Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
When I read this on Saturday, there were a few things that really stuck out to me.
1. The response to weep came because the people realized upon hearing the Law (the book of Deuteronomy) that they had messed up badly for a long time.
2. Nehemiah told them to go eat some comfort food. If I understood the original language correctly, it would be more accurate to say allotted fat portions, but let's face it, the thought of meatloaf and mashed potatoes or chicken and biscuits sounds way more appealing.
3. The day the people were weeping was being called holy to the Lord and they were reminded not to grieve because the joy of the Lord would be their strength.
Now, I would imagine a good portion of us have heard Nehemiah 8:10 before and have probably seen it on a bookmark, plaque, or some hand-lettered sign we wanted to frame and hang up to see every day. However, until we take this verse in context, we are missing something hugely important about it.
Upon hearing the Law the people understood where they had gone wrong and they were devasated over their shortcomings. It's why they were weeping. But Nehemiah specifically told them not to weep because the day was being declared holy to the Lord. Why? Because v.8 the people understood what was being read.
So why would that cause the Lord joy? Because they were turning back.
In Luke 15:7 Jesus tells us, "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Their repentence was giving the Lord joy and they could draw on his joy to make them strong rather than wallowing in self-pity over the poor choices and lousy decisions they had made that could not be undone.
So we have to ask ourselves at this point if we do that. Do we honestly draw on the fact that the Lord is joyous when we 'get it' and use that as our strength to move past it and forward or do we continually beat ourselves up over what we've done, label ourselves unusable, and freeze because we have this crazy idea that we need to punish ourselves beyond the consequences our actions have already created? I don't know about you, but I certainly know which one I am much more prone to. And I've got the inner dialogue memorized that matches the soundtrack perfectly.
But as I sat staring at these words printed in black and white for my benefit, I started think about the words John Mark Mcmillan wrote that Crowder sings so beautifully......I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way he loves us.
Because in love, that's what we do when we don't let go of it.....we maintain our regrets.
By definition according to Merriam-Webster maintain means: to keep in an existing state, preserve from failure or decline. Scary isn't it? We maintain our regrets. We forget God's faithfulness over and over but remember our faithlessness like there's no tomorrow.
Maybe it's just me. Maybe you're better at this than I am. But if you aren't, it's high time we got serious about renewing our minds with the truth of God's Word and guarding our hearts with ferocity. And because we have a treasury of Scripture to pull from, let's start our week encouraged by this:
I am God's chosen. I am holy and dearly loved. I am clothed with
compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And these
things aren't just for me to show to others, but for me to show to myself.