“The joy of the Lord is my strength” is a familiar line. There are numerous songs based on it. We use it to encourage ourselves and others. But what does it really mean? Where do we get it from? What is “the joy of the Lord?” What does the joy of the Lord do to provide strength? What is this strength that it is talking about?
The joy of the Lord is foundational in a relationship with God.
The term “the joy of the Lord is my strength” is found in Nehemiah 8:10. It’s after the children of Israel returned to Jerusalem from exile. They were listening to the law being read, were overcome with condemnation, and were weeping.
The scripture reads:
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
What Is the Joy of the Lord?
When Ezra was reading the law to the people it produced sorrow because their lives and behavior were not in alignment with the law. But instead of being rebuked and condemned, they were instructed to celebrate because of “the joy of the Lord.” Why would the Lord have joy when they were “a bunch of sinners?”
The children of Israel were never known for their perfect behavior. They were known for being the people of God. They were His. He loved them.
His people had been separated from Him in exile for years and were finally reunited to Him. God had His beloved people back — why would He not have joy?
In Matthew 15, Jesus tells three stories of things lost and then found: a sheep, a coin, and a son. All three end with rejoicing when what was lost was found. God’s joy is in the reconnection or union.
How Does the Joy of the Lord Provide Strength?
The joy of the Lord gives us strength to reach for God’s provision of love and salvation.
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17).
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11).
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3).
What Is This Strength?
The strength that God provides us with is His grace.
To each one of us grace has been given (Ephesians 4:7).
So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son (Ephesians 1:6).
Because we feel connected to God and loved by Him it gives us the confidence and boldness to approach Him to “find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). And the grace that He provides is enough for everything in our lives.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
What Does This Mean?
“The joy of the Lord is our strength,” is brought to fullness when we accept His provision of righteousness by grace that reunites us so we can enjoy His presence.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence (Acts 2:28).
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Danielle Bernock is an international, award-winning author, speaker, and coach who helps people embrace their value and heal their soul through the power of the love of God. She’s written Emerging With Wings, A Bird Named Payn (now available in audio), Love’s Manifesto and Because You Matter. A long time follower of Christ, Danielle lives with her husband in Michigan near her adult children and grandchildren. For more information or to connect with Danielle https://www.daniellebernock.com/