And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 ESV
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 ESV
Mr. and Mrs. Bixby were having their thirtieth wedding anniversary, and one of the things they did was to renew their wedding vows. After they did that, Mrs. Bixby started to cry. Their marriage hadn’t always been a happy one. They had had some bad fights, and they had been separated for awhile. Mrs. Bixby had even spent some time with other men. When she thought of how the promises she had made when they got married had been broken and about all their hard times, it made her sad. But her husband comforted her and told her it wasn’t a time for crying. It was a day to be happy. They were married and happy to be together, and they had made their promises to each other new again. That was something to celebrate.
The same thing happened when Ezra had finished reading God’s law to the people. They started to weep when they thought of all the ways they had been unfaithful to the covenant the Lord had made with them, and of the way they had lived away from the promised land in exile. They had worshiped false gods and goddesses and broken God’s law many times. But now they had come together to hear the law again and to remember once again that they were God’s people. Ezra and Nehemiah told the people that it was a holy day, and that instead of crying they should be happy and celebrate. So they went home and had festive meals and made sure no one was without good food to celebrate with.
We also are sad when we think of the ways we sin against God and disobey his law. But God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be brought back to our Heavenly Father. Because of Jesus, God forgives our sins every day and calls us his people. Our sins might make us sad, but God’s forgiveness is a reason to celebrate!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the forgiveness you give us every day in Jesus. In His Name, Amen.