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Upward Series: Joy of the Lord

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Intro - Introducing new series called Upward…we’ll be taking time to focus our attention on God and our responses to Him…today we focus on joy.
Nehemiah 8:9–12 ESV
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” 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.
TR: The first aspect of this passage you’ll notice is the Israelites remembrance...


I love this book…the Bible…I love its pages, its smell, its richness, its honesty, its wisdom, its truths.
It challenges me in ways I could never imagine. There are times when I’ve cried because of what it said and because of the mirror it showed me.
I don’t nearly know it well enough as I should and even less have applied what I do know to my life. Family when I read this, God’s Word to me, it breaks me.
The more I learn about people the more these people written about come alive to me. As people with fears, celebrations, insecurities. People that are tired, feel abandoned, overwhelmed.
I am a fool but if I were to give a word of advice it’d be to be broken before your God. Before the cross can be a place of celebration it must be a place of contrition. A deep brokenness that can only come from truth.
That’s what you have here.
Here you have the Israelites, who had been exiled, cast out of their homes and handed over to cruel torment by their God. The God they sinned against. The Father who picked them up, made them a people, blessed them with dominion and strength far beyond their physical capabilities.
He nurtured them, protected them, and was longsuffering. They responded like spoiled brats. They responded like we do…chaffing at correction or boundaries that are meant for OUR GOOD!
Now they’ve returned by the sovereign hand of God. As Yahweh has led Nehemiah to rebuild the temple, He’s also instructed the Prophet Ezra to read the Law to the people.
Imagine the scene...
These were their vows…the Law was their covenant…their solemn oath to be faithful as a bride.
Long ago at the base of Mt. Sinai they made a vow…it was their wedding day between their God and themselves.
Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites went in and out amongst the people teaching them what God’s Law meant...
As the people heard the words of their broken vows they recalled their infidelity, their hatred, their pettiness, and they were broken.
There is a beautiful truth here though…a majestic path that’s laid out for us…
See when you understand what you are reading…when you meditate on what is being said to you…and more important WHO is saying it to you…it ought to stir you!
Have you ever had times when you’ve just messed it up…there isn’t any taking it back and you have to face yourself…do you recall that brokenness? That’s here!
But it is in a unique way…instead of the brokenness coming from the Lord accusing them…God was reminding them of their vow!
Story of God breaking me with the goodness of my wife, so I washed her feet and her being broken by the goodness of God as I served her…there’s something about when remembering God’s goodness breaks you that is divine.
The people here mourned as they remembered the goodness of God…the vows that they made…and their rebellion.
TR: But when you’re broken by the goodness you remembered…it leaves you refreshed.


Yet here Yahweh is…their faithful Husband, who although they broke their vow with Him, He never turned from it with them.
See there’s something about a covenant keeper that this world doesn’t understand. When Yahweh, after ALL THAT YOU’VE DONE…is STILL STANDING RIGHT THERE!!!
He still wants you, is waiting for you, eager to restore you and refresh you. He has not given up on you!!!
Isaiah 1:18 ESV
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
Do not mourn anymore! There is no REASON to mourn! TODAY....we celebrate.
Although there were many that we ridiculing the Israelites. Mocking them. Threatening them.
And rightfully so…they were a ragtag bunch of people.
See there’s some people that are going to look at you, burdened by the choices you made and say “they are forsaken!!!”
Once again there were giants in the land, breathing hatred and lies against them. Here you had a beat down people, hunted and belittled.
Estranged from their families, torn from their culture and marginalized. YET HERE THEY STAND! Why?
Because the Lord their God is STILL WITH THEM.
His goodness is being breathed into them not because of merit but because of His vow to them!!!
This is the nature of the God that you serve…His goodness not only convicts but refreshes!!
So when you’ve been demoralized, had the rug stripped out from under you, embarrassed, His goodness restores you.
Now once that happens…it’s clear…there is no time for mourning, there is no time for weeping…His joy and delight in you IS YOUR STRENGTH!
I think of the times when I’ve had just hard periods in my life. I think of all the times that I’ve failed, fallen short or wasn’t good enough. Then I remember one time when I was busted up, broken down and my wife came over to me and simply told me that she thanked God I was her husband…listen…in that moment, when I heard the joy that my wife had in me…IN ME OF ALL PEOPLE!!! I could’ve conquered an army.
Infinitely more this is true of God
So Nehemiah and Ezra are telling the people, REJOICE!!! REJOICE!!! DON’T MOURN!! God is renewing His vows with you and this is a time of celebration!!!
The joy that He has in you is YOUR STRENGTH…to FACE those giants…to FACE…those mockers, naysayers, and those who would applaud your demise.
If my God loves me…after all I’ve done to Him…and He finds joy in me....WHO CARES ABOUT WHAT SOME FOOL HAS TO SAY?!
Go and worship, feast and praise!
TR: Family you can only have this heart if you recognize what you’ve been told...


See this day was a holy day…a time of celebration…vow keeping and praise.
So the people went away and were kicking it…they were eating and drinking…sharing with others.
You guys ever been so happy that EVERYONE has to celebrate with you?
I remember growing up times like this happened whenever the first one of me and my boys got a job....we taking the WHOLE CREW OUT!!! I blew my entire KFC check in one night. I just got PAID!!! Everyone is living the good life on my $7.50/hr.
This passage makes it clear over and over again though…the reason why they were filled with such rejoicing is because they “understood the words”.
When that Word hits you…when the goodness of God strikes you…picks you up off the floor and makes you move up out ya shoes!!!
When the vows of God were renewed with them that day…when they came home that day…it moved them from weeping to worship!!!
Some of ya’ll too stoic for me…I miss some of the seasoned saints that would just dance in the aisle.
When I think of his goodness and what He’s done for me…ya’ll remember that?
Some of ya’ll may think it was for show but there were plenty that were so rocked by the covenant promises of God that they just had to move.
The same as these Israelites!
See when God has restored you, refreshed you and you understand what He has done for you, EVERYBODY gets to share in that joy
So when it says the joy of the Lord is your strength…it’s the strength to be generous…the strength to withstand the ridicule…the strength to push back the pain…the strength to not panic!
Respond to your redeemer with joy!!!
The same man that died for you because of you is standing here today at the altar renewing His vow with you in joyous delight…don’t mourn anymore…don’t weep anymore…rejoice with JOY OVERWHELMING...
The joy of the Lord is your strength family…remember His words, be refreshed in His presence, and recognize what those words now are to you…and you to will respond with the joy of the Lord..
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