“The joy of the Lord is my strength! “Nehemiah 8:10
As we move into another week in semi lockdown, what gives you a sense of joy? Does every new morning thrill you? Do the bird’s songs bring joy to your ears and your heart? Do the flowers in your garden blossom with a deeper joy than you have ever known? Does the lack of do-ing enable your be-ing to sing with joy? Does leaning into God in this unexpected extended retreat make your heart sing with joy? Well James declares,” My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.” James 1:2-4
In the opening verse from Nehemiah and the verses around, we learn that the joy of the Lord is not the joy of circumstances or of temperament. The joy of the Lord comes out of true repentance. The joy of the Lord is the joy of God’s forgiveness and covenant love. It comes from understanding God’s word. We see here the people reading God’s word and God showed up!! His presence was the source of great joy!! The joy of the Lord is joy in God Himself. When we read His word, do we expect God to show up? And fill us with joy?
Paul writes in Hebrews 12:2,” Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus was able to see beyond the immediate troubles to a greater joy with His heavenly Father.
As we contemplate these present times, we can enter into the joy of God. The parable of the talents, in its commendation of the good slaves, has the marvellous words, “Well done good and faithful slave… Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21,23). Can you think of anything more wonderful to hear from the Lord Jesus? He said, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full“ (John 15:10-11). You have no true or lasting joy of your own, therefore you are weak. But you can enter into the Lord’s joy and therefore be strong.
We can give joy to God. Certainly, God gives us joy, but we also give him joy if we do the right thing. Jesus, for example, said, “There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…” (Luke 15:7). Paul, when encouraging obedience for salvation, said, “God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12). We can give good pleasure to God. Yes, we can cause the Lord to rejoice!
There was sorrow and weeping when the people heard God’s law and realized how far they had gone away from its teaching. But Ezra told them to rejoice and celebrate because of the restoration (Nehemiah 8:9-12). That’s when Ezra said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength”. Our prayer for all of you from The Living Well, is that this would be your experience too at this time!