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The Strength of Joy

The Strength of Joy

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Published by glennpease
Commentary on Neh. 8:10. The joy of the Lord is your strength.
Commentary on Neh. 8:10. The joy of the Lord is your strength.

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Published by: glennpease on Jun 03, 2011
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From Great Texts of the BibleEdited by Glenn PeaseThe joy of the Lord is your strength. eh. viii. 10.I reading the Holy Scriptures, or hearing them read in theservices of the Church, we fail to notice one outstanding featurecommon both to the Old Testament and to the ew, and that is theextraordinary frequency with which we meet with short sentenceswhich arrest our attention, and challenge our admiration alike bythe simplicity of the words employed, and by the profundity of the thought expressed. Of no other literature of any age or of any country can this be said in equal degree, and even our oft-quoted poets, with Shakespeare immeasurably the foremost of them all, pale into insignificance before the Bible as the greatestmine that the world has ever known of priceless gems of pregnantand beautiful thought. Such a sentence is the text. It standsout as one of perhaps the first five or six most striking sentencesin the whole Bible. Had ehemiah left us no other message than just this one utterance, his name would still stand high among thegreat names of the human race, who through the wizardry of felicitous phrase have enriched all succeeding ages by the powerof an inspiring thought.1. Some forty thousand of the Jews had returned from theBabylonian captivity. They had built their little temple amidthe ruins of Jerusalem, and resumed the worship of the Lord shouse. But they were few, oppressed, and in great misery. Theygroaned under the tyranny of the Persian satraps. The neighboring Samaritans plundered their barns and fields. Their citywas as yet undefended by fortified gates, and fell an easy prey tothe troops of banditti who scoured the desolate country. " Thecity was large and great : but the people were few therein, andthe houses were not builded." They complained in their prayerthat they were slaves in the land given to their fathers. Theysaid, " It yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hastset over us because of our sins ; also they have dominion over ourbodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in greatdistress." In their distress they turned to Jehovah. Theyhungered to hear the Divine Law, which many of them had neverheard, copies being so scarce with them and life so hard. Theymet in the street before the Water-Gate ; and Ezra, the scribe,brought out the Law and read it to them, and gave them the sense,and caused them to understand the meaning. As they listened,they wept. The contrast between what they had been, and whatthey were, was too much for them. Once a great nation prosper
ing under the Divine care, they were now a few poor slavesdwelling in a desolate undefended city, tilling a few ravaged fields,withering away, as it seemed ; under the Divine curse. Theyfairly broke down. There was a rain of tears. Their very heartsmelted within them.2. ehemiah, the brave governor, saw that this was no fitmood for men who had so much to do and to bear. Grief wouldonly unman them. And so he bade the scribe shut his book, andsaid to the people, " Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet,and send portions unto him for whom nothing is prepared: forthis day is holy unto our Lord : neither be ye grieved ; for the joyof the Lord is your strength" What he meant was that, if manwas against them, God was with them and for them ; and that if they were glad and rejoiced in His presence and grace, that wouldbe a much better preparation for the hard work they had to dothan vainly regretting a past that could not be recalled.3. It was well that the Jews should look into the awfulteachings of the past, and under the clear, stern condemnation of the eternal words give way to the rush of sorrow. But it was notwell that they should sorrow long. They had work to do, demanding the strength of joy. The scattered tribes were to begathered into a nation the ancient order was to be restored.They were not to mourn over the " irrevocable past," but, learningits lessons, to begin a nobler national life as the people of God.And therefore ehemiah and the Levites turned the people sthoughts from the saddening years that were gone, to the heavenlymercy that was shining in the present. " Go your way, . . . thisday is holy unto our Lord . . . neither be ye grieved ... for the joy of the Lord is your strength."The good counsel of ehemiah was reinforced by a songfrom one of their poets or psalmists. It is the brightest andmerriest in the Psalter, a true Christian psalm.be joyful in Jehovah, all ye landsServe the Lord with gladness,And come before His presence with a song!Be ye sure that Jehovah He is God ;It is He that made us, and not we ourselves ;We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.go your way into His gates with thanksgiving,And into His courts with praiseBe ye thankful unto Him and speak good of His name;
For the Lord is gracious ; His mercy is everlasting,And His truth endureth from generation to generation.I. GOD S JOY I Us.1. Is it fanciful to see in the text first of all a challenge to.human love and loyalty a trumpet-call to live a strong, bright,conquering life because of what that life may mean to God ? Maywe read into the words not only a revelation of the secret of human strength, but also of the source of Divine gladness ? Inthe work of God the Almighty Creator, we hear those words, dearto us from our childhood, which tell us how at the close of thesix great aeons which formed the successive stages in the statelyevolution of the world as a fit habitation for man, "God saweverything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."Again, we listen to that wonderful creation poem in the Book of Job, which tells us how at the first beginning of all things, " themorning stars sang out together, and all the sons of God shoutedfor joy." Surely with such words before us we can realize in someemail degree what the "joy of the Lord" the gladness of theAlmighty must have been when He contemplated the beauty of His perfect handiwork.Just as a clever craftsman knows the subtle joy of facingand conquering a difficult task, and rejoices over the finishedwork that owes its being to the cunning of his brain and of hishands so may we not think of God the Creator as feeling joyover the perfection of His handiwork ? And where can that bemore fully revealed than in the strength of a strong man orwoman, strong in physical energy and endurance, strong in mentalequipment, strong in will-power and moral force, inspired by loftyideals of brotherhood and social service, strong above all in spiritualvision of the unseen but tremendous reality of the higher life of the human soul ? " An honest man," we are told, " is the noblestwork of God," and when He sees men and women steadfast andimmovable strong and true in their life of self-conquest and self-sacrifice " standing four-square to every wind that blows " then1 am sure that He rejoices, and that the knowledge brings Himhappiness. 12. We are not to suppose for one moment that the infinitewonders of the eternal Godhead raise Him above the sense of joy.We know that there are times of special joy in heaven, and wehave no reason to believe that special joy is not shared by GodHimself. On the contrary, we know that our Savior Himself rejoiced when the Seventy returned, and brought Him the glad

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