“The joy of the LORD IS your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
My fifth grade English teacher had us write in our journals every day. In one entry I made a terrible attempt at writing a poem about cats in which every line ended with the word “is” or “are” or “were”. I can still see Mr. Winkler’s bold, dark handwriting “X-ing” out each of those “weak verbs” as he called them.
When it comes to the above verse, though, I beg to differ with my English teacher. “Is” is the strongest word in this verse because it is the word that affirms the promise.
Nehemiah and Ezra are the speakers of these often-quoted words. They spoke them at a time when the no-longer-exiled people of Israel had returned to Jerusalem, humbled and ready to rebuild. Ezra had just read the law of God to all those who could hear and understand, and they had listened attentively from early morning until midday! (Can you see any of your congregants listening to your pastor that long?!)
When they heard the words of God they responded by listening, standing up, lifting their hands and saying “Amen! Amen”, bowing low, worshipping, and weeping.
They had been living as captives in a foreign land for 70 years where they were influenced by pagan culture and not exposed often to the Word of God. When they heard it read like this they wept and mourned for how they had strayed. Surely they must have wondered if God would still abandon them. Despite His covenant promises, would He forgive?
Nehemiah and Ezra call into the midst of this mourning with words of confidence that this day is holy to the LORD; you don’t need to mourn and weep but you should be feasting and rejoicing (Nehemiah 8:9-10). Why? Because “the joy of the LORD IS your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). They knew that God heard their repentant hearts and was ready to receive them with joy for their renewed worship of Him.
Friend, no matter your circumstances or how you’ve sinned, you can cling by faith to the promise of the great Self-Existent One. The Great I AM IS your strength. He IS your helper (Hebrews 13:6). He IS your light and your salvation (Psalm 27:1). He IS your rock; He IS your fortress; He IS your salvation (Psalm 62:2).
The joy of the Lord IS your strength. Surely there is nothing weak about that.
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