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.”

Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)

Sometimes I’m surprised when I read the Bible and find a verse I think I know when I really don’t. That’s to say I might be familiar with what a verse says but I wouldn’t be able to tell you the context. It’s, as I’ve said, a surprising experience that is also humbling. Such is the case with Nehemiah 8:10. If you’re like me you might already know, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” and rely upon this promise daily. However, if you’re also like me you might not have realized where it comes from or what the circumstances were in which it was said. Today, I’m going to go over this a little bit for our mutual edification.

In the seventh chapter of Nehemiah we “discover” that Ezra, the priest, was present in the time of Nehemiah. Although it might be more accurate to say that Nehemiah was present in Ezra’s time since Ezra had been in Jerusalem for 13 years before Nehemiah showed up to repair the wall. In fact, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah were originally one book with Ezra being credited as the author. However, Jewish tradition says Nehemiah wrote Nehemiah.

By the time we reach chapter eight of Nehemiah the people are in the seventh month, Etanim. This is a month of festivals. Traditions held that the Book of the Law should be read. Therefore, the people asked Ezra to read the Book to them. While the book was being read the people were grieving and weeping (Nehemiah 8:9). However, their behavior wasn’t considered appropriate for the occasion because it was a day of joy. The first day of this month is the Festival of Trumpets, which is a holy day preparing the people for the Day of Atonement on the tenth day. The people weren’t supposed to show any grieving or mourning until the proper time (Day of Atonement). Although this seems strange to me, I think about all of the traditions some of us have in the church today. For example, on the first Sunday of every month, at my church, most people stick to wearing only black and white clothing since it’s the day we take communion. Other examples, as can be seen here in Nehemiah, are the people standing up when the Bible is read, the pastor enters, etc. (Nehemiah 8:5).

The people were weeping and grieving when they shouldn’t. So they were reminded to “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” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV). Nehemiah told the people they shouldn’t be fasting, or even abstaining, on such a holy day, but should go get stuff to eat and drink, making sure everyone has something, and to find strength in the joy of the Lord.

While it might seem strange to remind the people not to grieve on such a day, I am reminded of the hope we have as Christians. That is the promise of eternal life with Jesus Christ. As Believers, we know when we die, we’re going to a better place. We are going to Heaven to be with the Lord. No longer do we have to deal with pain, suffering, and the trials and tribulations of this life. We finally get to go home. However, those who do not have the faith we have in the Lord can only hope, falsely, that they are going to a better place.

In my church, when a Believer has passed away, we have a homegoing celebration for them. While there may be some weeping because the deceased will be missed, there is also joy. The joy of the Lord.

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.