September 20, 2018
READ: Nehemiah 8:1-12
This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (v.10).
On a trip to England, Horatio G. Spafford’s four daughters lost their lives when their ship was struck by another vessel, leaving their mother as one of the few survivors. As Spafford later sailed to meet his wife, he wrote the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”. More than a century later, worship leader Darlene Zschech wrote “Shout to the Lord” during a family crisis. In moments of deep pain, both Spafford and Zschech drew strength from the joy of knowing God was present and for them.
The Jewish people who returned to Judah after exile in Babylon also knew times of great struggle. With Nehemiah’s help, they’d managed to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, “but the population was small, and none of the houses had been rebuilt” (Nehemiah 7:4). As they tried to plan for their future, “all the people assembled with a unified purpose [and] asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses. [So Ezra] read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law” (8:1-3).
While the people listened and had the words explained by the priests, they began to weep (v.9), probably with a fresh conviction of how they had strayed from God’s commands. In that moment, Nehemiah called out, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v.10). “So the people went away . . . to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them” (v.12).
Jerusalem was still in ruins, but the revelation of God’s Word brought great joy. And so the people received strength anew to continue serving God and to keep on rebuilding. No matter our situation, may we also draw strength from the joy of knowing and abiding in our Saviour.
365-day plan: Mark 14:26-52
Read James 1:2-4 and consider James’ perspective on joy in trials.
What’s your definition of joy? Does it match up with the Bible’s definition? How can you experience deep, abiding joy in Jesus?