Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT): “for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”
Let’s have a little history lesson on the background behind these words. Nehemiah was a common man, who was cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes (do not ask me to pronounce that name). He was a man of God and was called to a very difficult task. The Lord wanted Nehemiah to help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and to not only restore a broken city, but to restore broken lives. There was much opposition with rebuilding the city. Do you ever feel opposition when you are trying to do something the Lord tells you to do?
After completing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah gathers the people around to hear Ezra (a priest) read the Book of the Law of Moses, also referred to as the Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible. These people, the Israelites, were previously led out of a long period of 40 years in the wilderness and desert then after many years taken into captivity in Assyria and Babylon because they didn’t value God’s law to walk in it. As the Book of the Law was read to them, they began to weep because they felt so far from righteous. By the time we reach Nehemiah 8:10, he says to the people, “do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” As we read further, we learn that they followed the Law by celebrating a seven day Feast of Tabernacle. The entire group that had been delivered from exile had not celebrated like this in a very, very long time. We learn from verse 17 that their “joy was very great.”
Have you ever felt like you were in a desert, a dry and weary land? Let’s refer to those circumstances or times in our lives as our “Egypt.” Some of you may feel like you are there now. If we are anything like the Israelites, we will find it very difficult to praise and glorify the name of the Lord when we are in a dry and weary land. In the book of Exodus we learn that the Israelites grumbled and complained practically the entire time the Lord was leading them to their promised land. I am sure the complaining was much fewer and far between once they experienced the land flowing of “milk and honey” (Exodus 13:5; NIV).
Life’s journey will take us through mountain top experiences and valleys, highs and lows, happiness and sorrow but if we keep our eyes on the prize (Jesus Christ) (Philippians 3:14). We may not always be happy, but we can have joy.
We know that God’s promises are true and we know that He will always provide our every need (Philippians 4:19). The best thing that we can do in the midst of trials is to keep joy in our hearts. It is not always easy to do that but it is always best.
IS the JOY OF THE LORD your strength?