“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10 ESV)
I was meditating on these words today and it struck me that I had never really thought what God meant by them. I’ve always liked these words, but honestly never analyzed them!
What does it mean “the joy of the LORD?” I think it means that which brings the LORD joy. His joy is the joy that belongs to him. It is his good pleasure. God is always joyful. His description of himself is that he does everything that he pleases. “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalms 135:6 ESV)
This is the Biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty. “Of Him, Through Him, and To Him are all things.” As hard as it is for us to grasp, God does it all, and he does as he pleases. This is so hard to grasp you will see and hear denials of this great truth all the time. Preachers and teachers pontificate on this subject too often. You will hear things like, “God did not cause this, but he did allow it, and can bring good out of it.” The problem with this is huge, but the biggest problem is that it is flatly denying God’s self revelation. Repeatedly God has told us that he is the cause of all. The problems introduced by thinking that stuff happens that God did not cause are really really scary. Where did it come from? Who did it? Can they do just anything they want? This does not bring us strength!
Cutting through this metaphysical anxiety is this great word from Nehemiah 8. “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” No matter how things appear we can be assured that God is working it all together for good and he is pleased. If we focus on what we may have hoped for, we can easily lose strength. But remember that God is the only one who brings results. Our duty is to serve him and obey his Word. When we submit to God and trust him, we need to rest in his sovereignty. He is the Lord of the outcome, and he is happy with the results. His joy should bring us strength. When I fully believe that he is the one who does whatever he pleases, I can work freely, leaving the results up to him. Knowing that God brings the outcomes that bring him joy should strengthen me in all I do.
“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow.” Author unknown
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11 ESV)