february 13th - Joy
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 nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah 8:9-10 (NKJV)
Back in the early 70's we sang a simple chorus that went like this: The joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength.
The chorus was not very sophisticated and the bouncy melody simply added to the lighthearted sentiment of the song. As with all songs--even a song with a simple melody and repetitive lyric--the important question is this: Is the theology in the song solid and true? In the case of "The Joy of the Lord," I would have to say that the theological concept is true and when put into practice, it can raise the quality of the practitioner’s life.
Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and the Israelite exiles were coming home. Ezra the priest began to read to them the Law of Moses. Many of the exiles were hearing Moses' Law and the basis of their heritage for the very first time. With great emotion, the exiles began to weep as they listened to Ezra's voice. After being carried away by the Babylonians, remnants of Israelites were back in the Promised Land and they were overwhelmed with emotion.
Then Ezra encouraged them with this word: "Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." What is the joy of
the Lord and how does it give us strength? Joy is a feeling of great happiness and euphoria; but, the joy of the Lord goes beyond our emotions and steps into the arena of faith. We “feel” joy, because we trust in God’s purposes and good character; and we anticipate the good destiny that He has designed for us.
The Bible tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the "joy" that was set before Him. What was the "joy" that was set before Him? Ultimate victory over sin, death, hell and the grave! Our joy is also anchored in Christ's ultimate victory. We endure tribulation, difficulty, persecution and even death with this confidence: We will dwell in the House of the Lord forever! God is good—I believe in Him—He is the source of great joy!
Author's Note: I am often over-whelmed by a sense of well-being. I know the author and source of this feeling. It is the Father letting me know that everything is going to work out and that He is with me. That is a place of great joy and contentment. This does not mean that the storm called life isn't turbulent and difficult; but in the midst of the storm I find my solace in my good Father. RJD