Leon De Haan
The Joy of the Lord
Have you ever been going through a rough time in life and someone came up to you and told you that you should have joy? The they quote you a verse from Nehemiah 8:10 which says that eh joy of the Lord is your strength. I know I have and to be honest with you my reaction was not good. I wanted to slug them but instead felt more defeated. After several of these experiences I decided to check out what Nehemiah was really saying because for some reason I did not believe I was alone in my experience.
The first thing is many people have a misconception of what joy is. They get joy confused with happiness. That can be a dangerous misconception. There is a difference between the two. The difference is where they originate from. Happiness comes from circumstances that make us happy. These are good things. These things are temporary because either we become accustom to them or we lose them in some way.
Joy is much deeper than that. Joy cannot be produced in ourselves. We cannot turn joy off and on. It is not that simple. Real joy is not conditioned by circumstances. All through the New Testament we see joy displayed in very bad circumstances like being in jail and facing execution. The joy of New Testament believers troubled the Romans as they put them to death. It is said the joy of believers caused leaders and soldiers to go insane. Joy is not subject to circumstances. Joy finds it place in knowing God. I believe that an unbeliever cannot really find joy. They find happiness in friends, things, occasions but they never experience real joy. It is their search for joy that leads them into all kinds of places. Yet they never really experience joy. Joy is an inner contentment that comes from knowing God is in control. Real joy has its source in God and not in our emotions.
Nehemiah was not a prophet. He was the governor of Judah. He was appointed governor by Artaxerxes. Nehemiah was sent from Babylon to Judah to help the remnant that remained there after Israel was taken captive. The background into verse Nehemiah 8:10 is Nehemiah had returned to Judah and had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. When that was finished a census was taken and, in the census, they found men who could serve the Lord. They found men who were the descendance of temple servants. The also found men who we descendants of priests. These priests were considered to be unclean, so they need to purify themselves.
Here is where things begin to get interesting. There was a scribe and priest named Ezra who had the book off the law of Moses. A gathering of all of Israel was happened and Ezra read from the book of the law of Moses. The scribes and priest explain the book of the law of Moses to the people. After this happened Nehemiah, the priests, Levites and scribes together declared that that day was holy. The reason was that for the first time in a long time the law was again read to the people in Judah. Nehemiah then says to the people of Israel, “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 (NASB95).
What do we understand from all this? It is tis, the Israelites were again hearing from God. Remember the only way they could have any relationship with God was through the law. Now for the first time in many years they knew what they needed to do to be in relationship with God. The Law was what separated them from all the other people on earth and know they could not only read the law in Judah, but they had scribes, Levites and priest explain the law to them.
For us as believers the Word of God who became flesh is the way we have relationship with God. We can then receive from Him a joy that is real. It is not dependent on circumstances. It does have to be worked up. It belongs to us because we are in Christ and Joy of our salvation lives in us! This joy is released in us as we read the New Covenant and not the law. We have joy because we have the Lord. It is His joy. He produces in in us because we are in relationship with Him.
Joy is a fruit of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 list the fruit that is produced in us by the Spirit. This fruit does not belong to us. It is not produced by us. It is produced by having a relationship with the Spirit of God. We are the bearers of the fruit just like a branch on an apple tree is not the fruit. It is there to show the fruit to those who are around us.
Let’s stop trying to produce fruit. Instead we need to keep our eyes on Jesus who in turn produces a joy that is real. A joy beyond any and every circumstance. A joy that is supernaturally generated in us that we can show to all those around us.