Nehemiah 10:28-33

28 “The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand—29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.

30 “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.

31 “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.

32 “We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God:33 for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.
(Nehemiah 10:28-33 NIV)

On this national day of revival, the Jewish people participated in Scripture reading, prayer, confession of sin, and repentance.  Over 80 leaders also drafted a document and signed it, stating their obedience to God and their intention to live in a restored relationship with Him.

Nehemiah recorded who signed the document first before he told us what the document said.  This record of the “who” before the “what” showed the leaders’ heart and desire to have a right relationship with God.  Over the next two days, we’ll take a look at what the Jewish people promised to be and to do.

While over 80 people signed this document, its impact and influence was intended for all Jewish people.  Verse 28 begins by listing everyone involved – men, women, sons, daughters, anyone of age who claimed to follow God was included.

Verse 29 identifies the intensity of the Jewish peoples’ commitment to the Lord.  This was a serious oath they were making before God.  They promised to live in accordance with God’s Law or have a curse upon them if they did not.  This was not an attempt to appease an angry deity, nor was it an attempt to merit salvation.  Rather, this oath was an act of their will to honor God with their lives.

Verses 30 – 39 contain the terms of the oath.  We’ll take a look at the first few verses today, and follow up with the remaining verses the next day.

Verse 30 starts with the promise to not intermarry with non-Jewish people, according to God’s command (Exodus 34:16).  This command was not to maintain racial or genetic purity – this was to maintain spiritual purity, worshipping God alone.

Verse 31 contains three promises:

  • no commerce or trade (doing business) on Sabbaths and other holy days, as ordained by God (Exodus 20:8-11)
  • Giving the agricultural lands a rest every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11)
  • Forgiveness of debt every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1-2)

Verses 32-33 contain the last promise we’ll look at today – that of gathering a self-imposed annual “tax” that will provide for the operation of God’s house (Exodus 30:11-16).  This was a flat tax; the rich were not to give more, nor were the poor to give less.

Remember that a shekel represented a day’s wages.  Scholars note that the Lord asked for half a shekel, but this oath stated a third of a shekel.  The discrepancy appeared to be a difference in exchange rates between the Jewish economy and the economy of their captors; the monetary amount seemed to be expressed in their captors’ currency.

If we were to write a similar letter to the Lord in our day, what would we hear God calling us to be and to do?  What would our choices be?

And most importantly, what would our attitude be?  Would this be outward compliance to “look good” in other people’s eyes or in God’s eyes, to please God or someone else?

Or would this willingness to write and sign such a document be an inward willingness to honor God with our lives and resources?

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 10:1-27

10 Those who sealed it were:

Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hakaliah.

Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,

Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah,

Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluk,

Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,

Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,

Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,

Maaziah, Bilgai and Shemaiah.

These were the priests.

The Levites:

Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel,

10 and their associates: Shebaniah,

Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,

11 Mika, Rehob, Hashabiah,

12 Zakkur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,

13 Hodiah, Bani and Beninu.

14 The leaders of the people:

Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,

15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,

16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,

17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,

18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,

19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,

20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,

21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,

22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,

23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,

24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,

25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,

26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan,

27 Malluk, Harim and Baanah.
(Nehemiah 10:1-27 NIV)

Chapter 9 was a record of the national day of repentance and revival in Israel during Nehemiah’s term as governor.  They spent their time reading Scripture, in prayer, worship, and confession of sins.  At the end of their confession, the leaders signed a written document identifying specific changes they promised to make in their daily lives based on their renewed relationship with the Lord.

Today we will see who signed this document; in subsequent days, we’ll see what they agreed to.

The names are listed in three groups:

  • The priests (vv. 1-8)
  • The Levites (vv. 9-13)
  • The leaders of the people (vv. 14-27)

Nehemiah signed his name to the document (v. 1); in all, over eighty people signed this document.  This was truly a historic moment.

Rodney “Gypsy” Smith, a 19th-century itinerant preacher and evangelist, wherever he was preaching, would often stop and draw a circle in the dirt. Then he’d step inside that circle and pray something like, “O God, please send a revival here, and let it begin inside this circle.”

By writing down their commitments to the Lord and signing their names to the document, the leaders of Israel were drawing their circles and stepping inside them.

What does revival look like for us?

What changes would we be willing to make to honor God in our daily lives?

What of God’s commands from His Word would we agree to in humble obedience?

Would we be willing to write down these things and sign our name at the bottom, just as these people did?

What’s stopping you from writing your own letter to God and signing your name to it?

To whom would you show this letter for accountability?

I am drawing my circle in the dirt, stepping inside that circle, and praying for revival inside my circle.

Will you come draw your circle next to mine, step inside your circle, and pray for revival to begin in you?

Blessings,

~kevin

Nehemiah 9:32-38

32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep.35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.

36 “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. 37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.

38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”
(Nehemiah 9:32-38 NIV)

Two days after the Feast of Booths ended, the people of Israel gathered again in fasting, sack cloth, and with dirt on their heads, reading God’s Word, worshiping, and confessing their sins as a people, as a nation.

Last time we looked at the chronological history of God’s goodness and faithfulness toward His people and their unfaithfulness in return.

Today we look at the conclusion of their prayer.

Verse 32 begins with the Jewish leaders recognizing God’s faithfulness and their unfaithfulness.  The Jewish leaders are paying attention to what God has done, and are begging for God’s mercy.  Because of their sins, God had every right to erase them from the face of the earth, but He chose not to do so (v. 31).

Verses 33 – 35 are an admission of guilt and sin before a holy and righteous God.  The Jews, as God’s people, deserved every bit of discipline they received from God’s hand.  God was just in His dealings with His people.

Verses 36 – 37 identify their current status as slaves in the land God had given them.  This slave status was due to the Jewish people’s sin and rebellion alone.

Verse 38 is the conclusion of their prayer.  In this ending, they write down their commitment to obey God and His Word, to do life His way and not their own way.

The Jewish leaders know that they got themselves into this mess through their disobedience to the Lord.  They don’t expect this commitment to change their status – this is not asking God to grant them a “get out of slavery” card.

This is, however, a humble response to God’s goodness and faithfulness over the centuries, and a desire to live up to their part of the covenant God made with Abraham, of which they are beneficiaries as Abraham’s descendants.

While Abraham was a faithful man, his salvation did not come from his ability to satisfy God’s Law.  Rather, Abraham’s salvation came by God’s grace, through faith in the coming Messiah (Jesus Christ).  Abraham’s example was living by faith, not by his good deeds (Galatians 3:5-13).

And the good news is that through Christ, the blessing that was given to Abraham and offered to the Jewish people of Nehemiah’s day is available to us through Christ as non-Jewish followers of Christ in our day (Galatians 3:14)

So what’s our response to today’s text?

  • humility before God and confession of sin?
  • obedience to God’s Word?
  • thankfulness and worship?

This is not a guilt trip or a “try harder” admonition.

Rather, it is an invitation to allow God to come into our minds, hearts, and souls and do something only He can do – change us from the inside out.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 9:5b-31

“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

“You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.

“You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself,which remains to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.

13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. 14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. 15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.

16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.

19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

22 “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. 23 You made their children as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their parents to enter and possess. 24 Their children went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you gave the Canaanites into their hands, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased. 25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.

26 “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they turned their backs on your law. They killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. 27 So you delivered them into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.

28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.

29 “You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
(Nehemiah 9:5b-31 NIV)

As we completed chapter 8, we saw the people of Israel experiencing God’s love and celebrating His goodness.  The Feast of Booths was a week-long celebration to remember God’s protection and provision when their ancestors came out of Egypt centuries ago.

Two days after the Feast of Booths ended, the people of Israel gathered again in fasting, sack cloth, and with dirt on their heads, reading God’s Word, worshiping, and confessing their sins as a people, as a nation.

Today we hear their prayer and confession of sin, as they remember God’s goodness toward them and their unfaithfulness in return.  Here’s the synopsis:

  • God’s creation of the world (v. 6)
  • Abraham’s calling to serve the Lord (v. 7)
  • God’s covenant with Abraham and a land promised by God (v. 8)
  • God’s rescue of His people out of Egypt (vv. 9-12)
  • God established His Law among His people (vv. 13-14)
  • Despite all God’s goodness, the people rebelled and would not listen (vv. 16-17a)
  • God displays His goodness again (v. 17b)
  • Israel’s idolatry (v. 18)
  • God’s goodness and blessing once again (vv. 19-25)
  • Israel’s disobedience (v. 26)
  • Sin’s consequences and God’s deliverance (vv. 27-28)
  • God’s call to repentance and restoration, and Israel’s defiance (vv. 29-30)
  • God’s patience, grace, and love for His people despite their continued sin (v. 31)

Is not the story of God and Israel the story of God and us, as the nations in which we live, as well as us the “church” (the body of Christ), and as individuals?

We see God’s love, goodness, and blessings toward us.

We see our selfishness, rebellion, and resultant distress due to our sin.

We see God’s grace, compassion, deliverance, and an open invitation to return to Him.

Truly “His love endures forever” (Psalm 136).

Take some time for Bible reading, worship, confession of sin, whatever the Lord reveals.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 9:1-5a

On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads.Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God. Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”
(Nehemiah 9:1-5a NIV)

As we completed chapter 8, we saw God’s people experiencing God’s love and celebrating His goodness.  The Feast of Booths was a week-long celebration to remember God’s protection and provision when their ancestors came out of Egypt.

Truly the joy of the Lord was their strength (8:10).

As we begin chapter 9, we see the next gathering of the Jewish people, 2 days after the end of the Feast of Booths.  While the week-long celebration was joyous, it ended with a solemn assembly, on a serious note (8:18), according to God’s plan (Leviticus 23:36).

Verse 1 sets the mood for this gathering:

  • fasting – seeking God more than food
  • sack cloth – showing humility before the Lord
  • dust on heads – reminding themselves of their mortality

All these were outward expressions of an inward state of mind toward the Lord.

In verse 2, we see the Jewish people separate themselves from the rest of the populace – this was a “family affair”, not a community-wide gathering.

The people spent 3 hours studying God’s Word, and 3 hours worshiping the Lord and confessing their sins (v. 3).

The Levites led in worshiping the Lord, and in prayer (vv. 4-5).  Notice that they began their prayer with praise and adoration of who God is – His essential “God-ness”.

When you experience God’s favor, His love and goodness, where does that lead you?

Does that lead you to:

  • praise?
  • worship?
  • repentance (Romans 2:4)?
  • openness to giving Him more control of your life?

Spend some time with Him today, and see where He leads your heart.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 8:13-18

13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written.

16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.

18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.
(Nehemiah 8:13-18 NIV)

Nehemiah brought law and order to Jerusalem, making the city safe again.  The next order of business was to re-establish God’s calendar of events among the Jewish people.

Ezra reappears and reads God’s Word to everyone – men, women, and children who can understand (probably early teens and above).  Nehemiah, Ezra, the priests, and the Levites all remind the people that this is a time of experiencing God’s care and goodness, not a time of weeping and repentance.  God’s character is first and foremost expressed as love,  both as His love for His people as well as His love through His people for others.

As we begin today’s text, we see that yesterday was “Day One” of the gathering of all God’s people in Jerusalem.  Today, the next day is “Day Two” – and just the heads of families are present to meet with Ezra, Nehemiah, the priests, and the Levites.  If we compare the two days by order-of-magnitude numbers, Day One was likely around 100,000 people, while Day Two was around 100 people.

When Ezra read God’s Word, they found the Festival of Booths (Leviticus 23:39-43).  This festival was to be celebrated each year starting on the 15th of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar.  This was fall harvest time, and a reminder of God’s provision for His people.  The Festival of Booths was a reminder of how God God called His people to live in temporary shelters after He brought them out of the land of Egypt and how He provided for their every need.

These “booths” were not tents, but in fact were tree branches that were cut and assembled into a shelter from the sun and the rain.  God established this festival to last one week.  For an agrarian (agriculture-based) society, this was their “Thanksgiving” celebration, a time to worship and rejoice in what God had provided for another year.

Verse 15 tells us that word was sent out to every Jewish family in the nation that the Festival of Booths was to be celebrated nationwide that year.  Since it was only the second day of the month, that gave the people time to prepare before the celebration started on the 15th.

Verse 16 tells us that everyone started setting up their “booths”, their temporary shelters.  Some people set their booths up in front of their houses; others set up their booths on their roofs (they had flat roofs), while others inside Jerusalem assembled their booths near one of the city gates.

Wherever the booths went up, there was much anticipation and joy, followed by a great celebration when the festival started.  Nehemiah records that such joy had not been experienced in this week-long festival since the days of Joshua, when the people arrived in the Promised Land.

We all have some celebrations that stand out more than others, don’t we?

Maybe it’s a graduation, or an anniversary, or a milestone birthday.

Maybe it’s a marriage celebration, a family reunion, a Christmas or Thanksgiving get-together with family or friends, where everyone is under the same roof for a few days.

Whatever the occasion for the celebration, may the joy of the Lord be present in your gathering.

Truly, “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (v. 10).

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 7:73b-8:12

When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.

So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

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.

10 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.”

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
(Nehemiah 7:73b – 8:12 NIV)

After the Jews rebuilt the walls and gates of Jerusalem, Nehemiah re-established security in the city.  The Lord then laid it on the heart of Nehemiah to take a census of the Jewish people, to identify family lineage from the twelve tribes of Israel.

Nehemiah begins today’s passage by re-establishing God’s ordinances among God’s people.  Today we also see Ezra reappear as he reads God’s Word before all the people gathered together.  Scholars tell us that the city wall and gates were completed about a week before – this was a time to thank the Lord for what He had done.  Also, this timeframe corresponded to God’s command to read from His Word to the entire assembly of Jewish people (Deuteronomy 31:9-13) – men, women, and children that were old enough to understand.

Nehemiah built a special speaker’s platform for the occasion – they didn’t have a word for it yet, so they called it a “tower”.  The platform consisted of a raised wooden deck so everyone in the crowd could see the speaker, a podium or stand for Ezra to roll out the scroll of Scripture, plus enough space for 13 men to stand.  The men named were likely Jewish community leaders and family representatives.  Their presence signified their allegiance to the Lord and their commitment to live by God’s Laws.

When Ezra unrolled the scrolls and began to read from God’s Word, the people all stood up, out of respect for God’s Word (v. 5).  Upon hearing God’s Word, the people all responded in worship (v. 6).

The priests and Levites then taught the Jewish people in smaller groups what Ezra had just read.  This teaching likely involved some translation (from the Hebrew) and some interpretation (explaining its meaning).  Remember, it had been 140 years since the people had lived in an all-Jewish language and culture.  It would be like us trying to read the King’s English (i.e., British English) from several centuries ago – they likely needed help understanding not only the words but the context and meaning as well.

The response to God’s Word was both joy and weeping – joy over the hearing of God’s Word, and weeping because of the conviction of sin.  The leaders were quick to tell the people not to weep – there would be a time for weeping and repentance over sin.  Right now, the focus is on joy (v. 9).

So why did the leaders focus on joy, and not capitalize on the people’s conviction of sin?  I believe it was to remind the people that God’s nature is not that of a tyrant demanding obedience, but rather that of a loving, caring Father who desires to bless His children, to comfort them, and to have them experience joy in their relationship with Him and with each other.

Verse 10 captures the heart of the celebration – “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

An indivisible part of experiencing God’s goodness was to share a meal together.  This was not to be a sorrowful meal of bread and water; this was to be a feast, full of savory flavor (choice foods with fat)  and sweetness (sweet drinks, not just water).

Also, as a part of this celebration that commemorated God’s goodness, the people were to share with their neighbors who did not have anything prepared (who had nothing).  God’s goodness and bounty were extended to all, not just the privileged.  There could be no real joy in the land if other brothers and sisters were in need.

Verse 12 tells us that the people went to their homes and did as they were instructed, obeying God’s words and experiencing His joy.

May we take the time to experience God’s goodness and love, two essential character qualities that He extends to all, especially the undeserving like you and me.

May we share with those around us that have nothing so they also experience God’s goodness and love.

And may the joy of the Lord be our strength today.

Blessings,
~kevin