"And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 'This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.' For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, 'Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.' So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, 'Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.' And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them."
Why did the people weep when they heard the reading of the Law of God? Were they tears of joy at finally being able to gather as the People of God and read the Scriptures publicly? Were they tears of repentance as their sins and failures were pointed out to them? Or tears of dismay at realizing that they were going to have to give up some sins that they loved, if they were going to be God’s Chosen People?
I suspect it was all three of these things at once. The instruction they heard and the comfort they found in that instruction makes sense if that’s true: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Don’t grieve over the missed opportunities of the past or the times of hardship; they are over and done and God is doing something new; rejoice!
Don’t continue to weep over your past sins: they’re washed away and forgiven; rejoice!
Don’t weep over the sin in your life that the Holy Spirit has just shown you: it means that He is working in your life to sanctify you, to set you apart for Himself; rejoice!
Embrace the higher call of God in your life with joy. Leave the past with its sin, its failures, and its pain behind, and rejoice that He has chosen you, forgiven you, and is setting you apart to be His own beloved child.
You have been given the gift of understanding His Word. Rejoice in that, and you’ll find that the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Lord Jesus, I praise You for revealing Yourself to me; for redeeming me from my sin and failure and calling me to Yourself. Your love and mercy are greater than all my sin. I have greater peace, joy and fulfillment in knowing You than I could ever find in the world. Thank You, Lord! I love You and worship You. Amen.
Pastor Dan Giles