“The Joy of The Lord is My Strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
What a wonderful rallying cry coming from Nehemiah, God’s chosen man to lead the rebuilding of the crumbled walls and spirit of the people of Israel. This chapter of the Book of Nehemiah is full of the call to God’s people for rejoicing in God’s faithfulness through trials. Their suffering and forgetfulness of God’s word led to triumph and returning to the Word in the end.
“One man,” Nehemiah was chosen to lead them back from the rubble to build a new wall and faith renewal. The wall was rebuilt through trials and harassment from God’s enemies. They had persevered with the leadership on this man. And now they all stood in front of the Water Gate to the city of Jerusalem. The Water Gate was where water for life and cleansing came through. This speaks of the cleansing of the water by the word, which is symbolic marriage where Ephesians 5 speaks of sanctifying and cleansing her in this manner so that she, the church, might be presented as holy and without blemish.
All the people stood and were attentive to the Book of the Law being read by Ezra the Prophet. Notice that they were standing and they were concentrating to hear and learn. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. That is how we are to worship, whether in body or in spirit. The people answered Amen, Amen after it was read.
Because the people had not been reading the word or being taught for many years, the Levites walked among them teaching that they might all understand. And Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites all said, “’This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep. ’For all the people wept, when they heard the word of God” (Nehemiah 8:9).
Then Nehemiah told the people, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v.10).
So the Levites quieted the people saying, ‘Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved. And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them’ (vv. 11-12). The people understood that they were to celebrate and share with the poor. They now were returning to be the people of God.
This sacred assembly was held on the Feast of Tabernacles or booths as prescribed in Deuteronomy 31:10-13. It was designed through Moses leadership as the Lord ordained that the people would hear the Law and fear the Lord as long as they would live in the land. And so they did because of the obedience of “one” leader, Nehemiah. The people of Israel had forgotten this once every seven year remembrance of God’s faithfulness in the wilderness to lead them to the Promised Land across the Jordan. It was a precursor to the incarnation of the “One” who would be Messiah and lead His people to repent of their sin and find redemption in His love. This is the celebration of God’s faithfulness to send an answer to our brokenness through the sanctifying of the water through His Word. ‘“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).