I wondered what Scripture meant by “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10b). I already understood that the Lord gives us joy (Rom 15:13), and that He is our strength (Is 40:31), but I couldn’t wrap my head around the phrasing, so I looked to the context.

God’s chosen people suffered through severe consequence for their continual rejection of Him and His covenant. Ezra read from God’s Word and recited His Law to the people (Neh 8:1-9). When they heard His Word, they were convicted of their vast disobedience and rebellion and repented.

I, too, spent far too many years being prideful and rebellious to the Lord’s Word. What a wonderful God we serve that He cares for His sheep that go astray and rejoices when we return (Matt 18:12-14). The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23) Tony Reinke says, “Your joy rests on God’s joy”.

In the Hebrew, the phrase means that we are able to rejoice that the Lord is our place of refuge; and our source of strength. The joy of the Lord is a constant gladness and cause to rejoice. It stems from an inner strengthening from our relationship with Him. We have joy because He rejoices! “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph 3:17)

God is essentially happy within Himself; He loves it when we come to Him for joy and strength. The strength we need for this life is found in the essential joy of God.

Oh You shine with glory Lord of light
I feel alive with You
In Your presence now I come alive
I am alive with You
There is strength when I say
I will praise You, Lord

When sorrow comes my way
You are the shield around me
Always You remain
Like courage in the fight
I hear You call my name
Jesus, I am coming
Walking on the waves
Reaching for Your light

The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord is my strength
In the darkness I’ll dance
In the shadows I’ll sing
The joy of the Lord is my strength