The walls around Jerusalem were broken and needed mending. The same could be said for the lives of God's people. Nehemiah was sent by God to repair both problems. When Ezra read the Law of the Lord to the people, their first response was open weeping and mourning as they realized how far they were from God's moral standards (Nehemiah 8:9, 10). But Nehemiah instructed them that this was not a time for sorrow but for joy and celebration. On a day that was especially sacred to the Lord, they were to have joy! For the joy of the Lord is our strength.
Joy and celebration are at the center of God's heart and character. Joy is a central theme throughout the Bible. There are some 448 references to the words joy, joyous, joyful, rejoice, and enjoy in the NIV. In the Old Testament, God's people were commanded to celebrate at numerous feasts.
David instructed all God's people 102 times in the psalms to "shout for joy,' "sing for joy," "leap with joy," "call forth songs of joy," "rejoice in the Lord and be glad." In the New Testament, Jesus brought "joy to the world," as the Christmas hymn reminds us. At Jesus' birth announcement to the shepherds, the angel said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10, 11). Today, Scripture tells us, we find joy in receiving the gospel (Mark 4:16), spreading the gospel (Luke 10:17), and being persecuted because of the gospel (Luke 6:23).
The Christian life every part of it is to be a joy-filled life. That joy is not contingent upon the circumstances we find ourselves in. In fact, just the opposite is true. Jesus told his followers that when people hated, ...