Nehemiah 8:8-10, They read from the book, from the law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the law. Then he 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.”
We often go throughout the day without a second thought of our actions. We snap at someone when we become angry. We ignore a friend or family member who calls or texts us in the effort to have alone time. We daydream about the more things we can have rather than reflecting on the things we already have and don’t take time to thank God for them. Every day we commit such sins, and God’s law convicts us of these sins.
In this passage from Nehemiah, the context of it is that the Israelites gathered together and asked Ezra to read God’s Word to them. He and several other leaders helped them to understand the words they were hearing. Obviously they took the law to heart, for it convicted them of their sins and they became mournful over their souls. However, Ezra didn’t leave them in this condemnation; he told them that the joy of the Lord is their strength (v. 10).
This is a great example in Scripture of the Law and Gospel pattern that takes place in the Christian life. The Law convicts our hearts and shows us how unholy, unrighteous, and wicked we are; and it shows us how incapable we are of saving ourselves. However, God doesn’t leave us in our guilt and sorrow. He calls us His children and heirs to His kingdom. As Christians, we have this joy! When the Law convicts us of our sin, we have the joy in that we get to turn to the Lord in repentance, who forgives us freely and enables us to forsake our sin. God doesn’t want us to remain sad and hurt in our sin; He desires that we experience His joy of salvation and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And we experience this joy in prayer, worship, remembering our Baptism, partaking in the Lord’s Supper, and when we hear Christ’s forgiveness in the words of Absolution.