Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Neh 8:9-10 (NKJV)
Back in the early 70's we sang a simple chorus that went like this:
The joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength, The joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength.
Not a very sophisticated lyric and the bouncy melody simply added to the lighthearted sentiment of the song. As with all songs--even those that are poorly written--the important question is this: Is the theology in the song solid and true? In the case of "The Joy of the Lord," I would have to say that the theological concept is true and certainly worthwhile.
Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and the Israelite exiles were coming home. Ezra the priest began to read to them the Law of Moses. Many of the exiles were hearing Moses' Law and the basis of their heritage for the very first time. With great emotion, the exiles began to weep as they listened to Ezra's voice.
Then Ezra encouraged them with this word: "Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." What is the joy of the Lord and how does it give us strength? The Bible tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the "joy" that was set before Him. What was the "joy" that was set before Him? Ultimate victory over sin, death, hell and the grave! Our joy is also anchored in Christ's ultimate victory. We endure tribulation, difficulty, persecution and even death with this confidence: We will dwell in the House of the Lord forever!
Author's note: It is often difficult to "find" joy in the moment of crisis or while enduring challenging circumstances. But, the unending source of our joy comes from a great reservoir of God's love, mercy, grace. His reservoir of goodness will outlast all the storms of life and then some... Ultimately, He is my source of joy. In the words of Author Winkie Pratney, You Plus Jesus = Enough. RJ