The background of this portion of the Scripture is that.. The wall has just been completed around Jerusalem, and Jews were returning to homeland from exiles. The people of Israel haven’t been very faithful to God and they asked Ezra to read the Book of the Law of Moses to them. (Nehemiah 8:1-8)
So, the priest Ezra read the Law to the people of Israel from early morning to midday (not sure if for a 7 days or just a day). It says that they were very attentive and shouting “amen, amen” as the Word was being read. Man, how plain does it sound for us? To hear the LAW for hours.. not even the NT, haha.
Anywho, as Ezra was reading the Word, people began to cry and repent! How awesome is it when people begin to repent without even preaching? It must have been the Holy Spirit.
From Nehemiah 8:9, a strange thing starts to happen.. As they are repenting and mourning because they see how much they fall short of the glory of God, Ezra, scribes, and the levites started to tell them to stop crying! It says..
“This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” for all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words they were declared to them.
What kind of image of words do you associate when you hear the word “Holy?” Perhaps, a calm.. reserved, humble image? Mourn = holy? Wouldn’t it be a proper response to mourn when we realize we have much to repent? Obviously not. (There are times to weep and mourn, so don’t take it too far)
“STOP CRYING and LET’S PARTY!”
Because this day is Holy.. they called out for a party. Think about that for a sec.
Joy is clearly a choice here. Rejoicing takes faith. It’s hard to celebrate His goodness/grace unless you know that you’ve been accepted. In the world, we rejoice because of joy. In the Kingdom, we rejoice and have joy. It’s like God telling them, “Stop feeling pain, and start throwing a party when you see a huge gap to My standard.”
We are Believers. Often, rejoicing is one of the last things that’s on our mind. But that is actually the best way to express our faith to Him because we understand that He is good and His grace is available for us. That’s why Joy can be our Strength.
This story reminded me of the prodigal son. The father knew what his son did, but when he came back.. he actually threw a party for him and even honored him by putting a robe on him. Perhaps the OT scribes and levites were telling us about the Grace in the new covenant. It’s a beautiful picture regardless.
Almost everything we deal with in the Kingdom happens internally. Whatever happens internally should manifest out there. It must become a reality in us in order for it to manifest out of us. If it’s not a reality in you, then it’s merely an act on the outside. Let JOY be your strength today because of His goodness.
Let us learn to celebrate His Grace 🙂