Celebrate! by Jodee Schrlau
September is a time of joyful celebration here at jodelights!
My birthday (64), jodelights! anniversary (6 years), and the Jewish New Year all happen this month. It is also a time of reflection and goal-setting for the upcoming year.
As a Christian, I don't celebrate the fall feast days like a traditional Jew. But I recognize that they were set by the Lord as His feast days, and we are still to observe them. For me, that means setting aside extra time in His presence; to repent, celebrate, and listen to what God is saying. I try to include a couple more hours in prayer and worship. Then, at the end of the month, I'm planning another 3-Day personal retreat. I am blessed to have the time to do this since I am retired and work from home.
The Jewish New Year
Day of Atonement
Feast of Tabernacles
The proclamation, "The joy of the Lord is your strength!", was first heard at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles. As a nation, as a people, and as individuals, they needed to hear that. The job of rebuilding their nation was just beginning. Likewise today, in our nation, as a people, and as individuals, we need to hear that also.
What joy is our strength?
This joy is often mistaken for our joy in the Lord, which is rejoicing (to feel or show great joy or delight). Or we take it as meaning the fruit of the spirit. That joy is a supernatural byproduct of a close intimate relationship with God. While joy in the Lord has many benefits, it is the joy of the Lord that gives us strength.
Let's look at what was happening when Nehemiah said this.
The Israelites had been in captivity for 70 years. The years they were held captive had been fulfilled (2 Chronicles 36:15-21),and it was time for them to go home to Jerusalem.
Babylon had been overthrown by Persia with Cyrus as the King. He instructed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it. By the time we get to Nehemiah 8, the city and its walls have been rebuilt. The entire city was gathered together at the square in front of the Water Gate. (The Water Gate symbolizes the cleansing work of the Word of God. This gate was where justice was administered, and oaths were taken.)
Ezra, the priest, stood on a platform reading and explaining the first five books of the Bible. He read and taught from daybreak until midday! As he taught, the conviction of their sin fell upon all the people. They were so shattered by what they heard that they were mourning and weeping. But that was not what God wanted.
This was to be a time of celebration! His people were home again!
It was a holy day, the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, a feast set aside by God to remember His provision in the wilderness and look forward to His promises. It was a time to put the past behind them, reconnect to their God, and look forward. So when the Israelites were devastated over their sin, God said take strength in my forgiveness. You've repented. I'm not mad at you. Now let go of your past, and the sorrow that remembering your sin brings. We are back together now, so let's party!
Joy that causes us to party!
Hebrews 12:2 says for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. His joy is YOU being restored into a right relationship with His Father.
His joy is that YOU are now part of his family, a child of God. And as His children, He has the joy of caring for YOU. He has the joy of giving YOU access to all He made available through His death and resurrection. YOU are His joy!
Your strength comes from knowing that while you were still a sinner and separated from God, He planned a way for you to be with Him. Your strength comes from knowing that nothing can separate you from His love. He takes great care and delight in you. The same God that planned and created the universe along with everything in it, planned and created you. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead has been made available to you.
That is your strength.
To receive this strength, you follow this same pattern.
Stand in front of the Water Gate, hear the Word of the Lord, and let it bring repentance. Then don't worry about it again. Draw strength from the fact that you have been freely forgiven. His compassion toward you never fails, and His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). The joy of the Lord is truly your strength!
Freely receive that strength and all the benefits that come with it.
It's time to party! Eat, drink, and be merry! Dance a little dance, sing a little song, shout with joy!
Let me know how you are celebrating!
FREE printable! Save and print!