Chaos bounces from place to place , with no respecter of persons as it destroys and takes it’s victims. How can one celebrate? Does creativity truly and honestly reflect hope when surrounded in a shroud of hopelessness?
If you create with paint or in clay, how would you express the scene from this book in Nehemiah from the Old Testament?
The Law of Moses had just been read by Ezra the High Priest to the Israelite people. The Temple wall was was rebuilt. It was a joyful time of celebration. New Beginnings. The Jewish people were in exile for 70 years. No physical or spiritual connection to God. Their temple was destroyed. They felt abandoned. They painfully knew previous choices from their ancestors caused there own abandonment.
Finally, a long awaited physical connection of the reconstructed wall was completed. A spiritual connection was attempted in reading the Sacred Texts. The initial response was not filled with joy.
“ 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square”…Ezra read the Law of Moses.
How could they rejoice? So many laws to keep and they felt so weak. Depression, despair and dejection covered them like a blanket, questioning how to respond.
Nehemiah (the governor) and Ezra would have none of this. They heard the same words but their hearts received something far different. God was not giving His people simply a set of mere rules to follow. These were tools to create a connection for building intimacy. This intimacy would go from people to people and from His people and Himself.
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
12 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. (NIV)
Nehemiah and Ezra knew, this people would never be able to accomplish the requirements on their own. That did not stop Nehemiah from going forward. He commanded this day to be one of celebration. Was the governor being heartless, uncaring? No! Nehemiah stated truth:
“Do not grieve for
THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH”.
As the Jews embraced the reality of their freedom from the burden of carrying the law on their shoulders, they received joy. They understood it was not in themselves where their strength was found but in the strength of the Creator of the Universe and His Joy over them.
Read verse 12 again to understand why they were able to have joy and to celebrate after hearing the Law.
12 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.
Celebration does not always come easily. The discipline of celebration is not always going out participating in a big party. Celebration is hard work at times. Celebration may be an inner discovery instead of an outer activity. Life does not always hand you a bowlful of cherries to enjoy. What happens if while eating the cherries, you come across a pit? How do you respond? Celebrate and Dance
“ How can a person be joyful in a pain-filled world..”
This became an honest question for a fellow creative. She suffered a hairline fracture in her wrist which caused not only extreme physical pain, but also emotional chaos. It was a time when she was stepping into a season of creative classes and personal growth. Suddenly the tiny super ball of chaos started zinging back and forth in her life. Celebration and Worship! HOW? Just as the Jews questioned Nehemiah when the LAW was read to them, my friend had the same questions when this happened to her wrist?
How did my friend cope?
THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH!
As my friend went to God with her pain, she said “Yes” to worship. The “Yes” to worship allowed her to receive the Joy of the Lord to be her strength.
The result was worship and celebration in this beautiful painting..
“Worshiping with art seriously is therapy for pain-physically or pain of the soul”¹
Come Celebrate and dance. To celebrate causes you to take a step beyond where you might be and engage deeper into where you can be. The strength of Creator of the Universe and His Joy over you is your strength.
Are you experiencing a physical or emotional burden?
Are you willing to take a chance to celebrate and dance?
Did you see artwork from the story in Nehemiah as a people finding it easy or difficult to worship?
Can you take the time to create their fear or express their joy?
Where do you go for strength in your time of pain?
Who is your strength?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment line concerning your journey. We are all on this path together.
¹Quote from my friend concerning what God is doing in her through worship and creativity.