Nehemiah 8 Commentary
Chapter 8 is credited with one of the most famous poster statements in Christendom: for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
It would not be the last time that the chapter addresses the subject of joy. In verse 12, the scripture tells us that the people celebrated with great joy because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. Understanding the word of the LORD beings about great joy.
And again, after they celebrated the feast of Booths or temporal shelters, there was ‘very great joy’. Obedience to the Law of the LORD brings about ‘very great joy’. The world is greatly mistaken when they think of the Christian walk as a joyless pursuit.
When the saint hears the word of the LORD, there is a brokenness of heart and repentance. This leads to joy. When the Law of the LORD is read and understood, there is a great joy. And when the Law of the LORD is obeyed, there is a very great joy. These are interesting details a fast reader may easily miss from this chapter. But let no one saint miss these details from their Christian walk.
Ezra the priest, in the presence of Nehemiah the governor, has just read from the Law. From daybreak to noon. By this time, God’s people must have heard large portions of the Torah. It should be interesting that the LORD leads them to focus on one feast: the Feast of Booths.
The Feast of Booths, or Shelters, or Tabernacles, celebrated Israel’s days in the wilderness when they lived in temporal shelters or tents. Is the LORD emphasizing the point that Israel was still in transit? The New Testament reader can see more from this feast. David had said: “We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” And Peter would put it this way: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”
This message was deeply important to a people that needed to settle down on a new page. The exile was over and life needed to normalize. The saint must reflect on the importance of this feast and understand that this world isn’t their home. And their own body is a temporal tent. There are in transit to a permanent home that the LORD Jesus has prepared for them.
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