Nehemiah 8:10 “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
This is a very famous phrase, rightly enough, but the Japanese translation flips the meaning in a way that is quite possible from the English, but it’s hardly ever understood that way. To rephrase it in English, it says, “The Lord rejoices in your strength.” We take it as, “When you rejoice in the Lord, you are strong.” The interesting thing is, that last understanding has been the experience of countless believers down through the centuries. Part of the reason for that is in a quote from Henry Ford that my brother-in-law (a retired professor of Engineering) has as his standard email sign-off: “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” When we focus on God and rejoice in Him, we allow His power to flow through us, but when we focus on our problems and our abilities, we essentially turn our backs on God. Only hubris can keep us from seeing the logic and the truth in that. The people here had been weeping because they understood how badly they and their ancestors had ignored God’s rules, and Nehemiah is telling them to shift their focus to God Himself, and off of how badly they had blown it. Essentially he’s saying, “God’s happy, so you be happy too!” This is something we all need to be reminded of occasionally. We get bogged down in our circumstances and our mistakes, and forget to look up and see the God who isn’t surprised by anything and who loves us anyway.
This is something I need to remember as much as anyone. I too am immensely prone to being self-centered, failing to look to God and so failing to really see the people around me. With one of our members who has been in a nursing home dying Thursday afternoon, I was a bit overwhelmed by the sudden preparations for the wake last night and the funeral that will be this morning. However, the Lord’s presence was clear and strong yesterday, and I know He will carry me through today as well. He gave me a beautiful opportunity to witness to the deceased’s two sons-in-law on a personal basis, and they seemed to receive it well. Today He will give me opportunities as His representative both in the funeral and later at the crematorium. (Japanese families wait while the cremation is taking place, and take the ashes home with them.) By God’s perfect plan tomorrow is a 5th Sunday, so I won’t be preaching and so don’t have to worry about a sermon. I will certainly have a testimony to give, though! When we fix our focus properly on the Lord, we can indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in Him.
Father, thank You for continuing to teach and train me. Help me genuinely learn it all, to grow more and more into the likeness of Your Son. I do pray for the widower and their children and grandchildren. May Your Spirit rest on them all, comforting them in this time and bringing those who aren’t yet committed to You to repentance and faith, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!