According to the United Nations, there are 103 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, whether inside or outside their home nations. A total of 32.5 million are classified as refugees, fleeing war or persecution. Of these, 72 percent come from the five countries of Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and South Sudan.
After decades of exile following the Babylonian conquest, the Jews were finally allowed to return home. In today’s passage, the public reading and teaching of the Scriptures kindled spiritual renewal among the returned exiles. The leaders, including Ezra and Nehemiah, showed the way (vv. 5–8). Preparations had been made: A day had been set, a reading platform built, and the Levites organized for teaching. When the Law was opened, the people stood as a sign of respect.
When Ezra praised the Lord, they bowed facedown to the ground in worship. As they listened, they wept, showing—like King Josiah—godly sorrow and repentance. This
This day, though, was a day for celebration not weeping (vv. 9–12). The people certainly had sins to repent of, and the broken remains of the city reminded them of past sins and God’s judgment. In Nehemiah 9, we read of their repentance. But that day, however, was a day for rejoicing. God had kept His promise and returned their people to the land after 70 years of exile! He commanded a real party (the Feast of Booths)— described as “holy to our Lord”—with food and drink and sharing for those who didn’t have enough. This is the context for the often-quoted verse, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (v. 10). Why were they joyful? “Because they now understood the words that had been made known to them” (v. 12).
>> We often equate holiness with a somber mood, but the Bible speaks of “joy” in holiness! In our churches, we see this lived out through music and singing. In what other ways does holiness spark joy in us?
We rejoice in Your holiness and unspotted goodness! We rejoice in the promise that we are being made holy like You, and one day we will be fully sanctified! We rejoice in the truth that You have forever defeated sin and death!