Nehemiah 8:1, 8-10 - And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. ... They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. ... 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."
I have to admit there are some parts of the Bible I don't like to read or hear in church. Shocking, right? But whenever I read those bits, they make me feel guilty. I recognize all my sins and guilt, and that isn't a comfortable feeling at all.
The people in the passage above are in much the same boat. They are the Israelites who returned from exile. They know their own history—how the people of Israel had God's Law, but they disobeyed Him so often and so stubbornly that God finally let their enemies overcome them and carry them away to a foreign land for 70 years. Now that they're finally back home, they're trying to rebuild. But it's not easy.
Just imagine what it's like to stand in a city that has been so thoroughly destroyed it looks like it's been bombed. The temple has been burned; the city wall has been torn down. There are piles of loose stones everywhere as well as burned timber. Their houses need major work to be safe and to keep the rain out. And all this is the result of breaking God's Laws. No wonder the people are weeping when they hear the words of God's Law!
But their leaders Nehemiah and Ezra stop them. They say, in effect, "Don't cry. Go home; eat good food, and drink sweet wine. Be happy and celebrate; the joy of the Lord is your strength."
What's this about? Simply that we should not stop with repentance. Yes, we should be sorry when we sin. But we need to go on to the next step—to receiving God's mercy. We need to recognize that, through Jesus Christ our Savior, God has forgiven all our sins and reconciled us to Himself. We are not God's enemies any longer. Jesus has taken our sins to His cross. We are no longer dead in our sins; we are alive to God in our risen Lord Jesus. It is right for us to celebrate and be happy; God has given us peace and joy with Him forever.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me to trust in Your forgiveness and be happy in Your love. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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