Do you sense "the joy of the LORD" in your life? Is it "your strength"?
In Nehemiah 8:1-3 it says, "They [the Israelites] told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women, and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law."
Continuing on in verses 9-11 it states,
"Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, '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 sacred to our LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.' The Levites calmed all the people, saying, 'Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.' 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."
I did a search for the unbroken words "joy of the LORD" and only found this address (Ne. 8:10). With this combination of words as the only home in Scripture and the fact that it has been quoted in many sermons, I thought it deserving of a closer look.
The Israelites were "mourning" and "weeping" because of hearing how much they fell short of their committment to the Covenant. In addition, it was not just them that was in the wrong, but generations past. Now Nehemiah had some great news. Some relief was available to the Israelites. Can you hear it coming? IF the Israelites would just.....THEN God would. Nehemiah never makes an If...Then statement, but the head Levites stand before the Israelites and give an impressive history lesson that warns of the possibility of a repeat IF Israel does not unify themselves, clean "spiritual house", and move on. Meanwhile, IF the Israelites follow the Law and observe His commands, "the joy of the LORD" will be their strength. In other words, God's happiness and peace would be upon His relationship with Israel, because of obedience, and would transfer into "strength" for Israel.
Modern application: Recall what brings and keeps you in alignment with God's will for your life and practice every bit of it. Read the Bible, listen to your pastor, especially listen to the Holy Spirit's teachings as examples of what you can do and do those things. Then, I believe, we can experience such a wellness with our soul, a "joy of the LORD" that it translates as "our strength".