Have you struggled to continue your daily activities or pursue big dreams because setbacks have caused physical, mental, and spiritual fatigue to stunt your progress? Life has a way of draining our delight and eroding our endurance. Resolve wanes as we’re hit again and again by difficulty. Yet God addresses both our joy and strength. Further, He links them together. We read in Nehemiah 8:10, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” But what does this mean? As we scan the scene where these words were spoken, we understand God’s joy and strength and how they can empower us. Nehemiah 8:1-9 shows us the path to God’s delight and power and that these are only arrived at through His Word.
We read in Nehemiah 8:3 that from daybreak until noon, “all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.” Scripture evokes a response from us, which was certainly true of those gathering around God’s Word in Nehemiah. What reactions does God’s Word stir in your soul? For these believers, it was a two-fold response: worship and a change of heart. As we follow the same process of looking intently into God’s Word, responding with worship, and allowing it to change our hearts, we too can experience the joy of the Lord as our strength!
In Nehemiah 8:6, we see Scripture leading the believers to a position of awe: “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.” This worship quickly progressed into sorrow as the believers, coming face-to-face with God’s truth, recognized their shortfallings. Their response was mournful, as seen in Nehemiah 8:9 “For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” Do we allow Scripture to have the same effect in our lives? As we allow God’s Word to pierce our intentions and activities, our hearts and lives are changed in a powerful way.
The believers heard God’s Word and could not walk away unchanged. Scripture has this power in our lives, as we see in James 1:23-25, “Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
This was precisely what the believers in Nehemiah were seeking. As the people gathered and opened God’s Word, their hearts transformed. This is what God’s living and active Word does: it brings us back into the right alignment with God’s desires. At times, this causes discomfort because we glimpse how far we’ve wandered from His ways. However, by looking intently into His Word, we find freedom.
After deep-diving into Scripture and with a worshipful and repentant response, the believers were ready to receive the big takeaway in verse ten, “This day is holy to our LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” But what do this joy and strength mean for us?
Much of what we experience in life is tethered to temporary circumstances. Our happiness rises and lowers like a thermometer. Our endurance fades with time and age. But when our joy and strength come from the Lord, they are defined by His eternal qualities. Because He does not change, His joy and strength are dependable resources. They never run out, and they are not eroded by circumstance. No matter what we encounter in life, His joy and strength remain the same, and they are more than enough!
We can see these eternal qualities at work in the life of Christ. First, God’s joy enabled Him to endure incredible hardships. In Hebrews 12:2, we read that Jesus “for the joy set before Him endured the cross ….” Biblical joy is not an unsteady emotion but a reliable source of strength. When we’re struggling to receive God’s joy, we can pray Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus not only provides an excellent example of Biblical joy but also divine strength. We read in Ephesians 1:19-20 about God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.” When we feel unequipped or overwhelmed, we can meditate on 2 Corinthians 12:9: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
In the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we find not only salvation but also eternal joy and strength to persevere and thrive in every circumstance.