The “joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10) serves as a reminder that it is God’s will that we rejoice and enjoy life. Most of all, it is not just any kind of joy, but it is the joy that comes because we know God and the reality of His love. Delighting in God, in His goodness, and rejoicing because of everything God has provided for us is something that we should strive to be doing every day. Moreover, delighting in God gives us the strength to face the day and to handle what comes our way.
Read Nehemiah 8:13-18. What happened here, and what does it tell us about the people and their leaders at this time?
The next day the leaders of the people come to Ezra in order to learn more from God’s book. This initiative demonstrated by the leaders showed their desire to lead the community toward God. They understood that leading the people the right way would not happen if they themselves did not seek God and seek knowledge from Him.
Read Leviticus 23:39-43. What were the Israelites commanded to do, and why?
Notice that in Nehemiah 8:15, the texts refer to the fact that what they were doing was according to what is “written”. We see here another example of how seriously they now wanted to obey the Word of God, ideally because after decades in captivity they had learned their lesson about disobedience. Also, in the texts in Leviticus they were to celebrate the feast and to “rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days” (Lev. 23:40, NKJV). In other words, as they remember God’s acts of mercy and grace and salvation, the people were to rejoice in what the Lord had done for them.
|Think about what we have been given in Jesus, who was symbolized in all of ancient Israel’s feasts. How can we learn to rejoice in the Lord even during difficult and painful trials? Why, especially during these times, is it crucial for us to do so?|