…the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
Every morning of the year, my little next door neighbor burst out of his house with unrestrained singing. I came to look forward to a serenade each day as Ben made his way through the garden to school or to play or to the day’s activity. Throughout the years, Ben’s singing matured and blessed me until he decided to grow up, go to university, and finally marry. And he also went into ministry, no surprise.
The people of Judah who had experienced long years in exile finally returned to their homeland (as God had promised) and settled in to reclaim their heritage. Nehemiah led them in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall that had been destroyed by the Babylonian invaders. Many families and tradesmen committed to restoring a section of the wall, and as they all united, the wall and doors were all put back in place.
It was time for celebration. But first, Ezra the priest brought out the Law of Moses, which had been neglected for many years. He read aloud to the people from daybreak until noon, and as the people understood the words, they began to weep. Nehemiah, the governor, and Ezra halted their mourning with, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep” (8:9). These wise leaders knew that grief would suck the victory from the long weeks of effort the people had faithfully put into rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
Instead, Nehemiah instructed them to bring out the party food, to send treats to those who had nothing prepared. They were not to grieve, for “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10). Scripture records that the people celebrated with “great joy.” In fact, their celebration had not been as intense since the days of Joshua. As the Word settled into their hearts, Ezra was able to continue his teaching (and reading), and the people heard the words and rejoiced.
Think of what a little joy could do in our lives. God’s joy (based on our righteousness in him) brings great freedom and empowers us to live, celebrating his Kingdom at work in and through us. Let’s practice “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among [ourselves], and making music to the Lord in [our] hearts” (Eph. 5:19). Bring out the joy. It might even help to restore some of the brokenness in our own lives.
Sweet Father, thank you for your joy that is not based on happenings but on your realities. Stir up a song within us all. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.