How does “the joy of the Lord” give us strength? When I read the passage in Nehemiah 8:10 that says “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” I was curious about the connection. It IS true that when we are joyful about something, we DO feel strong. Think about the joyful occasions in your life—falling in love, the birth of a child, obtaining a job you wanted, moving into your dream home, etc.
These joyful events are absolutely invigorating—and they can make us feel nearly invincible!
But these joys fade, don’t they?
And then…we need more and more to sustain us and strengthen us. It’s just like when we don’t have enough to eat and our BODY feels weak—right? Well, when we don’t have enough of the things that give us joy, our SOUL becomes weakened and falls into despair.
The fact is…God’s presence is the ONLY joy we experience—that is ALWAYS enough.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about—I completely understand! It’s taken many years of looking for God in all the wrong places for me to find Him in plain sight. He was there all along. But, to further explain—let me explain by drawing you to the story of Nehemiah from whence comes this statement, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
The Jewish nation had rebelled against God and their beloved city of Jerusalem was burned to the ground by their captors. They were slaves. Led of God, Nehemiah requested from King Artaxerxes, that he be allowed to rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem. His request was granted, and against all odds, the captive Jews were allowed to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. After the miraculous rebuilding, one of the priests was reading the Word of God to them all and they realized, that despite the fact they had strayed so far from God—He was still mercifully blessing them. They repented and asked God to forgive them and—their sorrow for rejecting God’s ways was profoundly moving. In the midst of their sorrow, Nehemiah said:
“This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9-10)
Nehemiah knew that their repentance was real and that they desired to follow God more than they wanted to follow the idols that had led them into captivity. He was reminding them to rediscover the joy of God’s presence! This is what true repentance does—and it makes us DESPISE anything that separates us from His presence.
When we’re in God’s presence, we experience His supernatural peace, power, wisdom and love to the extent that we are filled with supernatural joy. The joy of His presence is unshaken by our circumstances–just as HE is unshaken. Thus, “the joy of the Lord is our strength!” God’s joy is of Divine origin. It is not from lesser things like–sensuality, power, possessions, people or circumstances–which never give us lasting or complete satisfaction. If we fail to recognize this truth, we will constantly and frantically pursue these lesser gods to fill our quickly evaporating sense of “joy.” We will constantly hunger for more of what won’t fill us. How can someone who is constantly hungry–ever be full of strength?
Charles Spurgeon said this of possessing the strength of God’s joy:
His inner light makes him independent of the outward sun; his secret granaries make him independent of the outer harvest; his inward fountains place him beyond dread though the brook Cherith may dry up; he is independent of men and angels, and fearless of devils; all creatures may turn against him if they please, but since God himself is his exceeding joy, he will not miss their love or mourn their hate. (Sermon 1027, Dec. 31, 1871)
When we take the time to seek God and purify our lives from anything that separates us from Him, we experience the inner strength which comes from being completely satisfied by Him. This is joy.
When we seek God, we are filled with His joy; and His joy–is our invincible strength!
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