“Don’t be dejected or sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10 NLT
Nearly 50,000 people were gathered at the square just inside the Water Gate of the temple wall that was no longer in ruins. They watched as Ezra the priest ascended the platform prepared for this momentous occasion. Did he bring the book that everyone wanted to hear him read from on this early, autumnal morning?
As Ezra opened the Book of the Law of Moses, the crowd stood on their feet. As he blessed and worshipped God, the crowd fell on their knees, face down, worshiping the God who made good on his promise.
The God who had promised them freedom and restoration, had brought them out of captivity, back to their own land. The temple was restored. The walls rebuilt.
They wept as Ezra read from the Book. As Nehemiah and the Levites skillfully explained the readings coming from the platform, God’s chosen people finally understood. And they were undone. The bigger picture came into focus. What once were hard rules demanding uncompromising obedience, became a captivating picture of the tender, loving heart of their Heavenly Father.
Finally, they could see that their idolatry was making them sick. Captivity, that tasted like abandonment, was in fact the very medicine that would rid them from their disease. Like the great physician he is, the Father never left their side. He had his eye on them all the time, making sure that they would come through and recover from this high-risk surgery. He healed them. And they were witnesses to the incredible restoration work he was doing in the heart of his people.
As the people were weeping for their blindness and hardness of heart, Nehemiah encouraged them to wipe away their tears. This was no time to be sad or dejected. It was time to rejoice! There was no call to make penance. No work to be done to make it all right with the Father, because he had already set things right for them. Now, was the time to feast on his faithfulness. To be glad, and enjoy the manifestation of his promises.
There are times in my life when I feel so undeserving of the goodness of God. As I started to come into wisdom and understanding, through great teachers and mentors of the Word, being confronted with my ignorance was overwhelming. Why had I been so blind, and why did I harden my heart towards a God whose only plan was to heal and restore me?
For many months, this verse in Nehemiah chapter 8, was the only thing I could utter as I sat on the edge of the bath in the mornings, waiting for it to fill up: “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” I did not feel the joy. I felt broken. I felt sad… all the time. But I knew that his Word never fails. He is a good Father, that always makes good on his promises. Always. And so he did.
Healing and restoring is what he does best. And it is so much easier if we allow him access to our hearts, through his Word and Spirit. He will make good on his promise, without holiding us to account for our mistakes, our blindness, our ignorance or even our hard-headed stubbornness. He is just waiting for the invitation.
Today, I invite you Father, to the places where my walls are still in desperate need of restoration. I give you access to every broken place in my heart. Come and do what you do best: restore, rebuild and heal me. Today, I wipe away my tears and choose to feast on your faithfulness. I choose to be glad because you take great joy in being good to me. And your joy is my strength.
Today, I hear the Father say: “My Beloved Child, did I not promise to stay with you and finish the work that I begun so many years ago? I never left or abandoned you when you were in captivity. I will never leave you where you are now. My plans are always to bring you into more. More freedom. More life. More than enough. So wipe away your tears and choose joy. My joy! The joy is in the journey, as my heart delights to heal and restore you. It’s time to feast on my faithfulness and see the fulfillment of the promises I have spoken over your life. Because I delight in you. And I love you!” ❤