My brief for this lesson is the context of Nehemiah 12:27-47 which describes in detail the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem. Rather than studying the historical content of these Scriptures I thought it profitable to look intently at verse 43, which is the central point of the text. It describes the Joy of that city on the dedication day. If we can learn about that joy and apply it to us in our time, the Scriptures have once again fulfilled its purpose of instruction.
Neh 12:43 "and on that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced because God had given them great joy; even the women and the children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar". Joy is one of those emotions that one can be really indulge in: "the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar".
What is Joy ? - A vivid emotion of pleasure, gladness; a thing that causes delight. We need to examine the reasons for this rejoicing because of the important application we can make for ourselves today. What did these people undertake, that when concluded brought such great rejoicing?
Lets return to the beginning of the book : Nehemiah hears in detail from his brother that Jerusalem is ruined. The walls have been broken down and the gates are burned with fire. This caused Nehemiah great sorrow, he wept and mourned for days. However, with fasting and prayer to God, he resolved to return and rebuild the city walls. What a job! Have you ever been given or taken on a task which made your head swim, which made you mentally take a few steps back? But then you recover, and take it as a personal challenge: "it's big but I'll give it my best shot".
Neh. 2:11-17. Nehemiah surveys the ruins and rises to that challenge. What commenced then was the project that would test the faith and strength of all, especially Nehemiah. The rebuilding commenced, by hand, and with all involved. Opposition and threats arose from the surrounding hostile inhabitants but the people armed themselves and the rebuilding continued. Problems arose within their own community, greed and selfishness, but a resolution was reached and the rebuilding continued. More threats of violence arose again from the surrounding locals. This was ignored and the rebuilding was completed.
Neh. 6:15 "So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days". If the times and dates are examined, twelve years pass before the Levites and Priests are gathered for the dedication of the wall. These twelve years are none the less filled with challenge and toil.
The high point of Nehemiah's work is the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem and is recorded in Nehemiah12:27-47. They were dedicating the wall and all the work that went into it to God. Much more than that thought, this was their "comeback", the start of their new life of independence in the Holy city of David that they were raising again from the ruins.
Neh. 12:27: This verse mentions gladness. And what gladness! Vs 43 describes the jubilant mood of the occasion. It was the people's day, to express their joy in completing a great engineering feat and a triumph over all opposition to their project. What was the cause of that joy? The completion of that project and the satisfaction it brought after so much work and patient endurance. They were wholeheartedly enjoying the fruits of their labours.
* Lesson for us
Be joyful for what you have accomplished and what you have, however small, rather than being sad for what you could have done and what you don't have.
* Example for us
Ezra 3:12-13: "But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people..." Those who wept probably remembered the former glory of Solomon's temple and were comparing it to this smaller humble one. Those who rejoiced probably were too young to have seen Solomon's temple but were glad to be building a new one to once again worship God.
Back to Neh. 12:43. The King James Version states, "for God had made them rejoice with great joy". I've met some people who seem to be waiting for God to strike them with this "great joy", to make them happy. People who always look at the negative side of situations or achievements and what they have got is not enough.
God sets up the situations and conditions for us to participate in. In Ezra's case, the return from captivity to lay the foundations of the Temple and in Nehemiah's, to rebuild the walls. We have the choice to be joyful or sad in any given situation.
David was bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-Jearim, where it had been for 20 years, to Jerusalem. II Sam 6:14-16: "Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod...But Michal despised David in her heart". David rejoiced because he was bringing the Ark to its appointed permanent home. Michal was negative about David's joy because she had not participated in this work. She only thought that he was making a fool of himself.
In Psalm 122:1 David said, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the LORD.'" David was glad to go up to the house of the Lord because he had worked hard, fought hard, ruled hard and lived hard all his life for his Lord and God. To worship God was part of the joy of his labours.
God created in us the work ethic. From the beginning of creation God gave man work to do. Even in paradise Adam had the task of looking after the garden. Eccl. 3:12-13: "I know that nothing is better for man than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labour; it is the gift of God".
People who have not participated in a project, (large or small, doesn't matter) cannot share in the joy of accomplishment to the same extent of those who have. This Joy is a gift from God. Without this joy or job satisfaction we would never work.
If we observe children, this vivid emotion of pleasure is often demonstrated to us, many times and often because of very simple things. Joy is an emotion that needs to be felt and displayed by us adults more often than it does. We all have labours and projects which have the potential to bring us the feeling of accomplishment , satisfaction and even joy. Perhaps we have lost sight of the things in our lives which used to bring us joy. Maybe they are crowded out by worries, or our expectations of what makes us happy have changed. Or perhaps we need to re-evaluate the things we do and get happy about it.
Phil 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" Make an effort to display your joy, so like the people in Jerusalem, it can be seen from afar.