Nehemiah 8:10 is a powerful verse. It’s even more powerful when we know the context. Like the nation of Israel during the time of exile, all of us face the consequences of sin in our lives. Sometimes it’s our sin that causes devastation. Sometimes someone sins against us, breaking down the walls of our identity, confidence, and dignity.
The book of Nehemiah opens with him in great grief over the indignity of Jerusalem’s broken walls and burned gates. His sadness was so great that the King says to him, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” Nehemiah answers the king with such passion that the king allows him to not only go rebuild the walls, but gives him letters for safe passage and the resources to rebuild.
Now we may be tempted to skip right on over to chapter 8, but then we miss the process of rebuilding. Just like rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, rebuilding our walls of identity, confidence, and dignity takes work. It’s a process of laying the foundation of truth, building on knowledge, and testing faith. And, no one gets to skip steps. Builders who take short cuts make houses that fall!
We don’t want that!
We need to understand this verse in it’s context. So much happens before the Israelites where able to, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
First, Nehemiah grieved deeply.
Then he accessed the damage.
He dealt with many negative people, who mocked and taunted him, and when that didn’t work, they made up lies about what he was doing.
Then, he and the others left in Jerusalem worked hard. They slowly laid brick upon brick.
And, again dealt with the naysayers who said, “Will they ever finish it?” Maybe you are experiencing some of these naysayers saying to you, “Will you just move on? Just get over it. Push through?” Then be encouraged by Nehemiah’s reply, “May their insults by on their own heads…(4:4). Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord, and fight for your countrymen, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes (4:14).”
Then he deals with the nobles, who were selling off their countrymen as slaves because they couldn’t pay their taxes! All the while, Nehemiah is working diligently to buy back the people of Israel. In our rebuild, we will face confusing situations that don’t make sense, but we must, “Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and do not. Rely on our own understanding; think about Him in all our ways, and He will guide you on the right paths (Prov. 3:5-6).”
After he dealt with more naysayers, they finished the wall, and “When all our enemies heard, this, all the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this takes had been accomplished by our God.”
Then more exiles returned. They took a census.
Finally, they read the Scriptures. They realized that they were to observe the festival of Booths., and Nehemiah and the Priests of the Law made the powerful proclamation to rejoice, to celebrate with food and sweet drinks.
If you know anything about the 12 steps of recovery, you will see these principles all through out the book of Nehemiah, which leads us to the great harm of Neh. 8:10. Let us be careful to do all the work, so that we can say, “Do not grieve today, because your strength comes from rejoicing in the Lord.”
Let us not fall victim to a false dichotomy. There are more options than either grieving or rejoicing. We can do both!
We are ALL at different places on the road of recovery. Some of us are admitting that our lives have become unmanageable and we need help. Let me rejoice over you that you have come to a place to begin the grieving process. Something bad happened and you need to rebuild. Some are dedicating their walls to the Lord, and for you, I will rejoice with you. For the person who is somewhere in between, I want to remind you that it’s okay to do both: grieving and rejoicing. It’s called resilience. If you are at a place to smile, smile for the Lord!