And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said to all the people…
Here observe that the parties to whom these words were originally addressed were in the act of expressing deep sorrow for sin. Nehemiah had no intention to make light of sorrow for sin, nor to represent it as aught else than a necessary ingredient in the composition of genuine repentance. The sin that is not lamented will hardly be forsaken; and though there may be grief which does not issue in amendment, we may doubt whether you will find the amendment which has not been preceded by grief. There is a point beyond which sorrow being carried, will neither constitute nor prove repentance. The grief cannot be such as God demands which hides from man the attributes of God and the arrangements Divinely made for the pardon of sin. A man who sorrows for a sin with a sorrow that seems to say that sin is unpardonable draws for himself and presents to others a picture of God which is altogether unscriptural In the light of the gospel there is a point at which sorrow for sin becomes itself sinful, and that is the point at which we sorrow "even as those who have no hope"; when we lament as if there were no remedy. Looking at the text with special reference to ourselves, we observe that "the joy of the Lord is our strength" —
I. IN RENDERING EFFECTIVE OUR SORROW FOR SIN. Sorrow alone and by itself can produce no genuine repentance; but "the joy of the Lord" — the assurance of a free and unqualified forgiveness — must be mixed with the sorrow to produce such a result. We understand by repentance, not only the lamenting sin, which is a part, but the forsaking sin, which is a greater part. It is the pleasure of God, the joy of God, that men should forsake their sins and receive salvation at His hands without money and without price. "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked shall die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should return from his wicked way and live?" God joys in nothing so much as in welcoming transgressors who trust themselves to the suretyship of His Son. It is right to tremble at the wrath of God. It is right to mourn over your sins. But you must do more than tremble and mourn — you must" eat the fat and drink the sweet." "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin " — here is the fat. "Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest " — there is the sweet.
II. IN ENCOURAGING US AND HELPING US TO WRESTLE WITH TEMPTATION. The assurance of Divine help is "the joy of the Lord," and in this joy does the true Christian's strength consist. The encouragements of the gospel are encouragements to strive, encouragements to labour — to resist evil, to mortify passions, and to cultivate holiness. They are encouragements to hold on through a course of temptation in the assurance that the Redeemer will furnish help proportionate to the attack. The slave may be kept in awe by the scourge, but the affectionate son is best ruled by a smile; and as soon as the believer has been admitted into the very family and, household of God, he will derive from "the joy of the Lord" his best strength for the mastery of evil.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
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.