The joy of the Lord is your strength

by Sep 25, 2023

In Nehemiah 8, we see the people of Israel gathered in Jerusalem. Nehemiah and Ezra stand side by side and together lead the people in worship. This is a very detailed passage with a lot of information about what worship was like at the time, so it is good to study and take a look at biblical worship. The first thing we see is that the people have gathered to hear a reading of the Law (the books of Moses). They are listening to Ezra read God’s Word to them (Nehemiah 8:1–4). Not only that, we see the tremendous respect the people have for him when they stand up to hear Ezra read, standing on the special platform made for this purpose (Nehemiah 8:4-5). This is similar to a practice found in many church traditions, where people advocate reading the Gospel out of respect for Jesus.

The next emphasis in worship we see is rejoicing! People cry when they hear the Law of God, and these are not tears of happiness. Most likely, they were convicted of their sins (hence the confession in Nehemiah 9). But the leadership encourages the people to take the opposite approach: “Do not mourn or cry,” they tell the people (Nehemiah 8:9). Then they encourage the people to go and celebrate a banquet, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v. 10). People leave rejoicing. Because? Because “they had understood the words that were spoken to them” (v. 12). There is great joy to be found in truly understanding God’s Word! If those still under the Old Testament Law could find reason to rejoice, how much more so those of us to whom the gospel has been given! There is great joy in realizing that God is for you and not against you, that thanks to Jesus you are accepted and not condemned (Romans 8:1).

Finally, there is an element of people’s desire to gather communally, eat, and study God’s Word (8:12). From this desire arises the rediscovery of the Festival of Tents, and this festival is celebrated throughout Jerusalem (vv. 14-18). Can you imagine for a moment practically an entire city living for God? What would that look like? What would it be like if everyone was celebrating the birth of the Savior on Christmas? What are you doing to get closer to making that dream a reality?

God bless you.

Pastor Guillermo Ayala


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This