Joy dishwashing liquid, a product of Procter & Gamble, first appeared on the market in 1949. It was one of the earliest products to have a lemon scent, and contained emollients to protect one’s hands from drying out. It’s slogan was “From grease to shine in half the time.”
Well, it’s good to have clean dishes, and it’s good to have an inviting fragrance. It’s especially good not to dry out and to be able to say your hands are clean – especially if you are speaking to the Lord!
When you have come clean with God, when all accounts are caught up and settled with Him, when you know there are no hidden closets or dark secrets in your heart, when you shout as you sing “It is well, it is well, with my soul!” — then you know the strength that comes with the joy of the Lord!
When Nehemiah first said “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10), he said it to a grief-stricken multitude. The long-forgotten Book of the Law had been found—which was very good news indeed–and Ezra, with the help of some Levites, had begun to read and explain it to the people. But instead of being joyful, they became very sad. As Nehemiah recounts,
…They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. Then Nehemiah… said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. …This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. (Neh. 8:8-12).
They wept because they were sorry for their shortcomings. But their weeping was turned to joy, as speaks the psalmist, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5). “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Ps. 30:11).
What made the difference in these before and after scenes? I believe, in a word, this transformation was a result of brokenness. Brokenness comes when you fully realize you cannot please God on your own. The best you can muster is still just so many dirty rags! (See Isaiah 64:6). You turn to God defeated and ask for His help. Then comes joy. You have dug into the nourishment of the Vine, and you have found it sufficient, then to your astonishment, you notice ‘joy fruit’ has blossomed!
“The joy of the Lord is a joy arising from our interest in the love and favour of God and the tokens of his favour. / Holy joy will be oil to the wheels of our obedience. / The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies, and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” (Matthew Henry).
“Religious joy, properly tempered with continual dependence on the help of God, meekness of mind, and self-diffidence, is a powerful means of strengthening the soul.” (Adam Clark’s Commentary)
Yes the joy of the Lord is your strength. It grows of its own accord when you collapse in earnest upon that Vine and soak deep of its nourishments. The Joy of the Lord will cause you to “shine in half the time.” The psalmist wrote, “Joy comes in the morning,” but sometimes too it comes in the mourning.