Free Grace, Free Joy (Neh. 8:1-10)

Date: 1/27/2019
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God’s grace unites (Neh. 8:1; cf. 1 Cor. 12) – There were three efforts to restore Jerusalem to her former glory when Jerusalem and Judah were held captive by Babylon: one under Zerubbabel by the order of King Cyrus of Persia, the second under Ezra shortly after, and then a third attempt under Nehemiah. Under Zerubbabel, the people were divided over their approval of the foundation built for the new temple. Under Ezra, the people of Israel intermarried with the surrounding nations which jeopardized the purity and unity of God’s people. However, under Nehemiah, the Bible says that the people gathered as “one man” after completing the work required of them (that is, to build the walls and gates of Jerusalem). The people of Judah and Jerusalem were finally united in word and deed.


God’s grace enlightens (Neh. 8:2-8; cf. Ps. 19:7-8) – This united people demanded that Ezra the priest read from the book of the law of Moses to celebrate the completion of the work. Ezra, accompanied with the elders of Israel and the Levites, read the law in the presence of attentive men, women, and children. The elders and Levites helped the people understand the reading, and the people responded in sorrow because their eyes had been opened to God’s commandments.


God grace brings joy (Neh. 8:9-10; cf. Heb. 13:17) – As the people weep in response to the law of Moses read to them, Nehemiah encourages Israel to not sorrow, but rejoice in the work that the Lord has done for them. Israel has been torn asunder, weak, and in need of help. It is not the works of Israel or Nehemiah that have placed Israel in the place she is in now, but the grace of God. So, Nehemiah says that this is not a time of weeping, but a time of joy. Standing in front of the newly built walls and gates, Nehemiah implores Israel to rejoice in the Lord, for the joy of the Lord is her strength.
 

Lucas Dorminy is a ministerial student and deacon at Trinity Reformed Church, Martinsburg, WV.