Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 12:27-47, Hebrews 13:15, Revelation 19:1-8
I love parties. Love them. Any excuse to celebrate is good enough for me. New baby, new job, new spouse, new house, renovated house, new car, reupholstered car, birthday, anniversary, church holiday, national holiday—doesn’t matter. I’m here for the celebration. There’s something special about gathering with a group of people for a purpose that isn’t work-related, where the only objective is to have a great time. I have to admit, I’ve walked past a group of strangers having a party at a restaurant and secretly wished I could take part in their merry-making.
In reading today’s passage, I was happy to see I’m not the only one who likes to have a good time. When the wall was completed and the time came to dedicate the fruit of their labor to the Lord, the Jews held nothing back—and they were well within their rights! “On that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy” (Nehemiah 12:43).
The wall had been rebuilt despite external threats and internal fatigue. And chile, if those folks didn’t rejoice! There were choirs and cymbals and harps and singers rocking the house with their jubilant praise. The people sang and offered sacrifices to God with great joy—praise that was heard far and wide.
It’s a sincere prayer of mine today that I would learn to look on achievements, victories, and answered prayers with that same exuberance. I don’t want to look back on an answered prayer and think, Welp! I’m glad that’s over with! and quickly rush on to other matters. I want to see every triumph for what it is: a victory won by my great and glorious God. I want to take time to honor God by celebrating His works and plans and victories well.
And Scripture tells us the Jewish people did just that, rejoicing like wild over a wall. They lifted a resounding praise that neighboring cities could hear because of a wall. To those other cities and nations, rebuilding a wall might have been an insignificant accomplishment, maybe something to jot down in a history book for posterity’s sake, but nothing major. But for the people of God, the rebuilding of the wall meant something.
It meant increased protection from enemies who would try to conquer Jerusalem.
It meant that their God hadn’t forsaken them, even though they’d sinned against Him.
It meant that He still dwelt in their holy city and would continue to fight for them.
I’m assuming that, after years in exile, that kind of knowledge was life-giving and joy-fueling for God’s people. I imagine it continued to bring them joy as they remembered it years later. This passage makes me want to do the same, to consider and reconsider God’s hand in my life, to look again and again for His goodness and power at work on my behalf. It also makes me want to learn how to celebrate—really celebrate—those victories, achievements, and even (seemingly) unanswered prayers in such a way that my joy can be heard far and wide.
Because if my joy can be seen or heard coming from a mile away, my neighbors and friends will start to wonder, What’s she so happy about? Which may just lead to, How can I have the kind of joy she has? And when asked, I can confidently point them to the great and glorious God who gives me the victory in Him, again and again and again.
Erin Rose lives and works in vibrant Richmond, Virginia, where she serves as Worship & Teaching Pastor at East End Fellowship. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and is currently enrolled as a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Erin is a member of Urban Doxology, a ministry that is writing the soundtrack of reconciliation for the church. Her greatest joy lies in leading God’s people in authentic worship, and teaching them the truth found in God’s Word. She also enjoys eating delicious food, spending time with loved ones, and indulging in the occasional Netflix binge.