The Joy Was Heard

Back from a week of visiting family. Back, Lord willing, into my morning routine.

Finished off Nehemiah this morning. Always mixed emotions as I read these last chapters.

Not really sure how I should read Nehemiah’s nationally enforced obedience in chapter 13. Does Nehemiah get an attaboy for his zeal? Or, are we seeing the seeds sown of what would develop into Pharisaical legalism? Right action but with wrong reason. Legislated righteousness but devoid of a heart responding in thankful faithfulness.

But while I’m never quite sure what to make of chapter 13, I know that I never fail to be jazzed by chapter 12. Let the good times roll!

I’m always stirred by Nehemiah’s account of dedicating the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem. Love reading about the choirs of singers that marched up on to the wall along with Judah’s leaders (12:31, 38) — the wall that the enemies of God once mocked, “If a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall” (4:3). They were there to “to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgiving and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres” (12:27). And the singers sang!

And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

(Nehemiah 12:42b – 43 ESV)

The joy was heard far away. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.

Beyond being an emotion, joy can also be an expression. While we can feel joy, we can also see joy and hear joy. While joy may bubble within as a hidden spring of the heart, it can also pour forth like a flowing river for others to hear. While joy can be savored in silence, often it manifests itself in sounds of celebration. You can feel joy within yourself, but to join with others and hear a corporate expression of joy, well, that’s a whole next-level experience. An experience we should regularly encounter as God’s people when we gather for our weekly celebration of the gospel and of the God — Father, Son, and Spirit — who has brought the gospel to light to our once blinded eyes and darkened hearts.

God’s people should be a singing people. God’s people have reason to be a celebrating people. Where God’s people gather the joy should be heard.

The precedent was set long ago. If for nothing else, our deliverance from sin and death is a reason to sing.

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

(Exodus 15:1-2 ESV)

The joy on the banks of the Red Sea was heard. Joy experienced not because a wall was built but because freedom from bondage was realized. Joy centered deep within but catalyzed from high above. The LORD Himself the source of the song. The God worthy of exaltation priming the pump of praise.

The joy was heard by the sea. Centuries later the joy was heard from atop a wall. Today may the joy be heard in our gatherings.

Joy heard because of God’s abounding grace. Joy heard for God’s everlasting glory.

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