Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 7:73, Nehemiah 8:1-18, Romans 1:16-17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Do you remember the first time you understood a crucial part of the gospel? The day something just clicked? You knew the words of it one day, but in that one moment you understood the absolute truth of it. For me one of those “Aha!” moments happened when I came to understand the Bible wasn’t primarily a book about me, but rather a book about God.
That may seem silly to some. It may be something every Sunday School kid armed with The Jesus Storybook Bible already knows. But for me, as a 30-year-old woman, it was astounding to realize that my entire life I had read the Bible one way, when it was intended to be read an entirely different way. It changed everything for me. It made the gospel come alive to me. It made Scripture come alive to me. It made Jesus come alive to me.
But it also made my sin more real to me.
I was rejoicing because this book held the words of life, but I was weeping because this book also showed me my sin. It wasn’t just a book about how if I did good things, good things would happen in return for me. It wasn’t just a book of stories about that “nice man” Jesus. It wasn’t a book that held the key to getting an eternity with God. It was a whole book that had to be believed in its entirety—even the really hard bits.
I imagine this is how the Israelites felt when the book of the law was read to them. The weightiness of all the ways they couldn’t measure up were read clearly to them so the people could understand it fully. And as we would expect, they wanted to mourn and weep, because who could keep a law like this one? But look what Nehemiah says to them—and to us, who still sometimes buckle under the weight of a law fulfilled:
“Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
The same strength given to those who did not yet have full understanding of God’s redemptive plan is given to us today when we understand the full weight of Scripture, our sin, and the Savior’s sacrifice. The joy of the Lord is our strength when under the weight of conviction and in the midst of mourning our sin.
The joy of the Lord, the goodness of His sovereign plan and His deep love, His careful attention and His unmerited mercy—these are why we can rejoice in the face of what seems terribly, terribly hard, irrevocably broken, or unattainably high. We can trust in the joy of the Lord.
Lore Ferguson Wilbert is a writer, thinker, and learner. She blogs at Sayable, and tweets and instagrams at @lorewilbert. She has a husband named Nate, a puppy named Harper Nelle, and too many books to read in one lifetime.