THE JOY OF JERUSALEM

Today's devotion from Nehemiah 12.

It was a day to celebrate! God had done a might work in their midst through their toil and sacrifice. Now that the difficult things were accomplished, it was time to rejoice at all that God had done. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to celebrate. As we see multiple times in this chapter, the author emphasizes the lengths to which the Israelites went to ensure that everything was done in accordance with God's Word.

God had moved and the people had responded. That's great. Seeing the progress made was truly inspiring. Wonderful.

What then?

I love the fact that this chapter doesn't just celebrate the past, but looks forward with anticipation to the future, but it is easy to miss with so much recorded. Yet, it is there. Read verse 44 again. Do you see it now? The people were, in fact, celebrating all that God had done, but they were keeping an eye on their future commitment to follow through. Part of the covenant they had entered into dealt with stewardship and giving. Therefore, part of their faithful celebration of the past was their anticipation of following through with the covenant.

To me, this is an incredibly powerful and telling detail. It communicates that the people didn't just react to a difficult situation by saying whatever they thought God wanted to hear. Instead, we see the community is committed to intentionally responding to God's expectations. There is a difference.

When we react, we are simply doing what we think is needed to get out of the moment. When we respond, we are not as focused on the moment as we are on God. To focus on the moment or situation is to completely miss the point. God did not need their money or offerings, but He did desire their faithfulness.

Recently, I quoted C. S. Lewis regarding the nuanced difference in motivation. Maybe we should visit it now?

Thus, if you have really handed yourself over to him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.

Let us avoid reacting to the moment to avoid judgment, gain heaven, or seek to save ourselves. Instead, seek to respond to God having discovered the true joy of being restored and walking with Him.