And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said to all the people…
The scene through which the redeemed and now secured nation was passing was fruitful of excitement. Everything conspired to affect the minds and stir the souls of the people. Large multitudes are soon wrought into intense feeling, and all that the assembled Israelites were then seeing, hearing, and doing, - this, taken with all they. recalled of old scenes and past glories, and these experiences and recollections mingled with reviving hopes of future freedom, - all together moved and swayed their souls with powerful emotion; and "all the people wept" (ver. 9). It was an interesting instance of religious emotion, and what followed teaches us -
I. THAT RELIGIOUS EMOTION MUST BE MANFULLY CONTROLLED (ver. 9). Nehemiah and Ezra, 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" (ver. 9). "So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved" (ver. 11). Emotion needs control and correction when -
1. It is in danger of being carried to excess. Under some circumstances, such as these of the text, when a very large number of people were all agitated by the same feelings, and each communicated something of his own enthusiasm to his neighbour, it is in serious danger of running into mere physical excitement. Such nervous excitement is perilous, for -
(1) It deludes the hearts of men with the idea that they are intensely religious when they are the subjects of a bodily rather than a spiritual affection.
(2) It often carries its subjects to religious and even bodily excesses, which are both guilty and harmful. All religious emotion is, on this ground, to be carefully controlled. It has its place and its use in the Church of Christ, in the spreading of the kingdom; but it is a thing to be watched and guarded in the interests of morality and religion. It needs correction when -
2. It takes a wrong direction. Weeping was ill-timed on this occasion. It was a "day holy unto the Lord" (ver. 9); they were "not to mourn nor weep." It was unbecoming the occasion. At such a time the air should not be burdened with sighs and groans; it should be resonant with shouts and songs. Often our religious emotion is misplaced, ill-timed: we lament when God would have us "sing with joy," or we make ourselves merry when we have reason to humble ourselves in the dust.
II. THAT JOY SHOULD BE THE PREVAILING NOTE IN OUR RELIGIOUS EMOTION (ver. 10). "This day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (ver. 10). It was not in accordance with the law and the will of God that sorrow should be associated with a holy day. The high priest, with "holiness to the Lord" on his mitre, was not allowed to mourn as others might, or when others did (Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10). Sin and sorrow, holiness and joy, these are the right companions. "With the voice of joy and praise" we should "keep holyday" (Psalm 42:4). With rejoicing hearts, full of the joy of thankfulness and hope, we should sit down to the table of the Lord. "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). Joy, one of the "fruits of the Spirit," is commended to us with a fulness and frequency in the word of God which may well make us ask ourselves whether we are not negligent in this matter. Joy in Christ Jesus is a grace
(1) which we are repeatedly summoned to show;
(2) which makes us resemble him as he is, crowned with glory and joy;
(3) desirable for its own sake, as obviously, intrinsically better than either sorrow or apathy;
(4) which is a sign and source of spiritual strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength (ver. 10). It is so, for it is both the sign and the source of it.
1. It is the utterance of our spiritual nature; not when it is weak through sin, but when made whole through the power of Christ, and when the "power of Christ" most rests upon us.
2. It is an incentive and encouragement to ourselves to proceed in the path of heavenly wisdom. The Christian man of downcast spirit and dreary views must be under a constant temptation to leave the path; but he who finds not only rest and peace in Christ, but also "joys in God, and delights himself m the service of his Saviour, has the strongest inducement to walk on in the way of life.
3. It is the means of usefulness to others. They who are "in Christ" would be "strong in the Lord," and they would be strong in him that they may be strong for him, extending his kingdom, and winning souls to his side. But how become thus strong for him? By the simple, natural exhibition of a joyous spirit in all spheres and relationships; by constraining the wife, the husband, the children, the servants, the fellow-workmen, etc., to feel that the knowledge of God as a heavenly Father reconciled in Christ Jesus, - the trust, the love, the hope which are in him, - that this does gladden the spirit and brighten the life as nothing else can. By so doing we shall be strong for Christ. The joy of the Lord will prove to be our strength.
III. THAT STRONG RELIGIOUS FEELING FINDS AN ADMIRABLE VENT IN PRACTICAL KINDNESS. "Go your way," etc. (vers. 10, 12).
1. A right channel it finds in "eating and drinking fat and sweet things," so that this be characterised by
(1) moderation, self-restraint, and
(2) thankfulness the recognition of the hand of the great Giver of all good. But,
2. A better channel in "sending portions to them for whom nothing is prepared" (ver. 10). Better far to feel that we are loading another's table with sweet things where they are seldom found than to be helping ourselves to the most delicious morsels from our own; no source of happiness at once so sure and so pure as in being like the bountiful Father, and opening the hand to satisfy the wants of those who are in need. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites who taught the people, said to all the people, "This day is holy to Yahweh your God. Don't mourn, nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.