Friday, January 30, 2015

"The joy of the Lord is your strength!"

During my continued study of the book of Nehemiah, I came across another gem in this little book. Previously, I wrote about the building of the wall and the overwhelming opportunity to play a role in that task. After completion of the wall, Nehemiah called the people together, and Ezra read to them from the law. We read that they were attentive; they shouted "Amen," which means "so be it"; and they worshipped the Lord.

Then Ezra and Nehemiah helped them understand the full measure of the law, and the tone changes, "all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law." Confronted by the full measure of what they had done and what God had done for them, they were stunned and heartbroken.

We see this reaction at the Mission, when someone comes, heart-sore and spirit-broken, and looks back on their life. To see and fully understand the impact of their choices, on themselves and others, can be devastating. But the Mission is a place of hope and healing.

As the people wept, Nehemiah didn't point a finger and focus on their flaws. Instead, he says to them, "'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.' So the Levites quieted all 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."

We, all of us, make mistakes. We regret, if we are honest with ourselves, choices we made that caused separation in relationships, how quick we are to wound with words, how selfish we can be... But when we recognize our own failures and see our need for God's law and guidance in our life, that can be a holy day for us. We can take action and step into a new life, full of opportunities to serve Him as we should. And He says to us, with forgiveness and grace, "Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

Acappella - Be Ye Glad (YouTube)