God Wants You to Be Full of Joy

Recently my pastor preached on the subject of joy using a scripture of which many of us have heard before, that is, Nehemiah 8:10 - “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  However, my pastor did not use in the usual way I had heard this verse previously preached.  In fact, the pastor stated that he was going to use the scripture in the usual way it is preached, but the Holy Spirit stopped him and caused him to meditate on the verses preceding verse 10.  What followed was a Rhema word from God.

First you must understand the background of this passage.  Because of their rebellious hearts, the Israelites as an entire nation had been conquered by the Babylonians and transported from their home country to Babylon, which was about 500 miles as the crow flies, but by caravans, the route would be about twice as much since it meanders.  Finally after 70 years of exile (the length of time prophesied by Jeremiah and others that the exile would last), God gave the Israelites favor with the King of Babylon and opened the door for them to return to their home country.

As you can imagine, while the Israelites lived with the Babylonians, over time, they forgot their culture and adapted to the culture in which they lived.  Life continued on, births, marriages, and funerals.  In Nehemiah chapter 8, we see the Israelites have settled back in their homeland and for the first time in many of their lives they heard the priest read publically in an assembly from the book of the law.  What proceeded next was great sadness as “all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the law.”  Nehemiah 8:9.  Why did they weep?  Because they could not bear God pointing out their failure and the failure of their ancestors to keep God’s law.  They felt rebuked, scolded and flat out shamed.

Isn’t this typical human nature when God corrects or disciplines us?  We suck our thumb and threaten to quit church, or even worse, quit God.  This should not be.  My pastor used a wonderful example to demonstrate the absurdness of this reaction to God’s loving correction and discipline.  Say you are a high school football player and you got the opportunity to receive tips and pointers from someone you admired and looked-up to in the professional league.  Surely you don’t expect to be as good as them, nor would they expect you to be as good as them now.  And when they corrected some of your bad habits, would you get long faced and threaten to quit.  No, of course not.  With gladness, you would receive their instruction because you know it would only make you better and it is coming from one of the best.  In fact, just being in the person’s presence would bring you great joy . . . right?

Then why do we feel like a failure and quitting when God shows us where we could improve?  Shouldn’t we received God’s correction and discipline with joy knowing it is coming from God, a being more perfect and above any other person who was, is, or is to come?!  In fact, just being in God’s presence should bring us great joy and energy because it’s God, the creator of all that exists, but yet the ever-present lover of our souls who desires to have a relationship with us.  This is why Nehemiah said “the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  God’s presence is invigorating.  He doesn’t desire for you to be sad around Him or dread his instruction.  He desires that you be full of joy, knowing that any instruction is for your good and the good of those around you.  Let His joy, that is, His presence fill you today.  May you find peace and joy IN HIM.  Blessings.

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