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The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
- Nehemiah 8:10

Nehemiah, what are you thinking? You have a whole crowd of people listening to God’s Word and they’re weeping. Maybe they’re repenting of their sins. Maybe they’re confessing. Maybe they’re getting ready to change the way they live and treat people and expect people to behave. Nehemiah, why would you interrupt this moment?

As two preachers, we’ve had moments when we’re reading or talking about God’s Word when the people listening are moved and begin to weep. These are terrifying and holy moments. When they occur, we often want to linger in them, to let God do his thing and bring the healing / comfort / transformation that he wants to bring to the people who are weeping.

But Nehemiah moves the people on. Why?

We think there’s a clue in this passage. Three times in this story this refrain is repeated (with minor variation): “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve.” But when Nehemiah says it, he adds this phrase: “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

We believe that Nehemiah is pointing his community to the Lord, encouraging them to unhook from themselves and pay attention to the joy they have in the Lord. They were weeping because they didn’t live up to the Law, because they couldn’t, they didn’t have the strength to do it. But Nehemiah points them to the joy of the Lord.

The joy of the Lord compels us through life. On our own, we don’t have sufficient strength to make it or do it or fix it, whatever it is. We don’t have enough joy on our own to make it through life’s failures and disappointments and trials. But the Lord generously sends joy our way, like the Sun sending beams of light to earth.

Friends, the joy of the Lord is your strength today. Ask him for joy today and receive what he has to give you.

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