After the Israelites came back from their exile to Babylon, Ezra read from the law and explained the words to Israelites. It was a solemn occasion. Ezra stood up to read and everyone stood in respect for the word. The reading began early in the morning and lasted until noon. When the people heard the word of God they began to weep and mourn. The text states:
Nehemiah, who was the governor, 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. ¶10 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.”
Perhaps the reason they wept was they were hearing for the first-time what God expected from them. They had lost the ability to understand the language of Scriptures. They now spoke Aramaic. Whether they were tears of joy or tears of sorrow is unclear. What is striking in these verses is the statement Ezra made: “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”
Why did he say that, and what does it mean in their lives and our lives today?
Obviously, they were experiencing joy because now they had access to the word of God. They could proceed from this point and live in God’s will. But how does this give strength to them and to us? They were God’s people, and He had brought them back to their land. They would now be living in His will. Knowledge brought relief—joy.
This is where many of us have failed to see what God has done for us. We are overwhelmed with guilt or the world has crowded in upon us. There is little or no joy of the Lord. Our worship is flat without content. We’ve forgotten that our sins and trespasses have been forgiven. We’ve forgotten what the Lord’s sacrifice has done for us.
The joy of salvation and love for our Savior strengthens us. We should now worship and praise our Lord with joy and thanksgiving. That gives us strength to stand and be faithful to our Lord. You see: the joy of the Lord is our strength. Charles Bishop