Text: Nehemiah 7-8 | Listen to Message
How can you be safe when the storms of life come suddenly and relentlessly? How can you withstand the attacks of the Evil One? How can you be bold and confident in the midst of a culture that ridicules your core convictions? How can you keep going when you feel overwhelmed and exhausted by life events?
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Now, notice this verse isn’t talking about your joy in the Lord; it’s talking about the Lord’s joy. Your joy is a fickle thing, an erratic thing, an all-too-dependent-on-circumstances thing. But God’s joy is constant. It’s only dependent on what He’s doing – and no one can stop what He’s doing!
So what is the joy of the LORD? And how is that their strength – and ours?
The first two chapters (Genesis 1-2) and the last two chapters (Revelation 21-22) of the Bible show us that God’s Story is all about God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. And all the chapters in between are designed to show us how God can call sinners His people, can bring them back into fellowship with Himself, and can ultimately bring them home to worship and enjoy Him forever. Nehemiah 7-8 is a microcosm of that Grand Narrative of Scripture.
See, what you have in Nehemiah 7 is a long list of names – people to which God says, “I am yours and you are mine.” We also read about the restoration of a city – Jerusalem, the City of God, if you will – complete with walls and gates that will surround His people with protection. Finally, Nehemiah 8 shows you that those people are reading the Word of God and are submitting to God’s authority.
So in the span of two chapters, 1,000 years after The Exodus and more than 400 years before the birth of Christ, you have God actively writing His Story into history: My people. My place. My rule.
This is the Story of Redemption. Though we’ve all turned away from God to worship and serve other things, God isn’t finished with us. He has pursued us in Christ. He has chosen us by free grace. He has written our names on his hands (Isaiah 49:16), and nailed those hands to a Cross, where he bore our guilt and shame and judgment. Now there’s nothing left but grace for those who believe in the name of Jesus.
What we need to see all the way back in Nehemiah 8:10 is that God was already writing this One Story. And this Story isn’t simply God’s doing, it is God’s delight!
Do you know what makes God joyful? Rescuing sinners through the sacrifice of His Son, that’s what. Adopting broken people into His forever family, forgiving their sins, and blessing them as if they had never sinned!
Do you see how the joy of the LORD is your strength – your refuge – now? You are safe because of what God delights to do for you! When you feel like God doesn’t care about you, rehearse this Good News – and be strong! When your fears overtake and overwhelm you, rehearse this Good News – and be strong! When the Adversary accuses or tempts you, rehearse this Good News – and be strong! When you feel like your standing all alone in your beliefs, rehearse this Good News – and be strong!
It’s no wonder Ezra and Nehemiah had to tell the people, “Stop mourning and weeping! This is a day to eat the fat and drink the wine and rejoice in our great God!” Maybe you should, too.