Nehemiah 8:8-10—So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Once the people dealt with the sin in their lives, they asked Ezra to read from the Book of the Law. When he opened the book, they all stood. Ezra began by praising God. All the people lifted their hands and joined in agreement that God was great, and then they bowed and worshipped. You’ll find this natural order of things throughout Scripture. We come into His presence with thanksgiving and praise. Then we are drawn to worship in adoration because we are undeserving of all His goodness. Then Ezra began to read as the Levites spread throughout the congregation to help explain the word that was read. Ezra may have been reading in Hebrew as the Levites translated into Aramaic. Conviction of sin settled on the crowd as the Word was read, and they wept. The Word exposed the sin in their hearts and actions, and they were repentant of their past response to all of God’s goodness in their lives. They could see how gracious it was of God to allow the nation to be restored. But this was a time to rejoice. The walls were completed. The city was safe, and God had shown that His gracious hand was upon them. They had already dealt with sin in their midst. They had made restitution for their sins. Now it was time to celebrate. They were tired from a long stretch of hard labor. The Levites told them not to wallow in the past and the sins of which they had already repented. Now it was time to celebrate the goodness of God! When God really deals with us, and we come clean about our real condition, deal with the places we are not right with Him, then we need to move from grief to joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength to live in new life. Forgetting what is behind, we press forward in joy for all that God has done and is doing. Rejoice in His forgiveness. To wallow in past sins makes you ineffective in your new life. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Rejoice in the Lord always!