In the days of Nehemiah, Israel was in captivity. They were a shell of what they once were under the reign of David and Solomon. But a small band of former captives followed Nehemiah back to Jerusalem with the permission of the heathen king.
Even after arriving back in their former capital city, the city of their God, the remnant were harassed and threatened by new enemies. In this dire and dangerous situation Nehemiah says this day is holy unto the LORD; do not be sorry, for the joy of the LORD is your strength..." (Nehemiah 8:10)
We, like Nehemiah and his remnant, are concerned, surrounded, and troubled on every side. The majority of those around us do not have joy; and we are under every torment and situation that tries to rob us of any little true joy we may have ourselves.
But God instructs us to enter into His presence with joy and thanksgiving?
What is this "joy" of the LORD that is our strength?
I believe it is joy in knowing who He really is and it comes after a true realization of who we are in Him! Joy comes into us when we realize that after falling short of His calling for us, His compassion and mercies are renewed with the dawn of each day. The enemy of our soul pours condemnation, worry and lies into our soul to weigh us down, but if we can tap into the joy that is in knowing who the LORD is to us, we can cut the enemy off at the pass before he gains a foot hold!
The dire circumstances in the days of Queen Esther were similar to the days of Nehemiah; Israel was again in captivity, surrounded, as we are, by unbelievers. After the Jews were saved from evil Haman, the one who sought their death as a people, great joy and rest came to the Jews after the evil desired upon them by the enemy was exposed and defeated.
Jesus exposed and defeated the plot of our enemy, Satan. He made a spectacle of the forces of darkness. He regained the keys of life and death on our behalf. Like the Jews of Esther's day we seek rest from our enemy in the presence of God. Our great sorrow is turned into joy and our mourning for our lost condition ceases.
Like the Jews, although rescued but still in a foreign land, as are we, they still set apart days for rejoicing and gladness. They gave the gift of joy and gladness to the LORD, to one another, and to the poor.
Where do I get this joy? Is it something I have to work up in my spirit; although it does not really seem to be there? Psalm 16:11 says that " in His Presence is fullness of joy..." and "at His right hand are pleasures forever more." If we are seated in heavenly places, with Christ who is in us, should we not have that joy that is in His presence?
There are times when we sow in tears, but we are promised that joy comes in the morning. There is a time to mourn, but just a time. There is also a time to be filled with His joy. Psalm 132:9 says the priests should be clothed with righteousness and His saints should shout for joy!
Do I have a hidden proud streak in my spirit the LORD is working on? Maybe this is an issue? Isaiah 29:19 says the meek shall increase their joy in the LORD. Is our situation worse than these captives? They lost their homes, lived in a foreign land under duress, probably knew family members and friends who died in battle and captivity. They lost everything that they could not carry on their back. Yet, in the midst of this, joy in the LORD was required.
There are seasons to mourn; but He has promised to give us beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. We will be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
This is not only in the Old Testament. Christ is the fulfilment of all of the law and prophets. He said in John 15:11..."These things I spoke to you, that MY JOY might remain IN YOU, and that YOUR JOY might be full." In John 17:13 Christ again says to the Father, "And now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they (His followers) might have MY JOY fulfilled in themselves."
1 Peter 1:8 speaks of a joy unspeakable and full of glory! Philippians 4:4 says to rejoice in the LORD always.
No matter what this new year holds for us and the years that follow, may the LORD help us tap into the joy He promises to those who believe. It is there, it is available, I have to stay in Him to have access to it.
Make a joyful noise, with thanksgiving as we enter into His presence! Rejoice in the LORD always; and again, I say rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)