And all the people went their way . . . to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. (Nehemiah 8:12)
The only joy that reflects the worth of God and overflows in God-glorifying love is rooted in the true knowledge of God. And to the degree that our knowledge is small or flawed, our joy will be a poor echo of God’s true excellence.
The experience of Israel in Nehemiah 8:12 is a paradigm of how God-glorifying joy happens in the heart. Ezra had read the word of God to them and the Levites had explained it. And then the people went away “to make great rejoicing.”
Their great rejoicing was because they had understood words — the true words of God.
Most of us have tasted this experience of the heart burning with joy when the word of God was opened to us (Luke 24:32). Twice Jesus said that he taught his disciples for the sake of their joy.
- John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
- John 17:13, “These things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
And what we mainly see in the word is the Lord himself — God himself — offering himself to be known and enjoyed. “The Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:21).
The point is that if our joy is going to reflect the glory of God, then it must flow from true knowledge of how God is glorious. If we are going to enjoy God duly, we must know him truly.