‘The joy of the Lord is my strength’. What a liberating, freeing and encouraging fact that is. Our strength comes not from our own abilities, not from our wise, wise knowledge and not even from a really good worship time. Our strength comes from knowing the Lords joy. But what does this mean? It doesn’t mean that you’ll never feel weak. It doesn’t mean that the Lord will make you happy. It doesn’t mean that the Lord will help you accomplish your life’s goals. It means something so much greater and beautiful than all of them.
Rewind a few chapters and trace the story from the start of the book. Nehemiah is broken to hear the state of Jerusalem, God’s holy city. He gets some resources from the current king to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild it back to its former glory. However some people that lived near Jerusalem don’t want this to happen so they set about trying to stop Nehemiah and the Israelites from completing the building through threats of violence, attempted murder and more. Despite all this opposition, the walls and gates are finished and Jerusalem is rebuilt, restored to her former glory! So Nehemiah gathers all the people that had come back to the temple along with all the priests, the musicians, the army and everyone else that had returned. When everyone was assembled, Ezra the high priest praised the Lord and all the people bowed down and cried ‘Amen!!!!!!!! Amen !!!!!!’ (Some exclamation marks added). This was a huge celebration, a chance to worship God and thank him for everything that He had done in bringing his people back to the Promised Land, to his precious city and for Him finally fulfilling His promises to save a remnant of Israel.
But then Ezra started to read God’s law to the people and the shouting quickly turned to tears. You see, God’s city had been returned to its former glory but God’s people hadn’t. When they heard the law, they realised just how far away from God’s glory they were, the rebellion they had committed in their hearts and the distance between them and God that this had caused. They wept because they knew that they were sinners.
This is why that great, great promise is so powerful. Don’t grieve in your sin, rejoice! Rejoice because, when you have put your trust in Jesus, it is the Lord’s joy to allow you to inherit Christ’s riches, it is his joy to remember your sins no more, it is his joy to call you his bride.
This is truly good news. Our sin is great but Gods love is greater. Our worship cannot earn or generate saving strength but God’s joy is to redeem his people. Our strength to approach the throne of grace, to pray bold prayers and to call God father is his joy in pronouncing us righteous.