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Community Bible Chapel Podcast
1/6/19 The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength Neh. 8:1-12
To help us with to introduce the Theme for the year, I want to show a video from The Bible Project.
-We will start here, but understand that is just scratching the surface and over the next couple weeks we will dig deeper into this joy that we struggle to understand.
PLAY – The Bible Project Video – Joy
-You might remember that we watched that during advent and it gets us started in understanding “joy” so we can build on that foundation.
-Now, I say that because the video speaks to “our” joy rather than “the joy of the Lord” which are two very different things.
Today, we will begin to dig into this subject of “the joy of the Lord” and finish next week, but we will be talking about and growing in it all year.
-I also have to admit that I don’t have it totally together.
-That doesn’t mean that I didn’t study, but that I’m struggling in my fallen humanity to understand the perfect nature of God.
-So as long as you are okay with your pastor not having all the answers, we will dig in together.
-We will look at what is happening in the text, the response or the people, the direction of Nehemiah, and a startling statement over the next two weeks.
I invite you to join me in the book of Nehemiah 8
-Nehemiah is set in the time of the dispersal.-Israel was invaded by Babylon and the people were exiled and sent to live in other parts of Babylon.
-That would be like being invaded by China and those who weren’t killed would be forced to go and live in China and adapt to a new language and culture.
-But the people never lost a love for their homeland.
-In 458 BC, Ezra the priest is allowed to return to Jerusalem and begins to rebuild the temple.
-13 years later, Nehemiah gets permission from the king to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall to protect the city and it’s temple.
-The people who returned with Ezra numbered about 43,000 and those who returned with Nehemiah were about 42,000 – almost 90,000 people.
-Nehemiah completes the wall and they (all 90,000) people gather in the pubic square in front of the Watergate to worship and celebrate the feast of Trumpets.
-The Feast of Trumpets happens at the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah.
-They begin the new year in repentance as the “shofar” was blown.
-Following the ten days of introspection and repentance, the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement covered over the sin of the Nation for the year
-I Corinthians 15:51-52 speaks of the Lord’s second coming at the sound of the trumpet.
-That trumpet will call the believer home and also provide a warning for non-believers to prepare for God’s coming judgment.
-The trumpet in Scripture is used for both of those purposes.
-At the Feast of Trumpets, it was a call to repentance.
We pick up the account in Nehemiah 8
READ Nehemiah 8:1-12
Now, our understanding of the “Joy of the Lord” becomes clearer as we work through this passage and see the worship and the response of the people.-Much of these same elements of worship are still with us today.
Gathered for Worship at the Water gate v. 1
-Much like we do today, the people gathered to worship the Lord.
1. V. 1 –The Bible is Central
-Ezra brings out the Scriptures, which for them was the Book of the Law
– The Pentateuch – the first 5 books of the Bible.
-True worship includes the Bible as central.
-It’s the Scripture that guides our worship, which includes our response
2. V. 3 – Public reading of the Scripture.
-God’s Word is not only central to the worship of God’s people, but it’s actually read – not just talked about.
-Ezra gets it out and reads it for hours. Daybreak – noon.
-Probably 6 hours of the reading from the scroll of the Law.
3. V. 3 – Attentive listening
-The people listened attentively to the reading of God’s Word.
-And this is pretty amazing, the Scroll that Ezra was reading from was not a recent translation.
-Language changes over time and the meanings of words change.
-The Scribes copied the original writings mark for mark, meaning they were copied exactly as they were written.
-And they would be hard to understand after 1000 years.
-Just as an example – we translate the Bible in English at a pretty rapid pace because we would not understand it as it was originally translated.
-And I am so thankful for the reformers, who got us back to the importance of being able to understand the Word of God in the common tongue.
-We would all be lost if all we had was the 1382 version of John Wycliffe’s very first translated English Bible.
“alle ye that traueilen & ben chargid come to me & I schal fulfille you. take ye my yok on you & lerne ye of me for I am mylde and meke in herte: and ye schulen finde rest to youre soulis/ for my yok is softe & my charge liyt.”
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
-That’s what happens to language in about 600 years, but what Ezra was reading was much older than that.
-So we translate the Bible into today’s language, not because the Bible changes, but because our language changes.
4. V. 4 -Pulpit – They built a high platform for Ezra to stand on so he would be seen and heard as he read.
-Not that we have to have a pulpit, but it’s helpful.
5. V. 6 – Actions of worship.
-When Ezra praised the Lord, the people raised their hands and responded “Amen, Amen”, which means “so be it.”
-But PJ, we’re Baptists, we don’t raise our hands!
-Well that is sad for you, the raising of hands in praise of God has a very long history and is normal and good.
-The people also bowed down in worship with their faces to the ground.
-We pray with our heads bowed down in honor and worship of God.
6. V. 8 – Exegesis of the Scripture.
-Not only is it read, but it is expounded.
-The meaning of the text as it was originally written is taught and then how it relates to present day life is drawn out of the text.
-We don’t know if each of these men took turns teaching the congregation or if they broke down into smaller groups to teach the Scriptures.
-But the Scripture was broken down and applied.
7. V. 9 – Response to God’s Word – repentance.
-The reading and teaching of God’s Word should bring the response of repentance to the hearer.
-That is exactly what Romans tells us “through the Law we become conscious of sin.”
-And that is the case here as the people begin to weep as the Law has revealed their sin.
-When God’s Spirit is working in the hearts of His people, they correctly respond in repentance.
-Thankfully, we are not left with that broken heart.
8. V. 10-12 –Rejoicing
-Nehemiah instructs the people, not that God is angry, but that He is pleased with their heart of repentance.
-The Jews standing in the Watergate that afternoon, needed to be reminded and taught that God was coming, not to condemn, but to bring salvation.
-Nehemiah comforted those who were mourning their sin by pointing them toward the coming savior.
-And the God of the Bible has not changed a bit.
-We gather for worship and the Bible is read and explained.
-We recognize our sin in light of the Scripture and repent, but we also rejoice at God’s great mercy and grace given to us through the Savior.
-Because of the Gospel, we are not lost in our sin, but have been saved from the punishment that Jesus took to the cross.
-This is such a great passage because it ties us today to something much larger and longer than our gathering in church today.
-We may not do it exactly like they did, but we are tied over millennia and culture as we continue many of the same traditions that are central to worship of our God.
That brings us to this statement that forms our theme for the year.
“The joy of the Lord is our strength”
Where joy comes from?
-As we consider this, I am learning something new and I’m still grappling with it, and am stoked about our theme this year because I can’t wait to see how it will play out in my life, family, and our church.
-Whenever I learn something new about God, it takes time for that truth to find its way into all the areas of my heart.
-And when I say heart – I mean my thinking, emotions, and desires.
-When I consider the attributes of God, I think of His holiness, goodness, patience, love, justice, power, omnipresence, wisdom, immutability, and some others.
-But there is one that is described in the Bible that I never considered an attribute of God because it’s a little covert.
-This attribute is that God is joy.
-I have always read this verse in Nehemiah and understood that God gives us joy, but now I am re-learning that God gives us His joy because He is joy.-On a human level (where you and I live) our “joy” comes and goes with our circumstances.
-But when our joy comes from the very character of God, it becomes a permanent fixture in our lives because it’s source is God Himself, who is joy.
-Thomas Aquinas said it this way.
“God is happiness (joy) by his essence: for he is happy not by acquisition or participation or something else, but by his essence. On the other hand, men are happy by participation.”
-What Aquinas is saying is that God is joy in His very essence, nothing else is needed.
-His joy is not subject to circumstances.
Now, some of you might say, well PJ, what about God being sorrowful in Genesis 6 or grieving the Holy Spirit?
-But these emotions do not define God and don’t affect the nature of God’s joy
-We struggle to imagine God’s joy because we are human and corrupted by sin.
-We can see that even in our human condition.
-When we lose a loved one, we mourn the loss, but we also rejoice that they are now in the perfect joy of the Lord.
-Nehemiah is teaching that because of “the joy of the Lord”, we can rejoice.
-Yes we have sin, but God will take care of that – the Day of Atonement is coming, and God will send a Savior to be the final sacrifice.
-So feast and rejoice – not in your sin, not in your earthly circumstances, but rejoice in “the joy of the Lord”.
-That also means that our joy is linked to our salvation in Jesus Christ.
Now, next week we will dig into God’s joy a bit more.
-We will answer some questions about the importance of understanding “the joy of the Lord” and why it brings us strength.
-And here is why that matters so much:
-We tend to understand who God is by who we are – almost as if God has been made in our image rather than the other way around.
-As an example:
-Because we struggle to love unconditionally, God might not love me whenI sin tomorrow or He might love me more if I do something good.
-But God’s doesn’t change by what I do or don’t do.
-We do the same with joy.-We think that God must have to find joy in His circumstances like we do.
-So, we personalize that in our thinking.
-Somehow, God loses his joy when I sin.
-Or if I do right, God will be doing cartwheels in heaven.
-But God is joyful in Himself no matter the circumstances.
-Now, that’s a concept that I’m working through and I don’t have it all together yet, but we will get back to it next week.
In the meantime, here is a project for you to do with me.
-Joy as a major theme in the Bible – from beginning to end.
-This week – pull out your concordance and do some study on God’s joy.
-What is the cause for joy?
-How do we find joy?
-Does joy come and go like happiness does?
-How do we receive the “joy of the Lord” and how does it strengthen us.
-We will be working to answer some of those questions next week as we continue to dig into “the joy of the Lord.”