Fruits of the Spirit: LESSON 1 PART 3 – Joy (Nehemiah 8:10b)
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”– Nehemiah 8:10b
Bible Background: Nehemiah 8:5-12
- Nehemiah lived at a time when Israel was slowly returning from exile, and he was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes. He received news that even after the temple was fixed, the walls of Jerusalem still lay in ruins, and this made him very sad. In his heart he felt that God called him to do something about it, so he prayed. After that, he got permission from the King to rebuild the walls and the King even sent him with a letter to get wood from the king’s forest to be used to repair the gates.
- Nehemiah repaired the walls with the help of the Jews who willingly gave their time and effort to this task. There were those who tried to stop them and even threatened to attack them, and it even came to a point when only half of the men worked on the walls because the other half guarded the area, and the builders had a sword on their belts, always ready to defend themselves. It was a big job, seemingly impossible, but they finished it in a record-breaking 52 days because the people worked with all their heart and they had the blessing of the Lord.
- From start to finish, Nehemiah proved to be a man of prayer, and he always asked for the Lord’s guidance, wisdom and protection for completing the work. When the job was finished, Nehemiah gathered the people to celebrate. They asked Ezra, the priest, to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, because the people who came from exile have not had a chance to hear these words for a very, very long time. Ezra – a teacher of the law, and the Levites who were servants in the temple, read the Words of God and explained them in simple language so that all who were present could understand its meaning.
- As the people heard the Law of Moses, the lifted their hands and responded, “Amen!” and bowed and worshipped the Lord. They realized how sinful they had become because of they failed to obey God’s laws, and they cried and were very sorry for what they had done. But Nehemiah and the Levites calmed the people and told them that this was a day of celebration; a time to share to those in need; a day holy unto the Lord, and that they must not be sad, “for the joy of the Lord is their strength.”
Truly, “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” God was pleased that the people realized their sins and were sorry, and Nehemiah assured them that it was actually a time for rejoicing, because where there is repentance, then forgiveness and restoration can begin. Through the reading of the Word, the people realized they had a big problem – sin – but there was something bigger that the bible reveals – that the love of God can wash away our sins! Indeed, there is a reason to have joy because God is willing and able to cleanse our hearts, save us from our sins and give us a chance to start a new life that is victorious in Christ Jesus! Now that is a wonderful reason to have joy!
- exile – forced to leave their home country
- cupbearer – a high official in the king’s court; serves wine to the king
- temple – the equivalent of a church building in bible times
- Jerusalem – central city of Jewish worship
- Book of the Law of Moses – most likely the “Torah” or “Pentateuch”;” the first five books in the bible, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
- Levites – a member of the Hebrew tribe from the family of Levi, son of Jacob, and they served as priests in the temple.
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear[a] and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy 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.
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
12 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.