Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (NASB95)

The context of this well-known phrase and children’s song, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” is not what you would expect.

Israel had forsaken God’s law over and over and had finally missed her last opportunity to repent without severe consequence. Even though they greatly lamented and grieved over losing their homeland, relatively few returned to the land of Israel when the seventy-year Babylonian captivity came to an end. After the Temple was rebuilt and the wall was restored, it was time for the Law of the Lord to be read. This practice had been neglected for many many years.

As Ezra the Scribe read and explained the Word of God, the people began to see their great sin of unbelief and disobedience. Their hearts were finally truly broken over their betrayal of the God who created them, loved them, chose them and disciplined them.

If you’ve ever experienced true conviction of sin, you just want to crawl in a hole and never come out. It seems like instant incineration would be better than the gravity of facing your sin. Oh, precious one, we have a compassionate Father who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness! Instead of justice, He extends grace; instead of ashes, He gives beauty! Instead of grief, He gives joy!

As a matter of fact, He gives so much joy that it becomes our strength, our ability to stand when everything around and inside us says to shrivel and shrink. His joy is the strength to cast off the comfortableness of sin and embrace His forgiveness. His joy takes our whine away! Listen to the voice of the One who forgives and restores: His joy is your strength! Celebrate that today!

Living It Out – Choose to live in light of the forgiveness and grace you were so gracious given at Calvary. A life of gratitude is a life of obedience. Dig into God’s Word and find out what living a life of obedience looks like . And celebrate the gospel, my friend!

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