“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
There was always something about this verse that perplexed me. It sounds simple enough, but it seems almost too good to be true. Is this really all it takes in times of distress? Does one merely summon all of his/her mental faculties and fiercely think, “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” to experience this said joy?
But I recognize that my skepticism comes from a place of deep hunger. More than anything, I want to be able to say with all my heart, “God, You alone are my strength!” Oftentimes however, this is not the case. I’ve seen that my joy is easily hampered by self-condemnation, jealousy, and an overall heaviness. Lately, I’ve been concluding my days with a defeated attitude, no matter how many delightful moments the day contained. I would reflect and encounter a barrage of thoughts like, “I should’ve done (this) better” or “Why didn’t I do (that) instead?,” and so forth. The Lord’s joy has been swiftly growing stale.
However, as I delved into Nehemiah 8, the chapter from which this verse originated, God opened my eyes to learn more about His character. In the passage, Nehemiah and the Israelites had just completed the walls of Jerusalem but they had not heard God’s Word for a very long time. With the walls completed, they could finally ask a man of God, Ezra the priest, to share God’s Word with them. So he did––and the Israelites were captivated, but as they listened their hearts grew heavy with sorrow. They realized how they had disobeyed God.
Yet it was precisely when they plunged into a state of wholehearted repentance that God bid them to celebrate. Just as God spoke to the Israelites through Nehemiah, saying, “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,” (8:10) he spoke to me in my weakness. Praise the sovereign Lord that He reveals Himself in His Word, that it is not by our own merit by which we are redeemed and comforted.
- What is your attitude when you receive God’s Word? What is your attitude and response when God reveals that you are disobedient?
- What can you do to receive strength from God’s joy today?