Nehemiah 7-9

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

I love this verse. A group of traumatized people have returned to their ruined city. They’ve just listened to someone read out the law of God, a law they have not been following. They are devastated. Probably really scared. More than a little worried. And Ezra tells them not to worry. Not to grieve. That the joy of the Lord is their strength. It’s a day of celebration.

This is contrast to the the completion of the temple’s foundation. They finished the foundation, and the sound of grief was so mingled with the shouts of joy that they were indistinguishable. And nothing was said about that.

So why is this different?

I mean, they had just been brought back in Ezra. They built the altar, and they built the foundation. There was still so much left to do. Still so many people who hadn’t returned yet. The temple still wasn’t built. The wall was in shambles. There was some intent, but had any real dedication been made, yet?

Now, the wall is finished. The law has been read to the people. They are a city again. Leadership has been established. Healing. Moving forward. It’s time to dwell in the mercy and glory of God.

Repentance isn’t living in guilt. We aren’t meant to feel shame for the rest of our lives, constantly trying to dig ourselves out from under like Sisyphus driving that stone up the hill. When we are forgiven, we are forgiven. Repentance is living a new life, no longer under the shadow of the old.

You know what cuts us free from guilt and shame? Joy. You know what overwhelms the anxiety of guilt and shame? Joy. Finding joy in the mercy of God, finding joy in the Love of God, finding joy in the presence of God, in his law, in his will, that is what frees us from the weight of the past. That is was gives us the strength to answer our anxiety with confidence.

No. I don’t deserve this. But God is giving it to me anyway.

Yes. I messed up tremendously. But God forgave me anyway.

Find your joy in the Lord, and it will carry your forward.

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