Through unforeseen workings of God’s providence, a great victory was brought about this week. Abortion was effectively made illegal in a great number of our states. Giving thanks, praise, and rejoicing are all quite appropriate responses.
Nehemiah, in rebuilding Jerusalem, enjoyed a similar moment of joyous celebration. God had brought about a great triumph by giving the saints stamina for repairing Jerusalem’s wall. They accomplished this in spite of the conniving of numerous enemies. Once the wall was completed, Ezra & Nehemiah led the people in a holy day of covenant renewal.
Nehemiah exhorted the people in this way, “Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Neh 8:10).”
Godly celebration includes sweet wine, perhaps some fireworks, and plenty of food to share. And don’t feel a twinge of sorrow. Sorrow has been weaponized by those who hate the Gospel to blackmail the kindness of the saints into compromise. This victory we enjoy isn’t the end of the work. No one’s claiming that. But it is a victory. So rejoice accordingly.
Finally, consider Nehemiah’s concluding phrase: the joy of the Lord is our strength. Which raises the question, strength for what? Strength is given for repentance & reform. The abundant joy which God fills His people with enables them to face down their own sin & gladly turn from it. It imbues them with strength to continue the work of rebuilding the ruins. The Lord’s joy brings strength to confront tyranny & traitors; and boldness for the conflicts which are certain to arise. Joy brings courage to speak a clear Gospel to fearful women. Receive the Joy of the Lord, and be strengthened for the inward repentance & outward reform.
We are weak, but He is strong. We are feeble, but our God is omnipotent. We are poor, but He is rich. As that old hymn of Luther reminds us, “did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.” May the Lord forgive us for trusting in our own strength, or cowering in our own fears. God calls us out of our cowardice and into His courage. Not by our own might, but by the Spirit are we to face our foes. Whether they be the foes of inward sin, the corruption of worldliness, or the ferocious roars of that lion the devil. Grant that we may walk in the boldness which comes from union with Jesus, and so may we be turned from our sin. By this obedient humility, may our nation be led to repent; from President to plumber, from Chief Justices to college students, from Wall St. to Main St. grant us a total repentance.