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Why did Nehemiah say, “The joy of the Lord is your strength?” (Nehemiah 8:10)?

joy of the Lord is your strength

In Nehemiah 8, the people of Judah had just finished rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. It was not as high or as thick or as impressive as it had once been and was certainly less impressive than the walls of other cities—enemy cities. The people had many detractors who did not want the walls to be rebuilt. The next step was to “rebuild” the people by teaching them the Law of God that had been neglected in many respects. Ezra read the Book of the Law to the people, who were convicted of their ignorance and disobedience. They were repentant and began to weep.

However, as important as this revival was, God did not want His people to remain dejected. He had not rejected them but was in the process of restoring them.

“Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

“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.’ The Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.’ Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them” (Nehemiah 8:9–11).

When the people understood how they had disobeyed and neglected the Lord, they were sad. However, in their repentance God wanted them to rejoice, not grovel in guilt. They came to understand God’s Word and the fact that He was forgiving them. God wanted them to rejoice, and their strength was renewed as they went from mourning to feasting and rejoicing.

Joy is a tremendous source of strength. If a person is down and discouraged, almost any obstacle or hardship is enough to incapacitate him or her. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). This can be true for anyone. “Emotional energy” is extremely powerful. This is why coaches give motivational speeches to their players. A person who is “up” will accomplish far more than a person who is “down.” Joy provides strength. A person suffering from a physical ailment or pain but who is filled with joy will survive much better than a discouraged person with the same condition. Joy can even make a person forget his pain and limitations. In fact, it is better to have joy in suffering than despair in ease and luxury.

Joy is available in a variety of places. A person can receive joy from other individuals and from circumstances. The primary difference between the joy that is provided by people and circumstances and the joy that comes from the Lord is in consistency and duration. People will fail. Circumstances will change. A person whose joy and strength are from these sources will inevitably be inconsistent. That person will be up and down, riding the waves of alternating joy and sadness, encouragement and discouragement.

However, when a person’s source of joy and the strength it provides is the Lord, then he can be even-keeled and constant, just as God is constant. Many verses in Scripture speak to the joy that God provides His people:

Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

1 Peter 1:8–9: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Psalm 5:11: “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”

Psalm 28:7: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

Isaiah 41:10 does not mention the word joy but does admonish Israel not to be dismayed, which is a similar concept: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 40:30–31 deals with the similar theme of hope: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

When Israel (then) or Christians (today) come to realize how much God has done for them and what great things He has in store, the result is joy, and that joy will produce strength. Furthermore, one of the things that God has in store for His people is strength to endure hard times. He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). As we focus on God’s presence and promises, our joy and strength will increase. As we focus on fallible and fickle people and uncertain circumstances, our joy will decrease, and our strength will also decrease.

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Questions about Nehemiah

Why did Nehemiah say, “The joy of the Lord is your strength?” (Nehemiah 8:10)?
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This page last updated: May 11, 2022