READ Nehemiah 8:9-12
One year for his birthday, we surprised Kaeden with a special gift. Disguised in an odd shaped box, and placed at the end of a treasure hunt, we waited with baited breath and cameras at the ready to capture his reaction when he opened it. The moment was priceless. I often look back on the photos and video footage of that day and I fill up again watching the happiness explode onto his face.
There’s something special about bringing joy to someone we love isn’t there. It just makes you feel light on the inside.
I think this concept is one we might have missed in scripture. We are about to enter a passage in Nehemiah that contains one of the most famous verses, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I always thought that verse meant God would give us joy, like a gift, and that would be our strength, but actually read in context, I think I may have misunderstood. You see the context of this verse is the people repenting. As all of their hearts turn to God and they begin to weep over their sin, Nehemiah steps up and says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” He doesn’t say the joy God gives you will be your strength, he says the joy of the Lord, God’s joy.
You see it is a bit like Kaeden that day as he opened his gift. As I watched his joy I felt different on the inside. In just the same way, God’s word here is calling us to lift our eyes and catch the delight that is breaking across our heavenly father’s face. Nehemiah calls out “Look at his joy! Look at the joy your repentance has brought to the heart of your Abba.” When we catch a glimpse of the joy we bring him when we honour him, it gives us the strength to continue doing the right thing. Even if no one else is happy about our Godly choices, seeing his joy over our actions spurs us on. The joy of the Lord, God’s joy, is indeed our strength.
Lord, help me see how I bring you joy so I might be strengthened to follow after you. Amen.