Let's continue with our exposition of this Sunday's lesson, Nehemiah 8:1-10. For my preceding post on this passage, click here.
For this post, I would like to zoom in on 8:10, "...Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
Ezra has read the Torah and the community has received the Word with some measure of grief because their offenses have been revealed (cf. 2 Kings 22:11). At 8:10, Ezra and Nehemiah exhort everyone to get over their sadness and to get on with celebrating the era of redemption that has come upon them. Their relationship with God is in the process of being re-affirmed. Now is a time of sacred banquet, a time of wedding, a time of coronation.
The reference to the "Joy of the Lord" reverberates strongly with Isaiah 61:10 (written by the same group that is supporting Ezra's mission). 61:10 proclaims, "I will rejoice greatly in the Lord... He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness."
Here is the same mood of joy that permeates Psalm 21:1-6, a royal psalm celebrating the blessing that comes from God's presence and God's decision to channel beauty and salvation to earth through human royalty.Thanks be to the God in whom Nehemiah and Ezra exhort us to take joy and to find our strength. "In his presence are splendour and majesty, in his sanctuary strength and joy" (1 Chronicles 15:27). Put aside grief about the past and self-preoccupation; God's sovereign plans are what's important, and they are cause for gladness and deep peace.