Scriptures with Songs

“The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength”

nehemiah joyNehemiah: “The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength”

Prelude Music

Opening prayer

Opening hymns

Hymn 1: p. 24 – Before the Lord We Bow

Hymn 2: p. 4 – Sing Praises and Rejoice!

Introduction:                                         

The book of Nehemiah is one of the most powerful retelling of history in the Old Testament, not only because it was written by the righteous leadership of its governor Nehemiah and his priest/scribe named Ezra, but because it contains the testament of the Israelite’s sheer determination to recommit themselves, return and follow God in the face of great trials and oppositions. 

One inspiring declaration that was etched in its book is one coming from Nehemiah himself, when he rallied the people and told them (upon discovering the book of the Law together with God’s feasts days),

“Go your way, eat fat, drink sweet, and send portions for those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” –Nehemiah 8:10

To appreciate Nehemiah’s words, we must understand where the Israelites were coming from when they are told “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” In Nehemiah 6-7 the walls of Jerusalem had just been completed. But the people are still uneasy and unsecured—something was still lacking. Life was more than just “bricks and mortars”. While they had finished rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, their lives were in shambles. Coming from seventy years of Babylonian captivity, finishing the walls did not make them secure, their troubles continued. The cause of their condition is revealed by these confessions of guilt,

“But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you [God] gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.” –Nehemiah 9:36 (NIV)

They had been slaves and captives in a foreign land and had forgotten their heritage before God. They had forgotten their own identity, their language, but most of all they had forgotten their God. This is why their lives were in great shambles. Finally, they were able to see the connection between sins and their distressful situation. Their slavery was the result of their own sin and rebellion. They have experienced first-hand sins’ destructive effects to their lives.

It was in these conditions that they began to realize that God has a wonderful message of deliverance for everyone. It is “in the joy of the LORD” that they could find strength to put their lives back together in God.

So in today’s Songs and Scriptures, we will explore on this inspirational theme of “The Joy of the LORD is your strength.”

For our first batch of readers, let us review the story of Nehemiah leading to this great discovery of strength in the “joy in the LORD”...

Bible Reader 1 –Nehemiah’s Prayer for His People

Nehemiah 1: 1-11

Nehemiah: 2: 11-20

Bible Reader 2 – Rebuilding of the Wall Amidst Opposition

Nehemiah: 4: 1-23

Brethren, let’s all stand and sing the following hymns…

Hymn 3 p.91 – Wait And Hope And Look For God

Hymn 4 p.81 – Lord of our Life, and God of Our Salvation

B. The Joy of Returning to God’s Temple/House. We also refer to this as joy of repentance and coming back to God.  Just how important it is for anybody to really seek God? Most people will only seek God in times of trouble and/or crisis. Others will easily forget God when everything is all good and according to their life’s wishes. No trouble, and everything about life is happy and without difficulties. So some people cannot seem to see the need for God.

But the story of Nehemiah reminds us that for joy to be fully realized, sometimes one has to go through and experience difficulties to realize that happiness will be fleeting without God in it. When life is considered, in its own selfish end, you will find (albeit later) that troubles (sins) will finally catch up with life. The Israelites recognized this very clearly after seventy years in captivity. So when their dreams of returning to their homeland was granted, they had the urgent need to firstly rebuild God’s house—the temple that their forefathers had long forsaken.

Our next set of Bible readers will give details story about this special and joyful event:

 Bible Reader 3 – The Joy of Returning to God’s Temple/House

Nehemiah 7: 1-6;

Psalm 5:1-12

John 2:13-25

John 7:28-29

Bible Reader 4 – The Joy of Returning to God’s Temple/House

Nehemiah 7: 66-73

Psalm 11:1-7

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Thank you readers. Please all rise as we sing

Hymn 5 – p.221–On Our Way To The House of the Lord

Hymn 6p.227 – The Prodigal Son

C. The Joy of Returning to God’s Laws and Commandments. Corollary to returning to God’s house, is the surprising discovery of God’s holy words and commandments—long forgotten! This is one of the moving parts in the Nehemiah’s story.  Just imagine hearing the word of God being read to you for the first time—in seventy years! Naturally, upon expounding what those words meant to them, they were deeply moved, convicted of their sins, and felt ashamed of themselves—they were all “mourning and weeping”! Such is the effect of God’s holy law and commandments when we are convicted of our trespasses and sins (without the law as ‘mirror’, no realization of man’s sinfulness). One can feel his own powerlessness and the desire for a Savior to grant him forgiveness. Upon forgiveness and grace, the assurance of joy will be met again when a person really seek God, through His statutes and laws as the guidepost. Time and again, the Bible showed us that it is only through obedience to God’s statutes and commandments can a life be blessed abundantly—including peace, love, hope, and a continuing joy.

To expound more of this story, let’s hear from our next reader:

Bible Reader 5 – The Joy of Returning to God’s Laws and Commandments

Nehemiah 8:1-12

Psalm 19:1-14

Thank you reader. Please all rise as we sing responsively…

Hymn 7p. 181 Blessed Is the Man

D. The Joy of Keeping God’s Festivals/Holy Days. As the feast of Passover approaches, one very important lesson we can learn from the history of God’s people during the time of Nehemiah, is the fact that joy and gladness is very much part of the worship system that God had established. Our worship before God is not simply about the ceremonial and formal aspect, but more significantly worship is about celebration, thanksgiving, and about acknowledging every good thing that God has blessed everyone. That’s why God has given us His festivals (Leviticus 23: “These are My Feasts”) God’s feasts are a great act of worship and occasion to thank and praise Him continually and in its seasons! That’s why as observed by some, and as shown by God’s feasts days, the ‘religion’ of God is really one of gladness—a ‘religion of joy’ as others put it. 

In the story of Nehemiah, this was more openly apparent as they kept God’s feasts (out of their convictions even extended God’s festivals for two weeks!)  even as they continually confessed their sins before God. Our next Bible reader will show us this great event as it unfolded before their eyes.

Bible Reader 6The Joy of Feasting—Keeping God’s Holy Days

Nehemiah 8:13-18

Nehemiah 9:1-8; 13-17; 34-38

1 Corinthians 5: 6-8

Thank you Bible Reader. Brethren, please all stand as we responsively offer our next hymns:

Hymn 8: p.225 Joyful At the Feast

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Watch And Pray:Thank you, brethren. Let us pause now as we hear the news that we need to watch and pray for.

Thank you for the special music offering and for our watchman.

E. The Joy of Serving in God’s House/Temple. Serving God in His great Temple is one of the rare privileges anybody can be called into. That’s why even in the Old Testament, these were reserved only to anointed “servants” of God to act as priests and/or Levites. In the New Testament, while the opportunities are expanded, rarely do we find true servants of God with the joy and heart to serve Him! However, the life and example of our Lord Jesus Christ provided us the true mark of a servant with a heart of joy, self-less service and sacrifice. Christ is not just our example, but our life as we serve God should be made in the likeness of Him even as we let Christ “live in us”. As we continually submit to Him, Jesus Christ directs, fashions, and moulds us through the Holy Spirit.

More on the life’s application of serving with the heart of joy and sacrifice from our next Bible readers…

Bible Reader 7– The Joy of Serving in God’s House/Temple

Nehemiah 12:1-7; 27-30; 44-47

Nehemiah 13:9-14;

John 13:12-17

Luke 14:25-33

Reader 8 The Joy of Serving in God’s House/Temple

Nehemiah 13:15-22;

1 Peter 2: 18-25

1 Corinthians11:1

Thank you Bible Reader. Brethren, please all stand as we responsively offer our next hymns:

Hymn 9:  p.2.33 Love Divine, All Love Excelling

Hymn 10: p.199 Ambassadors For Christ

Conclusion-

F. “The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength”. This phrase is very powerful and full of meaning. It cuts like a two-edged sword reminding us of our weaknesses, but it also point us to the only source of our strength. Real joy cannot be found in anything transitory, carnal and material, in fact it cannot be found apart from God.  It is the Lord's joy that is our strength! It is God’s rejoicing that we found reason to rejoice. It is His joy that fills our lives with hope. It is His joy to impart in us not just the happiness that our life brings, but also as joy sustains us even as we look forward to God’s eternal kingdom.

The strength of our joy is on the Lord Eternal alone! This “joy of the Lord” remains our strength today. God’s faithfulness continues throughout all generations. For the promise and assurance of God’s kingdom extends from generation to generation till it comes.

As we look back to the story of Nehemiah, we see God's continued steadfastness and faithfulness to the promise He made to our forefathers of Faith. Today that same God seeks to redeem and bless everyone through His Son, Jesus Christ which is our joy and strength!

More on these verses from our final reader…

Reader 9 – The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength

Nehemiah 13:23-31

Matthew 25:14-23

John 15:9-13

Hebrews 12:1-2

Galatians 5:22-23

James 1:2-4

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

1 John 1:1-5

Jude 1: 24-25

Thank you readers. That concludes our Song Service.

Hymn 11: p.2.26 One Day Beyond the Stars

Hymn 12: p.142 Mount Zion Stands Most Beautiful

Closing prayer.

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