Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning til noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose. In full view of the all the people - since he stood higher than all the people - Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.
Then Nehemiah - His Excellency - and Ezra, priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people, said to all the people. ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law,
He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your Stronghold.
The name “Stronghold” comes from Psalm 18 when David refers to the Lord as his Stronghold. Jesus is the rock upon which our lives are built. In our ministry, we put Jesus in the Eucharist in the literal centre of everything we do. He is the cornerstone.
Ezra’s words help us go deeper: the joy of the Lord is our Stronghold. Christian joy transcends our circumstances because we know how the story ends. God’s promises are so great and so much to be relied upon, that we can build our lives on the joy of the fulfillment of His promises. We can hide in joy. We can rest in joy. We can love from joy. We can minister from joy.
The story of Nehemiah has been a source of profound inspiration for the Stronghold family. Nehemiah is a revivalist who leads an incredible work of restoration. His vision and determination to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem sets those around him free to rebuild the city of God.
As a family, let us ask Jesus to give us the passion and direction to rebuild our families, workplaces, parishes and nations after this season of profound division. Let us start this work of rebuilding by positioning the joy of the Lord in the centre of our hearts.