Fear. Sadness. Uncertainty. Those are just a few words that describe the current state of emotions swirling across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, God calls His people not just to be content, but thriving and joyous in every season of life.
Fear. Sadness. Uncertainty. Those are just a few words that describe the current state of emotions swirling across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, God calls His people not just to be content, but thriving and joyous in every season of life. Jesus said His people are “not of the world, even as I am not of the world,” (Joh. 17:14) . Despite all of the trouble and hardships the world is facing, the children of God have a source of strength that sets them apart from everyone else. The Bible says in the book of Nehemiah, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength,” (Neh. 8:10) . This quote is famous for providing some encouragement when someone is going through a hard time; however, God never intended for this scripture to be just a cliché statement. He desires a joy for His children that is firm and can withstand even the greatest of trials. This scripture is strategic in its context to provide a means of exhortation and hope for the people of God. The book of Nehemiah lays a clear foundation on how God’s people can obtain strength through the joy of the Lord today.
The book of Nehemiah takes place during the time of the Babylonian exile of the Jews. This was a time when the Jews were unable to practice the law given by Moses and were banished from their holy land, Jerusalem. Nehemiah was a high priest who served as the king of Persia’s cupbearer. Nehemiah had heard of the state of Jerusalem and how its gates were destroyed. He fasted and prayed to God to have mercy on the children of Israel, because they transgressed by not keeping the commandments of the law. Nehemiah found favor from the king of Persia to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall that laid in ruin. However, he faced much opposition from enemy powers that did not want to see the wall restored. Despite much persecution and resistance, Nehemiah remained steadfast in prayer and obedience and the wall was completed. As a result, Ezra the priest was able to release the law of Moses with understanding after a long period of suppression. The people were so grateful that they could finally hear and understand the Words of God that they bowed and worshipped.
This is where the famous quote, “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” comes into view. As we can see from the account in the book of Nehemiah, this joy does not come without paying a great price.
This joy does not come without paying a great price.
Just when it seems as though there are no more resources and the enemy has the upperhand, God will always make a way for His people to overcome. It will take a remnant who will stand up in the midst of a society that is completely against the kingdom of God and His Word. Those who are faithful to His law and commandments, and those that are in continual prayer and fasting, will obtain the mercy and grace to rebuild the “spiritual walls” of defense. The walls that must be restored are actually the people of God who have been torn down and destroyed by the cares of this world and religion. As the truth of the Word of God begins to be released by those who have remained as priests before the Lord, the church can step into this freedom and joy that the book of Nehemiah speaks about. This joy is given only by God for those who endure while seeking His truth, and it can never be removed.
In the New Testament, the book of James describes perfectly how believers are to endure in the wake of persecution; it says, “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (Jam. 1:2) .
This thought seems so foreign compared to what the default reaction is when we go through difficult times. Human nature immediately breaks down and goes into a state of despair or sadness.
But God has laid a pattern in the scripture that through obedience to His Word…
But God has laid a pattern in the scripture that through obedience to His Word, His children receive an everlasting strength and joy from Him that the world or even hell can’t take away. The Bible says, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2) . It was Jesus’ joy to go to the cross and die for the entire world. This joy isn’t a feeling. It isn’t a temporary state of happiness that goes away with the next trial. This is a supernatural joy that can withstand any trial or test. That is because one’s identity in God is found through adversity, as we have seen in the account of Nehemiah. When our desire and affections are set upon the Word of God, this supernatural strength and joy is available to all who believe.
- King James Bible. Thomas Nelson, 1991.
- The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010.