We’re continuing to learn from Nehemiah about how to manage a new beginning. Remember, Nehemiah was called by God to oversee the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem. It was a daunting task, no doubt. Perhaps not unlike our own new beginnings. We saw how the seed was planted, and how important resolve is. Nehemiah faced constant opposition. But he had discernment to determine which battles were not worth fighting. But Nehemiah was a source of great encouragement to the people in Jerusalem.
By chapter 8, great things had been accomplished. The wall was finished! The gates and doors were installed. It was a moment of celebration and worship! However, during the worship when the people heard the Scripture read, they clearly saw that it was their sins – corporately and individually- that resulted in their captivity and the destruction of the city, the Temple and the wall in the first place.
We often do the same thing when we face a new beginning, Instead of celebrating our progress and how far God has brought us, we focus on our failures and setbacks. We tend to dissect and overanalyze every decision we made and every step we took. And once our analysis is finished we tend to focus on what we’ve done to hinder things rather than the hand of God moving
Nehemiah responds with this encouragement.
“This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” Nehemiah 8:9
God is the God of new beginnings and second chances. Each one is an invitation to join Him as He works out His plan. It is an opportunity to surrender ourselves once more to the job He has for us. See the new beginning as a day set apart to the Lord like Nehemiah did.
But he encourages his people even more.
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
Celebrate what God has done and is doing. Show grace and kindness to others. Understand that joy energizes you while grief and regret sap you. Now don’t misunderstand. Repentance for sin is the only proper response when we transgress. We should quickly and humbly own our sins, ask for forgiveness and renounce them. But after that, we must understand that fellowship is restored and we don’t have to live with shame or remorse.
Nehemiah is not so naïve as to think the battle with sin is over and it’s smooth sailing from now on. He knows, and he encourages the people to remember that if they find their joy in the Lord, they will have the strength to live a life that pleases God.
It is no different for us. When we try to find a source of joy outside of God and our relationship with Him, things get difficult to endure.
Nehemiah probably knew this verse. – This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
As we live today and every day, let’s remember that and find strength from the joy that we are His!