By Jane Fryar
“[Nehemiah] said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:10 ESV).
Nehemiah’s people shouldered heavy burdens. Baked by the searing sun, a brick in one hand and sword in the other, the workers kept a wary eye out for ambush by their ever-present enemies. Stone by stone, they built the wall of Jerusalem. They slept in their clothes but not very deeply.
Finally, it was done. The priests organized a service of national thanksgiving, but as the assembly heard God’s Word, their relief turned to deep repentance. Tears flowed freely as the people remembered the Lord’s goodness to them despite their complaining and faithlessness, despite the faithlessness of their nation generation upon generation.
As church workers and ministry leaders today, you are serving on heaven’s “construction sites.” You’re building faith and leading the charge of the Gospel. But, you do so with an awareness of the dangers sin and Satan pose. You may struggle to get a good night’s sleep when those you serve face temptation or trouble. Truth be told, God’s Word of Law often brings tears to your own eyes as you twist and turn sleeplessly, recognizing your own shortcomings and sins.
As we approach our national day of Thanksgiving in the US, perhaps you stand with Nehemiah amidst the rubble. Perhaps your eyes brim with tears of anguish over the disregard for God’s Law and, especially, the disregard for God’s Son shown by so many in our nation. Perhaps your eyes also weep tears of regret at your own disobedience of that holy Law, your own lack of devotion for that Son.
If so, then let your Savior quiet your heart with his pardon and peace. Turn to his cross, the cross where he bled and died for you. Turn to his open tomb, the tomb from which his glory and victory over death even now shine. Hear his words of comfort as quoted above: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Then, ever thankful for all our Lord’s many gifts, chief among which are the gifts of repentance and pardon, may the joy of the Lord strengthen your heart, as Jesus himself renews you for today’s tasks.
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