Last week we learned from the book of Nehemiah 8 how the people desired to hear the word of God from the Law of Moses (recorded sermon link is below). They had just completed rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. You can imagine it was a time of great stress for them during this construction as they faced threats from their neighbors and wore their swords as they rebuilt the walls. Think about it . . . the anxiety and fatigue. Laboring to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in the midst of hostile threats. I am sure there was a great big sigh of relief as they felt secure behind their new walls and now turned their hearts and minds to God’s word.
The people, all of them, not just the men, were able to listen to the Word of God and stood attentively for 6 hours. Men, women, and children. Their attention focused on listening to God’s Word. The Levites/Priests work through the crowd making sure everyone understands what they are hearing,
They had been in captivity, their city was in ruins. They were in exile and now it’s over and they are glad to be back in a place where you can open the Word of the LORD without fear. They labored to rebuild the walls amidst threats from hostile neighbors that did not like them. They had not heard the Word of the Lord in a very long time, it was not a day where everyone had a Bible on their bookshelf or on their Kindle. For some, they may never have heard the Word of the LORD before in their life they were just told about it – they are amazed and awed.
The past months have been a time of action and now they are secure – physically and spiritually – the people are overcome and begin to weep. The leaders, Ezra and Nehemiah, tell them not to weep but to rejoice. They state “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” Nehemiah gets even more specific: he tells them “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”
Nehemiah’s antidote to grieving is to celebrate and remind each one present “do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The joy of the Lord trumps the anxiety of the day, something we need today in our uncertain and chaotic world. The joy of the Lord trumps the feelings of guilt. The joy of the Lord is for young, old, and those in between. The joy of the Lord is for men, women, and children. The people dry their eyes and head home to celebrate with their yummy meat (fat) and wine – and they didn’t forget to include those who couldn’t make it.
Most importantly, in verse 12, it states they went their way eating, drinking, sharing, and rejoicing BECAUSE they UNDERSTOOD the words that were declared to them. This understanding is that the Word of God brings life and relief to the weary.
What we need to remember and apply at Holy Cross:
- The reading of God’s Word is a holy and sacred undertaking. We are not to take it casually. That is why we treat it with such respect in our service, and we weekly read together the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament, and the Gospel in our Sunday worship. That is why we encourage morning and evening prayer and reading Scripture as individuals and families. This text is a reminder of the power the Word has to change lives.
- The Joy of the Lord is my Strength. These are words not to be taken lightly – or said tritely. Life is full of grief and difficulty. Having the Joy of the Lord as your strength gets you through these difficult times – it’s so much deeper than pasting a smile on your face when things have you down. We were never promised that walking with the Lord would be easy – we look to a heavenly kingdom – the joy of the Lord is our strength.
- Sometimes you just have to party! God wants us to rejoice in Him, love and have fellowship with each other, and enjoy what he has provided us. At Holy Cross, it is a time of rebuilding and change. Our church was founded in 1947 as St. Edmunds. It is 75 years old this year in 2022. The last 14 years have been challenging as we stood our ground for our beliefs. It sort of has been a captivity of our own. But we are rebuilding. Our enemy is outside our doors (gates/walls). But we are here to state we are not defeated. We have the Joy of the Lord and he is our strength. We are rebuilding and we are going to advance the Kingdom of God here in Milwaukee and we will rejoice together!
Check out our sermons on our website and Apple podcasts below.
- Prayer Request. Please pray that God will lead someone to step up for regular music ministry as we move forward with this new strategy and location.
- Benjamin & Kiera Rasmussen. Benji and Kiera are moving into their apartment in Milwaukee this weekend. If you can help them unload their furniture and welcome them please let us know. Benji will continue his global work teaching at YWAM bases around the world while helping Holy Cross in its Third Ward outreach, evangelism, and small groups.
- Holy Cross Annual Business Meeting. We will have our annual business meeting on February 20th after service.
- Visit by Bishop Dobbs. Our Bishop will be visiting and worshiping with us on March 27th. Please put this on your calendars for this special time.