Exceeding Joy

from Lynda Lindsey

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—-not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” Amos 8:11

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

The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. Nehemiah 8:17

From daybreak till noon, Ezra, standing high on a wooden platform, praised God and read aloud His words. The people stood respectively, listened attentively, and praised God with uplifted hands; they worshiped God, fell on their faces and cried out, “Amen! Amen!” The Levites read the Word, made it clear, and gave meaning and understanding to what was read. The people listened, really listened, and they wept. Like water revives the land after years of drought and famine, God’s words penetrated their hearts and revived their souls. 

God’s people had been warned. Seek God and live. Seek good, not evil, and live. Repent and live, for God, a devouring fire, whose justice and righteousness is like a never failing stream, will not tolerate sin and disobedience, apathy and selfishness. A famine would come, not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Exile and bondage would come; feasting and lounging would end. Stubborn, stiff-necked, willfully choosing sin over repentance, God’s people were eventually carried away by Assyria and Babylon into bondage and exile. 

And then, homecoming! Ezra read the life-giving words of God, ending the famine and slaking the people’s thirst! There would come a time to grieve and mourn sin, but for now the people were instructed to rejoice in the strength of the Lord and celebrate with great joy! Living in booths, remembering God’s deliverance from both Egypt and the Assyrian and Babylonian exile, revived the people’s appetite for God and their joy in the Lord’s goodness, protection, and guidance. So they celebrated…joyously! How’s your appetite? Are you in a desert wilderness? Enduring a famine? Are you hungry? Thirsty?

The solution? Stage a joyous homecoming! Read God’s life-giving words and let Him slake your thirst. Then celebrate…with exceeding joy!