“For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
We all have troubles and trials that wear away at us. There are days we would prefer to stay in bed and avoid the world around us. Life is full of sorrow and conflict. But we are told that our strength comes from the ‘joy of the Lord.’ That’s what we need to draw on. That’s what we need to focus on.
This kind of joy has God as its source. It’s about God’s joy over people who repent and return to him. It’s a joy that doesn’t come from our experience or circumstance but an objective joy that comes from God.
In Nehemiah chapter 8 the exiles who have returned to Jerusalem are listening to the reading of God’s word. They are suddenly aware of their sinful condition and how they have broken God’s law. A sense of sorrow and sadness overtake them and they begin to weep. There is genuine repentance among God’s people.
But that day was to be one of celebration and joy because God’s work had been done. The exile was over, the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt and worship in Jerusalem was once again being lifted up. God saw the tender condition of his people, their openness to his work and there was joy. Nehemiah tells the people not to weep but to draw strength from God’s joy in this moment. The people would be able to live again in Jerusalem because of God’s redemptive work. God’s plans had come to pass.
We live on the other side of the cross. Christ’s redemptive work is finished and God takes joy in that. The price of our sins has been paid for and the way to eternal life has been opened. We should be conscious that Christ died for us. It brings us to repentance and sorrow over our sins. But since God’s plan has come to pass we can also rejoice. We move forward not in our own strength or joy but in God’s.
Life will continue to be challenging. There will be days full of difficulty. But the biggest issue in our lives has been settled. God has redeemed us. And if he is happy and joyful over that then we should be as well. So we can sing, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”