WEEK 8: The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength
TEXT: Nehemiah 8:10
Though chosen, rescued, and promised, God’s people suffered through severe consequence for their continual rejection of Him and His covenant. Ezra read from God’s Word and recited His Law to the people (recorded in Nehemiah 8), and they were shattered by the vast disobedience and rebellion. Their exile was severe, both in its brutality and how it burned into the minds and identity of the people. Who were they without the land, without the temple? How do they relate to God now?
Today, many believers can dare to be honest and admit that we have lived less than perfect lives since accepting the call to Christ. We too have been chosen by God to be His special people, rescued from the eternal penalty and power of sin through the shed blood of Jesus, and have been qualified in Christ to receive many precious promises. Yet and still, we at times are guilty of sin and come short of the glory of God. We also have suffered the consequences of our errors and may have felt distant from the God who loves us so dearly. In this life we are as travelers journeying through a strange land so who would we be without the hope of our heavenly home? As New Testament believers our bodies are considered the temples of the Holy Ghost, but how will we relate to God without His Spirit?
As it was with the ancient Israelites so it is today. God is willing to restore and rebuild the lives of those who belong to Him.
God convicts us of sin, and often our first reaction is guilt and shame. But those feelings never come from God. Ezra the scribe gathered all the people. He read to them from God’s book and skilled ministers explained the words and their meaning to the people. Nehemiah 8:8 says, “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”
Once the people understood — really understood — they wept. God's Word was opening their eyes to the way they had failed Him, but Nehemiah was quick to remind them of who the Lord is.
"Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength (v8)."
The people were encouraged to not weep or be sorry. The Hebrew word for sorry in this verse means pained, vexed, or displeased. The day Ezra read the Law was pronounced a holy day. Although the words that was read and taught convicted them to their core, the purpose of this occasion was not one of judgment but of reintroducing to God's people Himself, and His wonderful plan concerning them. The book of the Law is a book of instruction revealing to us God's way of being right and doing right. Although they suffered for their sins, blessings awaited those who would return by adhering the instructions. Always remember this about our heavenly Father, His correction or disciplinary actions is to produce in each of us the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).
The joy of the Lord...
The original Hebrew for "joy" in Nehemiah 8:10 is "chedvah," meaning joy or gladness. The root word for joy in this context means to rejoice or to make glad. "Strength" in the same verse is a Hebrew word meaning “a place or means of safety, protection refuge, or stronghold.” The root word of strength means “to be strong, prevail; to make firm, strengthen.” The joy of the Lord is a constant gladness and cause to rejoice. It stems from an inner strengthening from our relationship with Him. When Jesus died for us, He restored us to a peace with God that cannot be undone. Our joy rests on God’s joy. "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was before Him endured the cross, despising the shame."
In studying what the words of the text mean I pray we now have a clear understanding of what the word is saying. Be glad, and rejoice in receiving the good news of the Lord's goodness and mercies towards you for in Him there is safety and in Christ we are able to prevail over all of the adversary's desire to keep us bound.