Month 7:20, Week 3:5 (Chamashee/Teruah), Year:Day 5941:196 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 9 October 2017
Sukkot 2017 VI
The Joy of Yahweh is Your Strength
Continued from Part 5
"And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the cohen(priest) and Torah-teacher (scribe), and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 'This day [of Sukkot] is qadosh (holy, set-apart) to Yahweh your Elohim (God); do not mourn nor weep.' For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Torah (Law). Then he said to them, 'Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is qadosh (holy, set-apart) to our Elohim (God). Do not sorrow, for the simcha (joy) of Yahweh is your strength.' So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, 'Be still, for the day is qadosh (holy, set-apart); do not be grieved.' And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them" (Neh.8:9-12, NKJV).
Chag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the sixth day of the Feast of Tabernacles!
Hungry for the Truth
Today's passage take us back nearly 2,500 years to 445 BC. The walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt, and a week after their completion Sukkot (Tabernacles) begins. The people have been in exile for 70 years in Babylon and are back home again and they have forgotten the Scriptures. Nehemiah reads the whole Torah out to them, explaining the meaning as he goes along, and the people are convicted of sin in their hearts. This was at the people's own request so they were hungry for emet (truth), something Ezra had desired for a long time (Ezra 7:10)!
Where Baptists Get Some of Their Traditions From
It is from this systematic study of the Torah that Baptists acquired their tradition of preachers systematically working they way through Scripture. The people in Nehemiah's and Ezra's day did not suffer from Attention Deficiency Disorder as Westerners do today for they studied solidly for 6 hours at a time! (Neh.8:3) 14 readers rotated so each read and explained for about ˝ hour (Neh.8:4). The Baptist tradition of standing up whenever Scripture is read aloud also comes from here because the people stood for the entire 6 hour session out of reverence for the Davar (Word). I think in the West our backsides are tougher than our feet for in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, services are conducted standing up! I was in one such service in L'viv, Ukraine, many years ago and was amazed. Our own spoiled people would have been grumbling after 20 minutes. We have become lazy and over-indulgent.
Repentance vs. Joy at Sukkot
Teshuvah (repentance) is, of course, vital to the spiritual life in order to get right with Yahweh and with one another. But not at Sukkot! At this time of year we are commanded to rejoice! Repentance, especially when it is accompanied by fasting, weakens the body, but simcha strengthens it:
The Heavenly Fortifier
"The simcha of Yahweh is your strength!" (Neh.8:10, NKJV)
One of the reasons possessing this divine simcha or joy is so important is because it is the heavenly strengthening agent. It is the fibre and fortifier of the soul. That is why people who have no joy in their metaphoprical 'joy bucket' are weak and feeble. I speak as a star exhibit. Tragedy, persecution and failing health have, I have to admit, taken a lot out of me.
Music as an Uplifter
Last night was no exception. I was in physical agony for about three hours and had to get up. Finally I went back to bed and got a little sleep. When I came downstairs I found one of my favourite melodies, which I have been wanting to write a worship song to for a long time, and played it. I felt the inrushing of simcha (joy) and had I had the energy I think I would have danced too! It gave me a huge lift, showing what power music has, as I know many of you will testify.
Why Judah Needed Strengthening at Sukkot
Now there was actually an historical reason why the returned exiles needed a large dollop of strengthening through simcha (joy) because they needed preparing for hard days ahead. And so we read:
Facing Hard Days Ahead
"Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for Elohim (God) had made them rejoice with great simcha (joy); the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the simcha (joy) of Jerusalem was heard afar off" (Neh.12:43, NKJV).
Brethren and sisters, there is a reason we need simcha (joy) this year because we are about to face hard days ahead. Without being fortified, Yahweh's people are going to buckle under the extreme stress. So dip into that 'joy bucket' and make sure you refill it, and not just at Sukkot /Tabernacles) when we are commanded to. Keep refilling it in worship and praise.
What the Returning Exiles Learned
Consider those Judahite returnees from Babylonian exile. They heard the Torah read out to them and they learned that Yahweh punishes sin, but also that He blesses obedience and that was reason to celebrate. The reason they had not been utterly destroyed as a nation at the time Judah fell to the Babylonians, in spite of their sins, was because Yahweh - by shere grace (undeserved loving kindness) alone - had reserved them to bring forth the Messiah. They were on the brink of a new beginning and that absolutely called for celebration. But first must come a confession for national sins.
Confessing National Sins
Whatever nation you come from, you need to start representationally confessing the sins of your country before Yahweh and asking your people for grace. And if you have not been doing that, I would encourage you to start after Sukkot or resume if you have already started doing that. If you have followed my sermons in recent years, I have been doing a lot of that for my own country of Great Britain - for our wars in South Africa, for our murderous terror bombing of German civilians in Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin and Königsberg, our betrayal of Czechoslovakia, for our abandonment of Elohim (God) in the 1960's, for our vile pedophile leaders and corrupt institutions such as Social Services and education, to name but a few of thousands of sins. We have the responsibility to do that.
On the Brink of a New Beginning
Do you realise that we too are on the brink of a new beginning? We as individuals, as families, as a spiritual community of Messianic Evangelicals, as the Body of Messiah and as nations, have to assume responsibility for collective sin even if we personally played no part of that sinning. Yet our ancestors almost certainly have and we are connected to them. That is a form of intercession. If you ask Yahweh what He wants you to pray for, He will show you. I have very specific areas of my nation's historical record that I have been led to pray for.
But now is a time to get strengthened in the simcha (joy) of Yahweh! Tomorrow is the last day, before the new beginnng of Shemini Atseret, so let's not waste that time! Remember, the joy of Yahweh is your strength! Yahweh bless you through Yah'shua (Jesus)! Amen.
Continued in Part 7
Comments from Readers
 "Beautiful!" (JB, USA, 9 October 2017)