The people who were back in the Promised Land trying to reestablish the nation of Israel were in great need of the Word of God. But how could they understand it unless someone explained it to them?
Ezra the scribe not only read the Word to the men and women who gathered to hear from God, he also saw to it that this Word was expounded in their presence. A team of men helped the people to make sense out of what they were hearing.
Though the people of God undoubtedly had much cause for mourning concerning their disobedience, they were instructed by Nehemiah, Ezra, and his team that this was not a day for sadness. The honest receiving of God’s Word with a humble and contrite heart is a cause for celebration. They would obey the Lord more fully if they came to appreciate the gift of “the joy of the Lord.”
Those who knew God best instructed the others with these important words: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” The nation had been living in ignorance and disobedience for too long. Now God had enabled them to love His Word.
This all took place in connection with the Feast of Booths, the final feast in the biblical Old Testament annual calendar. According to the Law, this last festival was to be a great celebration of the Lord dwelling with His people. Mourning would not have been appropriate.
The people learned how to rejoice in the Lord even back in that Old Testament period when there was so much biblical truth that they could not yet comprehend. If they had reason for gladness, we have far more. The Lord of hosts has dwelt among us. He is building an eternal temple of the Holy Spirit, and we are a part of that great tabernacle. God will accomplish His great purpose. He will live with us forever. No matter what difficulties we may face in this world of sorrow, the church is called to rejoice in the Lord always. All the promises of God are securely established for us in Jesus Immanuel, God with us.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, we want to hear Your Word. Bring Your truth before Your assembly. Grant Your servants diligence in speaking and explaining Your Word, so that Your people may receive the sense of the Word that is spoken in their presence. May we rejoice in Your truth together. Teach us to love You with our minds and also with our hearts, our souls, and our strength. Teach us to hear and receive the joy of the Lord. Your grace is our sure salvation. When we understand Your words, there is hope, and cause for the greatest celebration. Teach us to love the truth that You are coming to dwell with us forever. May we hear Your Word day by day and rejoice in You without end.