Speaking to the Soul – June 26

Joy of the Lord

“This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10

When the people heard Ezra reading the Law of Moses they burst out crying (v9). Presumably they did so because they were reflecting on how far they had fallen as a nation. There was a huge gulf between what God had intended and the present reality. Nehemiah and Ezra were as aware as anyone of these things, but they saw this day as one for celebration and rejoicing, not for sorrow. They encouraged the people to bring together the best food and drink and to have an enormous party to celebrate what God had done. The celebrations were a recognition of the fact that the joy of the Lord was their strength.

We may experience the joy of birth, seeing a toddler take their first step, watching children playing happily, smelling a flower or seeing a majestic landscape; success in sport or work or the joy of finishing a jigsaw puzzle. But such joys tends to be a brief response to a pleasant experience. They pass. Such joys enrich life but they don’t give us much strength.

However, the joy of the Lord is different. When our lives are founded upon God there is a constant joyfulness that gives us strength. It is that relationship that is absolutely crucial. C.S. Lewis wrote: “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” The New Testament speaks of joy as being a fruit of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, joy is one of the results of allowing the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, and can be present whatever the circumstances we face.

Is the joy of the Lord your strength?

Loving God, help me to open my whole life to your joy. Amen