Summary: In order to find true joy, let God's Word touch your mind, heart and will. In other words, understand it, celebrate it and do it.
In his book, Dangers, Toils & Snares, John Ortberg talks about the days when he took his children to “the shrine of the Golden Arches”, where they always lusted for the meal that comes with a cheap little prize. In a moment of marketing genius, McDonalds executives christened it the “Happy Meal”, convincing children everywhere that they’re not just getting fries, McNuggets and a cheap little toy; they’re getting happiness!
The problem with the Happy Meal is that the happy wears off, and they need a new fix. No child discovers lasting happiness in getting one. You never hear any kid say, “Remember that Happy Meal? What great joy I found there!”
Happy Meals bring happiness only to McDonalds. You ever wonder why Ronald McDonald wears that grin? Twenty billion Happy Meals, that's why.
Ortberg says, “When you get older, you don't get any smarter; your happy meals just get more expensive.” (John Ortberg, Dangers, Toils & Snares: Resisting the Hidden Temptations of Ministry, Multnomah, 1994, pp.99-100; www.PreachingToday.com)
How right he is. There are a lot of adults still looking for happiness in bigger and more expensive “toys”, but they never find lasting happiness.
So the question I want to explore this morning is: How can we find true and lasting happiness? How can we find that place of real joy? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Nehemiah 8, Nehemiah 8, where we discover how God’s people in Nehemiah’s day found real joy.
Nehemiah 8:1-2 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. (ESV)
That’s the Jewish New Year! The trumpets blow, everybody takes a day off, and they gather to celebrate the goodness of the Lord. Only this time, Ezra is reading the Bible out loud to everyone.
Nehemiah 8:3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. (ESV)
They paid attention to what was being read.
Nehemiah 8:4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. (ESV)
That’s six on his right side and seven on his left.
Nehemiah 8:5-6 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (ESV)
Bible scholars estimate that there were 30,000 to 50,000 people there that day. Can you imagine that – a stadium full of people, praising God together, shouting “Amen!”, and then bowing low with their faces to the ground.
Nehemiah 8:7-8 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (ESV)
As Ezra reads the Bible, several men spread out among the people to translate it and explain it so everyone could understand it. Most of the people had grown up in Babylon where they had lost the language of their ancestors. They’re back in Jerusalem, but they all spoke Aramaic, the language of the Babylonians. As a result, they couldn’t understand the language in which the Bible was originally written – the Hebrew language. So Ezra’s men had to translate it and explain it to them as it was being read.
They did this from sun-up till the middle of the afternoon (vs.3). It was a long day, but as a result the people understood the Bible. They grasped its meaning since it was clearly put in a language they could understand, and that’s what you and I must do if we want to find true and lasing happiness. If you want to find that place of real joy, then get to…
KNOW GOD’S WORD.
Understand the Bible. Comprehend it. In other words, let it touch your mind.