The Joy of the Lord
Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Scripture: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b
Observation: Those returning from the Babylonian exile are sad as they see the condition of the city of Jerusalem, the protective walls are down, the temple in ruins, the city in shambles. These people, who had been away for at least seventy years, face the challenge of rebuilding the city and, more importantly, begin to practice again their faith in freedom and in their own land.
Ezra and Nehemiah lead in these two pursuits. In chapter eight, Nehemiah tells us that Ezra read the law of God, at the request of those gathered by the Water Gate. Ezra the priest read it “in the presence of men and women” (Neh. 8:2). Both Ezra and Nehemiah emphasized the importance of this day as a “Holy Day” and that it should not be a day or mourning (8:9). When the law was read to them, the people wept. Nehemiah told them to eat and drink and to share their food with those who had none, and then closed with the words of our text for today: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
Application: As I write these words this morning, two bits of news from this week are very vivid in my mind and heart. My best friend’s mother passed away after a relatively short fight with cancer. She was advanced in years, and was experiencing serious health challenges due to her terminal disease, and one can feel a certain amount of relief that she is not suffering anymore, to her children her death still leaves a void, and the grief associated with her death is still very real and very painful to them.
The second bit of news, received the same day my friend’s mother died, is that my own brother, eight years my senior, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and began intensive chemotherapy treatments immediately.
I can’t deny that my heart is heavy as I think of both my friend and her family and my brother and our family. Today, the words of Nehemiah speaks to me and to all of us who sorrow, who worry, who care: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Paul would add that we should not sorrow as those that have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13). Our outlook as God’s children, and as families, is different than those who don’t know Him, because the joy of the Lord is our strength. This is not living in denial, or pretend that we don’t hurt when inside our heart is bursting. What this means is that through the pain and sorrow of life we have a joy that surpasses earthly understanding and which takes “through the shadow of the valley of death.” As people, we will have to part with loved ones at some point in our lives until our own live is no more. But we are not hopeless; the joy of the Lord is our strength.
Prayer: Our Lord and father, I pray for all those who have lost a dear loved one and who grieve their loss and feel the void left by their departure. I pray that your presence, your loving arms, may surround them during these painful, difficult days, and that you will return to them the joy that comes from knowing death is not forever. And I also pray for those battling serious diseases, that they may also see You as the great Physician and trust their life completely into Your hands so that instead of worry the joy of the Lord may be their strength.
Used by permission of Adventist Family Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.