‘Then all the people went away . . . with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.’ Nehemiah 8.12
Many people outside the church have the impression that Christianity is negative and quite gloomy, a faith with an awful lot of things they are not allowed to do. The trouble is that they probably get this impression from those inside the church!
This chapter in the book of Nehemiah is so exciting; something wonderful happens to the people. They are listening to the law being taught (part of what we would call the Old Testament, and often thought of as a bit dull) and are filled with joy as they begin to understand what they are hearing.
Part of what brought them great joy was discovering the personal nature of God. Rather than simply hearing words and laws, they discovered something of the one who gave those words and laws. In verse 10, it is said the joy of the Lord was their strength – not just an abstract sense of happiness, but rather something coming from the person of God.
Thinking about our own faith, our calling is always to take the relational aspect of our faith seriously. At the heart of Christianity is our belief that Jesus is alive and calls us in to a relationship with him. The more we discover about this relationship, the more our faith will be full of joy.
Take a moment right now to come back to this relationship around which your faith is centred. Speak to Jesus. What is it you would really like to say to him?
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The Revd John Ryeland, Director of The Christian Healing Mission