"'You must not be dejected and sad!' And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, 'That's right! Don't weep! For this is a day of holy joy, not of sadness.' So the people went away to eat a festive meal and to send presents; it was a time of great and joyful celebration because they could hear and understand God's words" (Neh. 8:10-12, TLB).
The Israelites had returned from 70 years of captivity. They had not heard the law read in many years. When Ezra read the Word of God and other priests interpreted it so the people understood, the effect was so great that the people began to weep over their sins. Confronted with God's law, their own lawbreaking broke their hearts. But after allowing an appropriate time of mourning over sin, the leaders reminded the people to rejoice and celebrate.
"Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:20-21, NKJV).
God shows us our sin so that we can be freed from it through his grace. His grace rules in our lives.
Are you caught in the awareness of your sin but unable to move on to the wonder of God's grace? Do you have the notion that it is very spiritual to remain in constant grief over sin? Jesus died and rose again to set you free from your sin so you could enjoy His grace. Acknowledge sin, turn from it and move on. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Lord, I rejoice in the grace You have poured out in my life.
Grace meets the sinner on the spot where he stands; grace approaches him just as he is. Grace does not wait till there is something to attract it nor till a good reason is found in the sinner for its flowing to him. . . . It was free, sovereign grace when it first thought of the sinner; it was free grace when it found and laid hold of him; and it is free grace when it hands him up into glory.
—Horatius Bonar (1808–1889), Scottish churchman and poet
Jennifer Kennedy Dean is Executive Director of The Praying Life Foundation and a respected author and speaker. She is the author of numerous books, studies and magazine articles specializing in prayer and spiritual formation. Visit her website for more information about her ministry.
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