Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of those who those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ (Neh. 8:10)
After the wall in Jerusalem had been rebuilt, Nehemiah gathered the people to rededicate the city to God. The priest Ezra began the ceremony by reading the Law of Moses.
As the people heard the words, they began to weep. The people were grief-stricken because they discerned that they had rejected God’s laws, God’s ways, and God’s expectations, and because they had been so unfaithful, God had allowed their wall, city, and temple to be destroyed. Although that new wall caused them to celebrate, that new wall was also a sign of their past unfaithfulness.
When Nehemiah saw their shame and grief, he implored them—in today’s scripture—to stop. Enough, he said, with shame and guilt, enough with grieving and mourning, for today needed to be a time of celebration because “the joy of the Lord is [their] strength.”
When we feel ashamed over what we have done or not done, when we mourn over our actions or words, when we know we have integrity gaps between what we profess and what we do, I encourage us to remember Nehemiah’s words to the people—the joy of the Lord is our strength. The Lord has great joy whenever we rely upon His grace, whenever we come back to His desires, and whenever we amend our ways and, with His help, rebuild our lives.
Even though there are times to mourn or grieve when we look at how we’re living or what we’ve done, there also comes a time when we need to turn our focus away from our unfaithfulness or messing up to see that God is strong to forgive and mighty to save. When we do turn away from how we’ve fallen short to how God always loves, always forgives, and will always help us, we’ll be encouraged to hear Nehemiah’s invitation to rejoice because “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength.”
- What do Nehemiah’s words— “The joy of the LORD is your strength”—mean to you?
- When and how has the Lord been your strength?
- How would your life change if you more often remembered that the Lord does have joy in you—joy that you are alive, the joy that you are His, joy in the difference you make, joy every time you turn back to Him?