Friday, 15 August 2014

A Proper Response

 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.  And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep.
For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. 
Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry;
for the joy of the LORD is your strength.  
So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.   And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. 

Nehemiah 8:8-12 (KJV)

I've been thinking about the joy of the Lord being our strength in the light of people wanting to idolize a celebrity who takes his own life. Atheists want to claim him as a fellow atheist and Christians say he spoke openly of his Episcopalian association therefore that he was obviously a Christian. He made fun of his Episcopalian denomination calling it Catholic-lite. God only knows the real truth about this situation and we know that He is merciful and forgiving, however I don't think it is right to force God's hand in these situations by saying the things people do about it. Suicide is a very serious thing, and it is a sin. To make light of it and say people can definitely commit suicide and still go to heaven is saying something that God doesn't say in His word, the Bible. He also doesn't say that people who commit suicide definitely go to hell, but there are plenty of things said about perseverance and that the ability to persevere comes from God and not anything good in ourselves.

When the people of Nehemiah's day heard and understood the law they wept and grieved. Why? They were convicted by what it said. That is a proper response to reading and understanding the law, but it doesn't end there. Once they understood and were truly humbled and truly sorry, Nehemiah and Tirshatha and Ezra as well as the Levites taught the people not to focus this on themselves but to focus on the Lord and to find their joy in the Lord  which is their strength, not themselves.

I often see this portion of the passage taken out of it's proper context to condone behaving like lunatics as being "the joy of the Lord". No. They first recognized and mourned their sinfulness in light of the law, and then were taught by the Levites the proper way to have joy in the Lord and to rejoice and celebrate. There is nothing wrong in celebrating. There were many feasts mentioned in the O.T. (people often focus on the law and the battles being the only lessons found there). If we take these things in their proper context and their proper order we see that the proper response for truly understanding the law is sorrow for sin, and that we have a God who loves us enough to see our sins and forgive us of our sins and to strengthen us through the joy that comes from truly knowing and loving Him.

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