“The joy of the Lord is my strength”—this is a familiar praise chorus inspired by Nehemiah 8:10. And if you read the verses surrounding this passage, you’ll understand why the people were overjoyed … through translation and interpretation they finally understood the message of the Scriptures.
Nehemiah 8:8 and 12 serve as the bookends for this great theme. Verse 8 describes the process of bringing God’s Law into the language of the people. “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.”
Many Israelites who were under Babylonian captivity no longer understood Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament. They needed to be taught the meaning of Scripture in their own language, Aramaic, before they could apply it to their lives.
Their immediate response was to weep, but Nehemiah exhorted God’s people to let the joy of the Lord be their strength. Their joyful reaction is recorded in verse 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.”
A founding ideal of Dallas Theological Seminary that continues to shape our values is our adherence to the Bible as the central text of study across our curriculum. A high view of Scripture as the inerrant Word of God has also placed our faculty and alumni at the center of many current translation projects, which share the goal of making God’s Word clear and understandable to people around the world.
It’s easy to take for granted the gift that these Bible translators have given us as we enjoy God’s Word so readily available in our own language. Let us celebrate God’s Word like these listeners—and may the joy of the Lord be our strength.