“…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…“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.” – Nehemiah 8:9-10 (ESV)
Today I preached on the book of Nehemiah (our congregation is going through The Story–a 31-week journey through the Bible). Out of all the material to cover, I focused on Chapters 8 & 9.
This morning, I awoke to a dreary fog. My own mood was similar. I didn’t really want to get out of bed, go to church, or preach.
It’s true, it happens to preachers too.
However, after I got to the chapel, I was pointed to the scriptures. I read Psalm 47. It begins, “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God all with loud songs of joy! For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.”
It’s a command to praise God, and through this scripture God spoke to my heart.
In Nehemiah 8, the people are weeping and mourning, but their leaders command them to rejoice and be happy. How, I wondered, could they be expected to change from weeping to rejoicing?
This morning, I experienced it. You see, the rejoicing comes, not necessarily out of happy feelings, but rather, the recognition of who God is and what He has done. Scripture directs us to praise Him, even if we don’t feel like it.
The thing is–God can change our hearts through worship. Who He is is greater than how I feel. God is worthy of praise. The Bible is full of praise for His great attributes and shows a long track record of His blessings and kindness toward people. When I focus on God, instead of myself, my feelings can change. The joy of the Lord (joy of who He is and the joy that He gives) is my strength. It can change my attitude from malaise or sadness to one of praise and gladness.
When we life out this truth, it can change our attitudes and our lives.