“How often the discovery of something new in the loveliness of the Lord Jesus has brought with it the discovery of some new corruption in our own hearts. . . . God will never plant the seed of His life upon the soil of a hard, unbroken spirit. He will only plant that seed where the conviction of His Spirit has brought brokenness, where the soil has been watered with the tears of repentance as well as the tears of joy.” (Redpath)
I remember, just after my son Samuel was born, on my knees, weeping, after failing again(!!!). My convictions had been exposed as soft and pliable, all too easily left behind. I was, yet again, not good enough. Not strong enough. A loser. Weak. Pathetic.
And it was here, racked with guilt, in searing heart-pain, overwhelmed by the darkness, that I had An Experience. One of the most profound experiences of my life, where God had broken through that pitch black in the most undeniable of ways.
And that’s really (sadly) the truth, isn’t it? My man Redpath, in the earlier quote, calls it, “some new corruption,’ and ‘brokenness,’ where my tears have drenched the soil and then (often only then) the beautiful flower of God’s grace sprouts, surprising me with persistence and unwillingness to let me sit in the dark alone.
This is the situation in Nehemiah 8. The people hear the Book of the Law, see that they’ve not kept their end of the deal (Now, today, of course, there’s no Law, no deal – only grace and love), and they feel their souls, collectively, crack. Their wailing creating the soundtrack to their lowest moments – like mine did. And, into that pain/that darkness/those tears, Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites (the clergy of the day) wade in with new commands – “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” And “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.” And, again, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
This is the message of the Scriptures. Whoever said it was primarily a book of sin and judgment is not telling you the truth. There is sin, but that’s not all it is, it’s not even the main idea!
Just like me, I am a sinner, but that’s not all I am, not what I am way down in the depths of my being. Down there, I am a child of God.
And when I start to think otherwise, when I’m on my knees starting to believe that I am a loser, pathetic, or not enough (of anything) – then God bursts through, fantastically, with a fresh word, with a message of joy, peace, and love. He picks me up, dusts me off, and tells me the same thing he told a woman in the middle of Jerusalem, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” … And Jesus said, “Neither do I.” Then, He says not to do it again.
And she/(and I)/we are new, the lights have been turned on, and we are set free – with the “joy of the Lord” as our strength – to actually not do that again. So we don’t.