"Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared.
This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!"
Nehemiah says these words as Ezra reads the law and God's people, who have just returned from exile, weep. "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!"
Many of us have heard those familiar words before, but what do they mean?
Most Bible commentators imply that somehow divine joy has filled you, so you can be strong no matter what. But that does not seem to fit the context, in my humble opinion. The people are weeping because they have broken God's law, they have offended Him, and they fear He will punish them again. Yet Nehemiah says, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!"
This is obviously not some inner divine joy that chases the tears away, rather it is the LORD's joy (the joy God chooses to find; the delight He chooses to take, in His people, in spite of their sin) that is their strength (refuge or fortress).
The same is true for us today!
As we celebrate Christmas, we remember the LORD's joy, the same joy that enabled Jesus to endure the cross (see Hebrews 12:2), is our strength. We can stand before Him and sing praises, we can stand before Him and present our thanksgiving and our requests because His joy is our strength! We are forgiven and forever set free from condemnation because His joy (available to all who believe God's promise fulfilled in Jesus) is our strength!
Merry Christmas everyone, and may the LORD's joy be your greatest strength!