“Do not feel sad, for the joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.”
This verse has personally been one of the cornerstones of my faith.
But why did the audience feel sad to begin with?
“All the people were weeping as they heard the words of the Law,” (Neh. 8:9).
It was the month of Ethanim (mid-September to mid-October), the start of the Jewish agricultural year, a month that marks many biblical historically relevant events.
It was a month of festivals.
This day started out with special trumpet blasts announcing a holy convention (Lev. 23:24).
The Jews in Jerusalem had but a few days earlier, against all odds, completed rebuilding the city walls (Neh. 6:15).
True worship was finally and officially ready to go fully back into effect.
When the scribe Ezra read the book of the law, and the Levites explained it, the people took it to heart (Neh. 8:2,3,7,8).
They understood what Jehovah was trying to tell them.
They were compelled to tears of sadness because of the errors of their ways.
But understanding God’s word was reason to rejoice, not cry.
The Levites helped them to correct their attitude, “so all the people went away to eat and to drink and to send out portions of food and to carry on a great rejoicing, for they understood the words that had been made known to them,” (Neh. 8:12).
When I personally experience sadness, do I make Jehovah’s joy my stronghold?
Understanding his word and serving him are not small reasons to rejoice in.
It is a beautiful privilege to form part of God’s people.
There is no better place to seek refuge than in the stronghold of the “happy God,” (1 Tim. 1:11; Ps. 16:11).