And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away. (Nehemiah 12:43 ESV)
Nehemiah 12 records a celebratory dedication service upon the completion of the walls of Jerusalem. This chapter has much in common with Ezra 6, wherein the Israelites celebrated with joy the completion of the temple. Once again we behold a joyous celebration of God’s people, testifying to the faithfulness of God.
Matthew Henry said, “Joy in God is a duty of great consequence in the Christian life; and Christians need to be again and again called to it.” This quote is in line with Paul’s admonition to “rejoice always.” Therefore, while it may seem redundant to hear yet another call to joy after reading yet another story of the Israelities participating in a joyful worship service, we must take heed. All that opposes God would wish to rob the believer of his joy; thus, we cannot have too many reminders to be joyful.
In fact, as we continue to deal with the uncertain nature of life in 2020, the call to joy is perhaps more needed than ever. Remember, joy is not mere, momentary happiness. Rather, true joy is a lasting peace and delight that transcends our current circumstances. We can have this joy even while enduring this difficult season of a pandemic, restrictions, political turmoil, and sharp disagreement among God’s people. Furthermore, if we allow these things to mute our joy, what are we implicitly communicating about who we are and, more importantly, who God is?
In verse 43 of this chapter, the Bible says, “And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.” This is an amazing testimony! The entire chapter is filled with joy and thanksgiving. Every single member of the community from the priests to the singers to the women and children were rejoicing in what God had done for them, in them, and through them. The noise of their celebration can be heard from far away!
Does this loud joy characterize the church today? Is our joy noticeable, or hidden under the noise of the world? None of this suggests that there is no time for silent meditation, or lament, or repentance. But joy should characterize God’s people! The world may not understand, but when they look at us, they ought to be able to say, “They’re a joyful bunch!” But sadly, this may not be so among us today.
The Israelites had many reasons to rejoice, as do we. In fact, we have more. We have the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ, whereas they only had a shadow. The call to loud, noticeable joy is more relevant today than ever. May God renew our hearts to this calling, that we may be known as joyful people, dedicated to the service of our God.