Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. – Neh. 8:10 KJV
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After seeking and getting the permission of King Arterxerxes, the Persian king of Babylon, Nehemiah with all his fellow brethren completed the re-building of the walls of Jerusalem despite all the opposition mounted by Sanballat and Tobias. It was now time to bring the people back to God since all the time spent in exile had made them forget completely the laws of God and so were not walking in them and thus operating in ignorance.
Nehemiah in the first day of the seventh month after all the Israelites had finally settled in their towns on their return from exile decided to re-awaken the people to the awareness of the laws of the Almighty God by arranging for Ezra the Priest to come and read the laws of God as written in the book of the Law of Moses – Neh. 8:3.
Ezra not only read the Law in such a manner that all around could understand as the people listened attentively to him, arrangement was also made for teachers among the Levites to explain the laws in details and the awareness that they had been running their lives contrary to the laws of God got them really convinced that they had all the while operated outsider the Will of God and His laws. They got convinced and convicted of their acts carried out outside the Will of God which constituted a transgression against the Lord and became sad and depressed. Nehemiah seeing their level of soberness made the consolation statement which is the scripture for today’s devotion.
In his statement to the people in their repentant state, he gave them the following advice:
1. They are to go out and enjoy choice food.
2. They are to share same with those who do not have.
3. The day of repentance was to become a sacred day for them.
4. They had no need to grieve seeing themselves in their sin.
5. All the above they should be able to do despite their low emotional state as they were to get their strength from knowing that God is happy that they are that sober about their transgressions.
The statement of Nehemiah reveals the mood of God when he sees us very sober for our transgressions. The Bible says God does want the death of a sinner but that he should live (Ez. 18:23; 33:11) just as we are also informed that their is tremendous joy in heaven for every sinner that repents – Lk. 15: 7, 10.
The scripture reveals also that most people are actually operating out of ignorance as they did not really have access to God’s view about what they are doing. The Bible quotes God as saying that His people perish because they lack knowledge – Hos. 4:6. The Israelites in the time of Nehemiah were lucky that Nehemiah arranged for knowledge update for them. You reading this may need to access knowledge yourself as there may be no Nehemiah to arrange it for you. There is no doubt that you may discover how much you have been operating in ignorance which could be the reason why all those expectations from all the efforts put into your Christian life are not yielding expected results. There is no doubt that knowledge is power and lack of it can destroy one. The Israelites saw the extent to which they have been operating in ignorance on issues concerning God and they became very sad. You may also discover that you will be sad when you have better knowledge about all those things that you have been doing.
Just as Nehemiah advised the Israelites, the day of awareness is not a day to feel depressed about how much damage you have caused as a result of your ignorance, not only to yourself but also to the people around you. It is actually a day to rejoice, not because you are proud of the damage that you have caused but because the Almighty God is actually happy and with the host of angels is rejoicing about your new state of knowledge. There is no doubt that God being happy with you will bring with it immense blessings. Do all you can to operate in knowledge, that way you can make God happy and His joy will be your strength.
May God grant us better knowledge on how to do what we are doing better so that we can actually draw strength from the joy that our action will bring to the Lord in Jesus name. Amen.