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Recently, I’ve been going through a study on my own time with a book called, “Arise” by Kristin Schmucker (The Daily Grace Co.). This study has been through the book Nehemiah in the Bible.
My sister, Bailee, got this for me for Christmas. She bought three devotionals in total: One about Genesis and other books around then, one on Nehemiah, and one on Ruth. She gave one to me, a friend, and kept one for herself. Nehemiah never really interested me (because I don’t remember much about it). I was hoping to get one about Genesis and some other stories around that time. So I’d make comments here and there saying how I wish I had a study book about Genesis, thinking Bailee would pick up on the hint and give me that devotional. She didn’t get the hint and gave it to our friend. I was kind of frustrated in the moment, because Nehemiah sounded boring (I guess I was judging the book by it’s cover… whoops). But oh boy, was I wrong.
I’ve been doing this study since the start of January, and it has taught me so much already. Did you guys know how awesome Nehemiah is? If you don’t, go read it. I have learned more about prayer and how awesome it is. I’m learning more about God’s strength. And I have (in more recent chapters), been learning about the joy of God! So, if you don’t already know, I’m going to be talking about happiness in God.
A guiltless life.
In Nehemiah 8, it talks about three main things. But I’ll be talking about two of them: When Ezra reads the law and when the Feast of Booths is celebrated.
At the beginning of chapter 8, Ezra the scribe comes to (*spoiler alert*) the Wall Nehemiah has just re-built to preach God’s law. In Nehemiah 8:9 it says the people weeped when they heard the words of the law. They were overcome by guilt and realization of their sins. Sometimes I find myself weeping over my sins. I typically become well aware of my sin in the day as I lay in my bed trying to sleep. Let me tell you, that is the worst time to get all worked up over something God has taken away. Sometimes, I’ll get bad anxiety from it. Then I realize we shouldn’t be anxious or stressed about anything (because Jesus tells us not to be).
But God, being the loving Father that He is, just says, “Hey, Lily? Shh, stop crying.” (this is where He wraps me in His big, loving arms) “Remember how I sent Jesus to take all this sin away from you? He also took away your guilt and shame. You have no need for this! You are mine, and you are forgiven.” I then will try to compose myself… and find myself crying (out of joy) for God because I love Him so much.
Anyway, while the people are weeping because they feel so guilty, Nehemiah tells them not too.
“…. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” -Nehemiah 8:10
That made me start questioning, what does it look like to have the joy of the Lord be your strength? I think this can honestly depend on your relationship with God and who you are. For me, it means knowing the joy of the Lord. Knowing that Jesus took all my sin and grossness out and has given me pure joy. Where/what helps me know of this joy? The Bible.
Feasts of Booths.
In the next section of Nehemiah 8, it talks about the “Feasts of Booths.” To sum it all up, the people would make booths for themselves and rejoice in God’s Word and all He has done for them. This event celebrated God’s faithfulness.
In my study book it says, “Hebrew tradition tells us that rabbis claimed you had not known true happiness unless you had been in Jerusalem for the Feasts of Booths” (Arise by Kristin Schmucker). It’s interesting hearing this was the so-called happiest time, and what the people were doing were diving into the scriptures and celebrating God.
I tend to always stress the point to spend time in God’s Word, because it’s something I struggle with the most. But every single time I spend time in God’s Word, I am filled with glee and awe. Every time I reflect on God’s faithfulness now-a-days and back then, it gives me this sense of happiness. It reminds me God hasn’t ever left me. Look back in the Bible, you can see countless times where God was there providing for His people when they were wandering astray.
I feel like I always mention something about Jesus joy in all my blogs. But I just can’t help bringing it up again. If God didn’t ever let us experience happiness in Him… well, I can’t even imagine what would happen because that’s not real life. That’s out of God’s character to not let us experience His joys. You can see this all throughout the Bible!
Psalms 126:2-3 says, “Then out mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.'”
See? It is impossible not to get joyful over God.
Real happiness or fake?
I really thought it was cool to see how these people would celebrate God’s faithfulness and read His scriptures and call it the happiest time. When my eyes go astray from God to earthly things, I would think I’m happier with these earthly things. But no.
Okay, you guys might think it’s a bit odd, but I really love libraries (and books). It’s always so peaceful there. I get my head wrapped up in a bunch of different books all the time; one of the reasons being so I can go to the library and get more. I think I’m so happy with all these books and book series, but then they sort of become an idol.
Recently, I just finished The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and it was so good! When I finished the first book in the series, I “needed” the second one. I got all stressed out because the only time I could go to the library to get it was on a Saturday night… but the library closes on Saturday in the afternoon. So I remember talking to my sister Bailee that I just really wanted the next book. As I was telling her about my big dilemma, I realized that the series was probably becoming an idol.
Yikes… an idol. I don’t really like those. So I just tried to control my wanting to obsessively read The Hunger Games and would take time to read my Bible instead. Then I came across all this stuff about Nehemiah and I remembered this, the Bible, is where the source of my joy comes from!
(Thanks for reading 🙂 )