Devotional: October 6, 2020
Then [Nehemiah] said to [the people], ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’
Nehemiah 8: 10 NRSV
“The joy of the Lord is your strength,” is a hopeful encouragement to all of us, regardless of our circumstances. If times are bad, it reminds us that our strength does not come from ourselves, but from God Himself. When we feel week, we can always lean on the Lord.
On the other hand, if things are going well for us, we can be thankful to God. In times of blessing, we can celebrate the Lord’s goodness, and His strength.
Nehmiah uttered these words to His people during a time when a few good things had happened, after a terrible period in their history. When the book of Nehemiah opens, the walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins, and the people are desperate and hopeless. Jerusalem is essentially not much more than a pile of rubble! Yet by the time Nehemiah utters these words, God has done a remarkable work. The sinister plots of their enemies have been foiled, the walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt, and many people have returned to the city from forced exile. It is a time to celebrate!
Right now, many are discouraged about the state of our country and world. The book of Nehemiah reminds us that God’s blessings will eventually return. In the meantime, we can rely on the strength of the Lord.
Nehemiah 8:10 has been set to music countless times by the people of God.
Here are a few versions:
This is the version which is in our hymnals, which many of us grew up singing:
Here is another kids’ version, which is very catchy.
Here is a contemporary version by Rend Collective Experiment:
Here is version by Christian artist Twila Paris, with a bit of a country music feel to it:
Finally, here is black church singing and dancing about the Joy of the Lord:
You know that we are sometimes strong, but often weak. We thank You for being our strength, especially when we are overwhelmed and weak. We rejoice in Your willingness to take on our burdens, and to promise that we might rise with You, from positions of hopelessness. Be our strength always. We pray this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.