It froze last night! Although it was cold, it felt good stepping outside this morning. There was no wind and stars and planets were in full display as the eastern sky was just beginning to show color. How beautiful is God’s creation!
There are three instances of great rejoicing in the Old Testament that really stick out for me. One was in 2 Chronicles 15 when King Asa destroyed idols, and he and the people pledged allegiance to God with all their heart and whole desire. Another was in Nehemiah 12 at the dedication of the rebuilt wall. Here’s a verse that always is amazing:
Nehemiah 12:43 And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
Back in chapter 7, we find that the whole assembly in Jerusalem was 49,942 including servants and singers. The Vikings stadium holds 66,655. The Twins play in a stadium that holds 39,504. So, somewhere between these two was the size of the crowd with King Asa. “And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.” I wonder what that was like. How far away could one hear the joy? I bet it was different than that of a sporting event in which you have great eruptions throughout a game. I bet it was more like a constant roar. Verse 31 says Nehemiah “appointed two great choirs that gave thanks.” All the people must have been singing and praising God. Furthermore, it must have been an all-day affair. Can you imagine it! I’ll take that over the Renaissance Festival any day!
But the one that I wanted to share with you was also a time of Nehemiah but before the dedication of the wall. After the wall was completed, the exiles returned, and they gathered to hear the word of God. Let’s set this stage:
Nehemiah 8:2-3, 6-8 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law….And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen.” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also (named priests) helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
Well, that apparently overwhelmed the assembly because they wept as they hear what was being said to them. The priests calmed them and assured them this day was a time of joy, not mourning, saying, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Do you recognize that from Rend Collective? We end the passage with this:
Verse 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
Honestly, I think that this is so awesome! The people made great rejoicing because they understood the word of God! Isn’t that cool! Certainly, this is something to rejoice about! Yet, the people initially mourned. This is still the same today, even as we have the Prophets and New Testament to compliment the Law. Indeed, Paul highlights this:
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Rejoice today, my friends, if you are among those being saved and experience how the bible is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). Mourn, also, for those who think it foolishness. Love them enough to share the gospel with and pray for them.
Father, let us rejoice today that you have opened our eyes and ears to the gospel. Fill us with joy and rejoicing. Let this burst forth from our hearts so that all may hear our joy from far away. Amen.
Copyright © 2017 Scott Powers