Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. 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 8:9-10)
Nehemiah is commenting on what has just occurred in the life of Israel. The exiles have returned from Babylon and have rebuilt Jerusalem. In celebration Ezra has just read from the book of the Law. The people are "cut to the quick" by the reading, which has not taken place, ever, in their memory. In the words of scripture are power - for they carry the weight of the Holy Spirit as the Word of God. The crowd is brought to tears as the scripture is read, for the Spirit is at work in a powerful way. What is happening? Why the tears? Maybe the tears come the conviction the Spirit brings... Maybe the tears come from an experience of holiness... Maybe the tears come from the sense that for so long they have waited to know God's presence in their midst again... Maybe they are truly tears of joy.... Probably it is all of these things.
Yet Nehemiah responds with an interesting turn - "the joy of the Lord is our strength"...
We have confidence in our God when the night is darkest and the world is set against us. God sent the Word to become flesh in Jesus so that he might experience death for us. He has gone on before us and shown us the way. We need not fear man or world. We need not fear the principalities and powers, or the spiritual forces of darkness in this world, for Jesus has already seen them "nailed to the tree" (Col. 2:14-15).
For Nehemiah and for us, we need to understand that the Spirit not only convicts of sin, but fills us with "joy." The world wants you to be happy; God wants you to have joy. Happiness comes and goes; joy is God's favor, and lasts a lifetime (Psalm 30:5).
Friends in Christ, as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4, exercise your "joy" today and chase the darkness away!