Sunday morning the preacher commented on the lack of joy he witnessed in worship. He recalled the joy he remembered from previous years, but he could not seem to reclaim it. Joy does not come at our bidding. It is not something we can manufacture. His comments provoked me to explore this question. What is the meaning of joy and how do we achieve it?
The Book of Nehemiah contains one of the best and most illuminating descriptions of joy and the behaviors that bring it. After the Children of Israel returned to Israel from captivity in Babylon, they had begun rebuilding the city and the Temple. During the Temple reconstruction, the workmen found a copy of parts of the Books of Moses. They were thrilled with this discovery, and they called an assembly to make the words of the Law available to all the people. They assembled in the street before the Water Gate to hear the document read. The priests made sure that teachers were present throughout the group to explain the meaning. The people stood and listened to the word being read from about 6:00 am to noon.
The people were overcome with sorrow when they heard the words of the law. They began to weep. Ezra commanded them not to morn or weep because this day was holy. He told them to go and rejoice and send food to those who didn't have anything.
Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.(Nehemiah 8:12)