We Christians have famous Bible verses we like to use in difficult times to encourage ourselves and others. One such Bible verse is "the joy of the Lord is our strength." If you do a google search on this one verse, you will find a lot of different interpretations, but they all agree on one thing, the joy of the cross, of salvation, of being reconciled to God is our strength.
Indeed, we did not deserve the cross; it is a gift, and we are to be thankful and find great joy in the cross. Even so, we have to ask ourselves, what if "the joy of the Lord" is not the joy we have over being saved? What if the joy of the Lord is something completely different, and we are missing out on much-needed strength because we trust more in what our pastor says, then what the Bible says? As we are going to see, a misunderstanding of "the joy of the Lord" could also cause us to lose our salvation.
How did you get saved?
The Bible says in 2. Cor salvation is reconciliation to Yehovah (God has a name, and His name is Yehovah). Why do we need reconciliation? The Bible says in the book of Romans all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of Yehovah. What is a sin? In the book of 1. John sin defines as breaking the Torah. So why do we need reconciliation to Yehovah? Because we have all broken the Torah (the written law of Moses). How do we get saved? As all Christians know, we are saved by grace through faith in the cross and what Yeshua did for us when He died for our sins.
Hopefully, this is how you got saved. You understood your need for reconciliation and forgiveness, so you accepted the cross and Yeshua as your Lord and Savior.
Would you say you are now free to live any way you want because you are saved? I hope you agree with Paul in Rom 6:1 when his answer to the same question is no.
Let me then ask you this question, if you cant live any way you want, how do you know what is right and what is a sin? How do you know what not to do? The truth is, to understand how to live righteously, you need instructions on how to do so. The sad truth is this, when Christians believe Yehovah's instructions the Torah was done away with at the cross or it is to difficult to obey, they are rejecting the only way that can show them how to live righteously. The Bible says this in Rom 7:7 when Paul says we can not know what sin is if there is no Torah. If you cant live any way you want, but you believe the lie that says the Torah does not apply to you, how can you know how to live as a Christian?
In the book of Nehemiah chapter 8, verse 8-9, we see something that resembles a salvation experience. Perhaps you could even identify in some of what is being described here?
In Nehemiah 8:8, the Torah is being read to the people, and what happens next is exactly what Paul describes in Rom 7:7. Because the people hear and understand the Torah, it shows them their sin. When they know how much they have sinned, it grieves them, and they start weeping.
Perhaps this is somewhat identical to what happened when you first got saved? Someone showed you Yehovahs standard of righteousness, the Torah, and when you knew how much you had failed to live up to it, it grieved you.
In Nehemiah 8:9, Nehemiah and the priest do something rather strange. They tell people not to grieve and not to mourn because this is a holy moment. When the Torah shows someone their sin, it is a sacred moment because that individual now has the opportunity to get saved. Now they can accept Yeshua and become a child of God.
In the next verse, in Nehemiah 8:10, Nehemiah tells the people to celebrate and be joyful because the joy of the Lord is their strength. The reason for why they should be joyful is explained in the following verses from 11-18.
Now that they have heard the Torah read to them, and it has exposed their sins, they should be joyful because they now know how to live right. So according to the Bible, the joy of the Lord has got nothing to do with the cross. The joy of the Lord is what happens when the Torah is given to us, and we finally know how to live righteously.
Was this how you got saved? The Torah showed you your need for salvation (Rom 7:7), and it grieved you because you suddenly understood you had failed to meet God's standard of righteousness. (Rom 3:23). Your grief made you accept the cross and believe Jesus, the Son of God, died for your sins. But you also accepted the lie that says the Torah does no longer apply to you. When the Bible says in Nehemiah 8:8-16 the joy of the Lord is the joy we feel over finally understanding and knowing how to live righteously, how can you feel that joy when you believe the Torah does no longer apply to you? The truth is you can not feel the joy of the Lord if you believe the Torah does not apply to you. Why? Because if you believe the Torah does not apply to you, you have no way of knowing how to live righteously.
The joy of the Lord is the joy we feel over knowing how to live for Yehovah. We can only know how to live for Him if we believe in and obey the Torah. If we believe the Torah does not apply to us anymore, we do no longer know how to live righteously. If we do no longer know how to live righteously, we have no joy of the Lord. If we have no joy of the Lord, we have no strength because the joy of the Lord is our strength. And as we are going to see, if we have no joy over the Torah, we are not saved.
How did you get saved? You probably heard the Torah and understood how you had failed at obeying it. This pricked your heart with sorrow, so you grieved over your sins. In your grief, someone told you about the cross and what Yeshua did for you. When you heard there are reconciliation and forgiveness to be found, you accepted the cross in faith. Now you believe you are a child of God by faith in the cross, but also you think the Torah is a burden/impossible to obey/not to be followed under the dispensation of grace.
If you believe the Torah does no longer apply to you, how can you know how to live for God? You have no standard showing you what is right and what is wrong. The people in the book of Nehemiah were told to rejoice because now they understood the Torah and knew how to live righteously. Now they knew how to avoid sinning, and now they knew how to repent. This was the source of their joy. The Bible says if you do not share in their joy over the Torah, you do not know how to live for God. If you do not know how to live for God, you are not saved, and your faith in the cross can not save you. (James 2:10-26)
Then some would argue the book of Nehemiah was before the cross, so we can not use Nehemiah 8 to prove the joy of the Lord is the Torah anymore. But as we are going to see, they are wrong.
We Christians tend to have favorite Bible verses we use to encourage ourselves and others. One of the most famous ones would be John 3:16, for so God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. Have you ever actually read John 3:16 and seen what it says?
Most Christians believe it says something along the lines of "For so Jesus loved the world that He gave Himself the only begotten Son, so whoever believes in Him will have eternal life." If we take the time to read John 3:16, we will soon see it says, "for God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so whoever believes in Him will have eternal life."
The divinity of Yeshua (Jesus) is never in question. John 1 and 8:58 says Yeshua is God, but Yeshua is not the Father. It is the Father who gave us His Son because He, the Father, loves us. Who is the Father of Yeshua? Yeshua says in the Gospel of John if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. He also says He has the same character as His Father, and He can only do what He sees His Father doing.
How did Yeshua live His life? He always obeyed the Torah, and He taught His disciples to follow suit. Why? Because of the Father who loves the Torah and still loves the Torah. So by reading the Gospels, we see there is no way for Yeshua to have "done away with the Torah." There is also no possibility He could have agreed to, approved of any teaching that says the Torah is a burden and cant be obeyed. Why? Because the Gospels teach us, He taught His disciples always to follow it, and the Bible says the Torah is easy to obey. But most important of all, if He had agreed to a teaching that says the Torah is a burden, cant be obeyed, or if He had come to do away with it, it would be against His character. The proof of His divinity and unity with Yehovah is in His Torah obedience and His love for the Torah.
This is how we can know for sure the joy of the Yehovah is still His Torah. And if we want to share in that joy, we have to do what they did in the book of Nehemiah and celebrate the fact that now we know how to live for God.
So what about the cross and the joy over being saved?
Lets for a moment, examine what we know.
In the book of Nehemiah, the joy of the Lord is something that is given to us when we know how to live for Him. The only way we can know how to live for the Lord is the Torah, so it says in the book of Nehemiah. Why? Because Rom 7:7 says, the Torah shows us what sin and 1. John says the Torah teaches us how not to sin. This is why the book of 1. John says no one who is genuinely saved can decide to sin because a person who is genuinely saved has the Torah. If you understand and sincerely appreciate the cross and you have the Torah, you cant decide to shame such a precious gift as the cross by choosing sin. Because of the Torah, we know we need the cross, and we know how to live for Yehovah. Without the Torah, we would not know we needed the cross, and we would not know how to live for Yehovah after accepting the cross.
If there is no Torah, there is no cross. If there is no Torah, we do not know how to live for Yehovah after accepting the cross. But if we believe in, appreciate, and accept the Torah, there is salvation because the Torah shows us we need the cross. The Torah also gives us knowledge on how to properly live in this world as children of Yehovah. This is why we can agree with Nehemiah when he says the joy of knowing how to live for Yehovah is our strength. But this is also why we can see how dangerous it is to misunderstand the term "the joy of the Lord" because if we do misunderstand it, we can lose our salvation.