Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength (includes retreat download)

Joy 3-Hour Retreat download here.

Then [Nehemiah] 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.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

I have been told that the joy of the Lord is my strength since I was a small boy. I wanted to be a strong and faithful person then…and I still do. One problem—no one ever explained what joy was and how one received it! I might even have it and not know it! Joy is a Christian term we toss around a lot but rarely gets clearly defined.

The joy that that Israelites experienced in Nehemiah’s day was based on getting reacquainted with God’s law. The people of Israel had been in exile for decades and God’s Law had been lost. They returned from exile to Jerusalem, a ruined city. During reconstruction, the scrolls of the Law were found. A large gathering was arranged for the Law to be read to the people again. Priests were secured who would help the people understand what they heard. The result was a collective repentance and grieving that they had strayed so far from God’s law. Nehemiah, Ezra, and other leaders encouraged the people to celebrate rather than grieve. They were taking big steps to live rightly in their relationship with God. As they rejoiced in the rebuilding of Jerusalem, they could also rejoice in the rebuilding of their relationship with God. The peace, stability and comfort that came from living rightly with God is the essence of the joy that would strengthen them.

The joy of the Israelites is just one facet of biblical joy. There is joy that comes with experiencing God’s salvation (Acts 16:16-40; Psalm 51:10-12). Joy springs from the help and mercy we receive from God (Psalm 28:6-7). Jesus taught and guided his disciples so they might experience complete joy (John 15:16; John 17:13). Joy is even possible when God corrects us (Job 5:17)! Ultimately, biblical joy is not an emotion but a state of being.

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in our lives. Joy is also a product of our willingness to live in sync with Jesus’ commandments. May our joy increase as we strengthen our faith in worship and reflection this month!

Joy 3-Hour Retreat download here.