Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
The background to these verses is this: In order to rid the Israelites of their idolatry, God brought them to near destruction using the Babylonians. But now, Nehemiah has returned to rebuild Jerusalem, and the people are recognizing that they need to recover their lost heritage, which is the Torah of God. There is great weeping because the people are finally understanding the magnitude of the tragedy of the fall of their once great nation. The reason for the Babylonian captivity became clear – their idolatry was behind it all. They wept as they they mourned their sin.
And they wept because God restored them. God had not abandoned them, He preserved a remnant. They can experience revival. But it took a large toll to get the message.
Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
A bible teacher told me that only two times in all of the scriptures is this word hedvah, joy, found; here and in 1 Chronicles 16:27. This joy isn’t simhah, which is found dozens of times, associated with what we’d think of as rejoicing. The uniqueness of hedvah is that it is directly connected to God, joy-of-the-LORD. It is His joy.
I am fascinated by the ancient Hebrew language, and I am grateful to those who can teach me the biblical meaning of words like hedvah. Biblical scholar Skip Moen, PhD. says that the word picture behind hedvah means behold, a door in the fence. He says, “What is the joy of the LORD? It is the gladness of providing a door in the fence – a path for coming into His presence. What cheers our Lord? A way in. God rejoices that there is a door for us to come into fellowship with Him. We are not shut out for He has provided a way back. The joy of the LORD is that He can fellowship with us! The hedvat of the LORD exists because He made a way! “Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21) is connected to the joy of the LORD.”
Nehemiah tells us that a door in the fence is our strength.
There is only one door, but many door keepers. The Israelites’ captivity caused them to forget the door. They needed Nehemiah to show them the way. Who can you be a Nehemiah to today? Who can you show the door to for connection and attachment to God? Nehemiah was tasked with building back the waste places, the ruins of lives that had forgotten God’s promises. Du know someone who needs to know that the joy of the Lord is their strength? Do you need a Nehemiah in your life?