There’s a verse I’ve heard many times over without giving much thought to it. We hear it in songs, see it on greeting cards and on posters in Hobby Lobby. It’s Nehemiah 8:10 and the most famous part of the verse reads: for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
The fact that it begins with for should tip us off that it’s the result of something else prior to it—so let's the verse in context.
Nehemiah 8:9-12 :And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
To appreciate this message we must understand where the Israelites are standing when they are told "the joy of the Lord is your strength." In Nehemiah 8 the walls of Jerusalem have just been completed—this follows the rebuilding of the temple
But there is something lacking. They have finished rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, but their lives are still in shambles because they had forgotten their spiritual heritage while in Babylonian captivity. Works for God can never replace God’s redemptive work in our hearts.As they heard, there was a deep sense of their national sins, brought on by the reading of the law. The result was sorrow. Even as their collective sins were brought to the surface , the people were exhorted to cherish the feelings of joy and thankfulness associated with the upcoming sacred festival.
God longs for us to be a people marked by the joy that can only come from restored relationship with our Creator. His joy is to be our strength. The true picture of strength in the earth is total joy that comes from dependence on our heavenly Father.
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