Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."Nehemiah 8:10(NASB)
Nehemiah had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, and many Israelites had returned to their homeland following the nation's 70-year exile in Babylon. It was the first day of their new year (the feast of trumpets), and the apostate nation of Israel stood in the city square and started to listen to Ezra the priest reading the Word of the Lord. He read from the book of the Law that had been given by God to Israel.
As they listened God's Word being read to them, this errant nation as one man realised how far they had wandered from their God. Oh, at first, they started to rejoice and cried out "AMEN, AMEN," but as Ezra continued to read the Scriptures, they started to realise how deeply they had fallen into sin and how far they had wandered away from the truth of God's Word, and both men and women began to mourn and grieve deeply.
The people wept as they heard the Scriptures being read, for they acknowledged their sin, but Nehemiah the governor stood up and reminded the people that this first day of the new year was a special feast day of the Lord. He comforted them, saying, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
We too can wander far from the Lord. We can leave our first love and fall into foolish sin. We can buy into various false teachings, live our lives in selfish pride, and even keep the Lord Jesus standing outside the door of our hearts, but like Israel, today is a day that is a feast day for us, for Christ our Saviour has redeemed us by His blood and we have been released from the bondage of slavery to sin into the freedom of Christ's saving grace.
Like Israel, we should listen to the Word of the Lord, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Like Israel, we should confess our sin and recognise how far we may have wandered from the Lord. We should turn away from our wrong attitudes and actions and look to Jesus, for every day is a day that is holy to the Lord. Like Israel, we should not remain in self-condemnation, but rejoice that there is now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus. And like Israel, we should follow the wise advice of Nehemiah: "For the joy of the Lord is indeed our strength."
Let us keep the Word of God fresh in our hearts each day. Let us recognise our faults and failings and readily confess our sins to our Father in heaven. Let us never forget that we are the people of God who have been purchased with the precious blood of Christ - and that the many precious promises of God towards us, his sons and heirs, are 'yes' and 'amen' in Christ Jesus.
And let us in everything, by prayer and praise, rejoice in the Lord and abide in His love, for the joy of the Lord is indeed our strength, through time and into eternity.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You are my joy and my strength. Thank You that there is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus and that Your grace is sufficient for me. Keep me faithful to You, for You are my faithful and generous God. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.