“They read from the book, from the Law of God, with interpretation, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Then Nehemiah the magistrate, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were teaching the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the LORD your God. Stop mourning and weeping.’ (This was because all the people wept when they heard the words of the Law.) Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, ‘Hush! Because today is holy you should stop being so sorrowful.’ Then all the people went to eat, to drink, to send portions, and to enjoy a great celebration because they had understood the words declared to them.” Nehemiah 8:8-12
When we read and hear the words of our God and understand His holy Law, we have much over which to grieve and mourn for we as individuals and as a nation have all sinned against God and failed to live up to His perfect and holy will (cf. Rom. 3:9-23; Gal. 3:10).
The people of Israel, too, began to grieve and mourn when they heard the words of God’s Law and realized their sin against their God and Maker. Yet, because this day, the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, was a holy day unto the LORD, Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites told the people not to weep and mourn, but to eat, drink and rejoice in the LORD as He had commanded (cf. Deut. 16:13-15).
While we might, as we consider the Word of the LORD and gain understanding, grieve and mourn over our many sins against God — over our many failures to keep God and His Word first and foremost in our lives, over our failures to live according to God’s commandments and to love others as we should and consider their needs before our own — yet we have so much for which to rejoice and give thanks.
We can give thanks and rejoice that our God so loved us that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die on the cross for us and redeem us from all our sins and iniquities (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Gal. 3:13).
We can give thanks for the great privilege of gathering in His name, hearing His life-giving Word, and offering to Him our worship and praise.
And we can rejoice in the LORD and give thanks to Him for creating us, caring for us and blessing our labors.
We are to weep and lament over our sins and not take them lightly; but we also have reason to rejoice in the LORD, taking hold of His promises of mercy and forgiveness through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Phil. 4:4). Remember: “the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
And so, on this Thanksgiving Day, though we could weep and mourn over our sins, let us rejoice and be glad in the LORD and His abundant mercy toward us in Christ Jesus! Let us offer up praise and thanksgiving unto Him with rejoicing! Let us bless the LORD and forget not all His benefits toward us (cf. Ps. 103)!
Remember that the Bible says: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises unto Your name, O Most High …” (Ps. 92:1; cf. 1-4; Neh. 8:8-12).
O LORD God, we have sinned greatly against You and Your holy Law — we have failed to live up to Your holy commandments. Forgive us for the sake of Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead and grant us joy this day in Your grace and mercy and move us to offer up to You praise and thanksgiving for all Your blessings. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]