“Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” . . . So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them” (Nehemiah 8:10, 12, NLT).
The newly returned exiles from Babylon had rebuilt the broken-down wall around the city of Jerusalem in a mere fifty-two days. As the people began to settle in to their former home, they needed to be reminded of their spiritual legacy. So Ezra the priest stood before the people on a platform in the city square and read aloud the Book of the Law, as the Levites “clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage” (8:8). The effect was profound: “The people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law” (8:9).
What triggered the weeping? Perhaps as Ezra read God’s Word, the full realization of how far they had strayed from God and His laws weighed upon them. Nehemiah and the other leaders comforted the weeping crowd. This was a sacred day because today they understood what God wanted. Yes, they had indeed strayed, but God was graciously giving them a new start.
Now standing inside the newly rebuilt walls of their city, God, His promises, and their relationship to Him as His people all came together. God had brought them home. They had a huge task ahead to get their nation back on the right track. Depression and sorrow would not get the job done, but joy would. The joy of the Lord would give them strength. How so? Because they “had heard God’s words and understood them.”
What is weighing heavily upon your heart today? What causes you to weep before the Father—what missteps, what wrong turns, what bad choices sent you into your own brand of “exile”?
Today God the Father calls you to return to Him. How do you do that? You turn back to His precious Word. You read and seek for understanding (through prayer and by sitting under good teachers who teach it correctly). You dig in and ask God to show you what you need to do. Then you repent, pray, dry your eyes, get up, and rejoice. For the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Don’t let past failures act like strongholds against God’s plans for you. Don’t let wasted time in “exile” affect what you can do now and in the future.
Want to move forward—up, out, and through? Want to walk with God today, tomorrow, and forever? Want to overcome? The joy of the Lord is your strength.
Prayer: Dearest Father, I feel so weak against the strongholds that bind me. I feel lonely, oppressed, depressed. I have wasted time in exile, and I don’t know if You can still use the likes of me. Yet, today I come back to You, I commit to studying Your Word, learning Your will, and rejoicing in Your promises. Today, Lord, my joy in You provides the strength that I need for the steps You call me to take today.