When a concept that was mentally murky becomes perfectly clear to you, what is your reaction? I feel a sense of satisfaction, or if I’ve apprehended it with some difficulty I am pleased with my accomplishment.
Understanding spiritual truth is a little different. In case you haven’t noticed, the Bible is a bit tough to make sense of at times. There are plenty of passages that puzzle me, and I’ve read the Bible front to back a dozen times or more. So, when the Lord reveals something that I had not previously understood, I feel joy.
One of my favorite verses is “…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The occasion for that verse was a day when the Law was read to the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem after their exile. We’re told that the people assembled “as one man” in the square and asked the priest and scribe, Ezra, to read the law of Moses to them, which he did from sun up until noon. (Nehemiah 8:1-3)
What do you think their reaction was?
They probably realized how far below God’s perfect standard they had fallen. Many of them were no doubt convicted of personal sin that needed to be confessed.
That’s when Nehemiah told them not to weep but to have a party.
“’This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” Nehemiah 8:9-10
He did not say that the duty of the Lord is your strength. How about the hard work of the Lord is your strength? Nope. Nor is serious self-examination your strength.
…the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Joy is what we feel as we know, serve and love the Lord. We know from the New Testament that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, that we cannot muster it up on our own, and that it is available to us in any and all circumstances.
“Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.“ (Nehemiah 8:12)
Notice the connection between celebrating with great joy and new understanding of the law. It seems that comprehension was the goal, for while Ezra read the law there were knowledgeable people circulating in the crowd to clear up any confusion. The people got it.
Because they got it, they celebrated.
Perhaps upon gaining new understanding of God’s Word the best response would be thanksgiving for perceiving the truth and joy for the opportunity to apply it.
Joy is strengthening. Joy is energizing. Joy is the right response to new understanding.
What is your reaction when you read or hear God’s word with new understanding? Are you inclined to have a party or to weep?