Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 105 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Nehemiah 8 today and our focus is on The Joy of the Lord is our strength + the mission of pastors and parents. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in . Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Today we read what might be an obscure Old Testament passage, but it contains two of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. Here’s the first, which I take as sort of a personal mission statement:
8 They read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read. Nehemiah 8:8
What’s going on here? In Nehemiah, as in Ezra, which we read yesterday, the Israelites were returning from decades in exile – coming back to the land they had been driven out of. A great assembly was called, and at that assembly, Ezra read from the Law from daybreak until noon – probably around six hours! As he read, or after he read, a group of 13 Levites explained and taught the people the Word of God, so that they could understand it. Their initial response was to weep – knowing they had fallen short of God’s commands, but this was not a day of weeping, but a day of rejoicing. Let’s read what happens next:
9 Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all of them, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. 10 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 strength.” 11 And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, since today is holy. Don’t grieve.” 12 Then all the people began to eat and drink, send portions, and have a great celebration, because they had understood the words that were explained to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12
As a pastor and teacher of the Word, and also a parent, I believe our calling is to do just what these thirteen Levites did. To give the meaning of God’s Word so that people can understand it. I’ve given my life to this mission. Let’s read our passage, and as we do, please pay careful attention to all of the joy that is brought about by understanding the Word!
Here’s our verse of the day:
10 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 strength.”
This is such an interesting statement of Nehemiah on the surface, and you’ve probably heard this verse, or sang a song with that phrase in it somehow. HOW is the joy of the Lord our strength? I like how Tony Reinke from Desiring God answers this question:
God is happiness. Joy is fundamental to his triune nature. To find God is to find the fountain of all joy, so beautifully and simply put by Augustine: “Following after God is the desire of happiness; to reach God is happiness itself.” We participate in joy when we reach the essence of all joy: God himself. Whether the “joy of the Lord” here refers mainly to the joy he has in himself, or to the joy he gives us, we have no real hope of joy or strength unless God is happy (John 15:11 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.). God does not give us any joy outside of the joy he has in himself already. Which means, God’s happiness is our strength.
It’s a remarkable point delivered to Nehemiah and a people who were ravaged by war, weakened by insecurities, and constantly reminded of their own fragility.
And this is where we find our strength: for life, for pain, for trials, for marriage, for child-raising, for missions, for everything. The strength we need for this life is found in the essential joy of God.
You will never be spiritually stronger than your God is happy. God’s joy is our strength. Settle it biblically. God is essentially happy within himself.
HOW then do we walk in this joy and strength? Let’s get some wisdom from John “Amazing Grace” Newton in a letter that he wrote to a friend:
“Causes of complaint are, indeed, innumerable; but remember, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Be not surprised that you still find the effects of in-dwelling sin,—it must and will be so. The frame of our fallen nature is depraved throughout, and, like the leprous house, it must be entirely demolished, and raised anew. While we are in this world, we shall groan, being burdened. I wish you to long and breathe after greater measures of sanctification; but we are sometimes betrayed into a legal spirit, which will make us labour in the very fire to little purpose. If we find deadness and dryness stealing upon us, our only relief is to look to Jesus,—to his blood for pardon,—to his grace for strength; we can work nothing out of ourselves. To pore over our own evils will not cure them; but he who was typified by the brazen serpent is ever present, lifted up to our view in the camp; and one believing sight of him will do more to restore peace to the conscience, and life to our graces, than all our own lamentations and resolutions.
John Newton and Richard Cecil, The Works of John Newton, vol. 6 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 43–44.
End of the Show: Bible memory verse for April James 4:6 “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
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