By Patrick Hawthorne
One of the most misquoted verses in the Bible, according to my own personal statistical analysis made up just this very morning, is Nehemiah 8:10, “…The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I would dare say that many who quote the latter portion of this verse have no real clue as to its meaning. Many assume that the joy spoken of is referring to our joy. What if it’s not? What if it is referring to God’s joy and us receiving strength because of His joy?
For us to understand this verse, we must know a bit about its associated history. I do promise to keep the history lesson to a minimum. The year was around 445 B.C. Under the rule a King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah and an enlisted group of people were allowed to return to Judah to rebuild a war torn Jerusalem. Needless to say, the hearts of the people were glad because they were allowed to return home, but extremely heavy because it was the sin of the nation that had got them in this mess to begin with.
Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:1-3 NKJV bold mine)
After Ezra’s reading of the law, the hearts of the people were so broken that there was much sorrow and weeping. Seeing this, Nehemiah stood up and said, “Don’t mourn or weep, this day is holy unto God. Go home and celebrate. Have a feast and don’t forget to send food to those who have nothing prepared. For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (verses 9 and 10 paraphrased).
Perhaps a more clear way to say this would be, “The Lord is full of joy because of your repentant hearts. He is actively showing His joy by gracing you with His strength.” The manifested evidence of God’s strength being poured out upon the people in a supernatural way was seen by a city wall and gates being rebuilt in just fifty-two days. That was truly a remarkable feat.
God is no respecter of person’s. What He will do for one He will do for another. Although you may not need to rebuild a wall, it may be that you have a seemingly insurmountable mountain looming before you; a mountain you feel you have no strength to climb. Take heart, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. His joy shall be your strength if you allow it to be. Be blessed.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2 Message)