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The Simchah of the Lord is Our Strength

The Simchah of the Lord is Our Strength

Candace Payne
THE Simchah of the Lord Is Our Strength

Look, I’m not one to stereotype, but I gotta say, deep down inside every worship leader, there’s a part of them that’s (more than) slightly obsessed with entertainment. I mean, who doesn’t love a good stand-up comedy routine, a Broadway musical, a thrilling action flick, or a live and intimate theater stage production? We all do, right? We cannot help it. We are creatives. We are storytellers. We are visionaries who often see through an invisible veil to imagine with lyrics and melody the aches and joys of a collective gathering of people.

We take great measure and care in creating song lists in the hope of touching the heart of God and developing a familiar pallet for His goodness and presence. Entertainers, entertainment, and art often long to tap into the unimaginable and intangible and allow us a brief moment to feel, flee, and even furiously fight against the difficulties of our everyday realities. I often think this is what we see in the hopes of the people occupying our church chairs.

Everyone Wants Something More

Everyone wants something more in life, right? We want to feel something, to escape something, and to fight for something. But what exactly is this “something more”? I mean, as worship leaders, we quickly want to answer with “Jesus” because it’s always true and valid. But, for fun, let’s think a little differently about this answer.

What do we all want deep down?

For what I’ve seen in my life of human behavior and commonality, I think the answer is joy. We all want to feel joy, but we can never seem to get enough of it. It’s like we’re starving for it, but we can never satisfy our hunger.

Even more so, when I think of the Evangelical, Western American Church, I see an emaciated bride, full of hope, doctrine, some biblical literacy, even, but starving for joy. Why? This is an incongruency I feel we need to call out. Why do we ignore the fact that having fun, enjoyment, and joy in our worship sets is okay? It seems like we shame these emotions into a corner and focus solely on eliciting tears and emotional responses that may not be genuine and force a fake sense of repentance.

What’s up with that? I think it is because we all could use a lesson in Hebrew. No, seriously.

The Hebrew Term for Joy

I just discovered that the Hebrew term for joy is “simchah”. This word appears in scripture about 92 times and is used to describe a range of emotions, including joy, happiness, gladness, pleasure, and even a joy that is considered to be not just from God, but of God. Perhaps you are familiar with the verse that says, “the joy of the Lord is your strength”?


Simchah Joy T-shirt


However, this verse is often taken out of its original context. It is found in the book of Nehemiah, not in Psalms or in a cool, artistic proverb. Nehemiah highlights a challenging period of rebuilding the devastation and breakdowns of generations who had forgotten their God and their identity from Him. In order to fully understand this verse, we need to read Nehemiah chapter 8, verses 1-11. The context of this verse is important.

Nehemiah 8:1-11

Ezra Reads the Law

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. 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. 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. 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. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites,[a] 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,[b] and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

This Day Is Holy

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.”

It was not spoken to a group of happy, healed, and hopeful people, but rather to the children of Israel, no longer enslaved but not standing in their identity as freed children of God, either. They had not heard the law of Moses in years, and this was a directive to them to not be too hard on themselves. The message was not just for elders or men, but for all of God’s chosen people (women, children, ANY) who were in the crowd and could listen and understand.

Leave Weeping Behind and Rejoice

After hearing the word of God, the people were convicted and overwhelmed, and all they could think of was weeping. However, Nehemiah and the Levites (the modern-day equivalent of worship leaders) encouraged them to leave and rejoice. They were even instructed to wipe their faces, celebrate with friends, have meals, festivals, and exchange gifts with each other. The people were given the words of God, and with that, they were given His joy as well. This joy would give them the strength to once again remember who they were and Whose they were.

Hey, my fellow worship leaders! In times like these, we need the joy of the Lord more than anything else when we come together. We’re not strong enough to face the world or the Word without it, right? So let’s stay in the Word, hear it, speak it, and sing it with conviction. And let’s not forget to encourage each other to dance, sing, and celebrate the SIMCHAH of the Lord because that’s where we gain our strength.

If I could offer some encouragement to every worship leader who reads this, I would want to inspire you to measure the success of a great Sunday gathering by the smiles, gift-giving, and laughter that take place rather than emotionalism, weeping, wailing, and downcast shoulders as people leave and head towards the parking lots.

Today, I pray that the joy of the Lord will strengthen you and those you lead.

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