘nudging’ me of recent.  That I too, when I lay my head on my pillow at night, desire – long – NEED to know, that my God is pleased with me.  Today did I love God, His people, His stuff?  Is He pleased with me, is His joy over me great?  I don’t think this in a condemning way, only as a ‘holy thermometer‘.  May I be strengthened, knowing that my obedience was spot on, my responses good and my motives pure. Sure, I may have ‘missed the mark’ today, but His mercies are new each morning.  Tomorrow when I wake, the first thing off my spiritual tongue, “May I bring you joy today Lord.”

May we too experience the reading/hearing of God’s Word, having it awaken something inside us, deep inside us.  It is a must, that we allow ourselves to sense God’s nudging.  Oh, we too could find ourselves face down on the ground in worship in complete humility.  May we long to please our God, finding strength in His joy.

It is indeed a spiritual cycle, we ask God for His strength and might and abounding grace to live a life to bring Him glory, we find strength in His joy.

The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” ~ Heb. 10:24)
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