“For all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, ‘Go and eat what is rich, drink what is sweet, and send portions to those who have nothing prepared, since today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’” (Nehemiah 8:9-10)
The re-building of Jerusalem’s wall was complete. The returned exiles were settling in. Seven months later Nehemiah called for a national celebration in Jerusalem, so the people came from all over. Ezra the priest was asked to read from the Book of the Law, and after he did so he led the people in worship. Fourteen of the Levites, along with Ezra and Nehemiah, translated for those whose Hebrew language ability was not yet sufficient, and they explained the meaning to them. As the people listened to all this they began weeping. They wept because they knew that they and their ancestors had failed and had broken Israel’s covenant with God.
Nehemiah’s leadership then rose to the surface. He led the people to move on through their mourning and lay it aside. He called on them to move more toward the joy of this occasion. The wall was rebuilt, and now their walk with God needed some work. They needed to understand that this walk with God is characterized by joy. They needed to see in fact that the joy of knowing, relating to, and walking with the Lord is their true stronghold, far more so than any city wall.
Truly, the joy of knowing and walking with God, even in the midst of difficulty, discouragement, sorrow, or despair is our place of strength. When we purposely go to our place of joy in such times, we discover that it’s true. The joy of the Lord is our stronghold.
Lord, We thank You than You Yourself are our stronghold, our place of safety and strength and peace and joy. We thank You that we can abide in You. Amen.