The love / joy connection (see yesterday's blog) may be obvious, but the sorrow / joy connection may not be so obvious.
When my grandmother died at age 87, I went back to my hometown from south Texas. People from my first church pastorate, First Baptist Church of Whitt, came to the visitation and we sat right there in the funeral parlor with the casket open and laughed and had a wonderful time. All the while my grandmother’s body was a mere few feet away. But her spirit was at home with Christ in God.
This is not unique to me to have joy and sorrow mixed at a funeral. In fact all Christians have those bitter sweet emotions just like Jesus did at the grave of Lazarus. But it is unique for Christians to be able to have joy like the world could never understand or imitate.
The people of Nehemiah’s day had a similar experience, but not because of a death, but because of their own home coming to the promised land and the rebuilding of the walls around the city and the reading of the law. Ezra told the people, “Do not mourn nor weep…do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh. 8:9b,10b.
The reading of the law made the people sorrowful for their sin, yet they rejoiced because they knew that God had restored them. Believers understand that. We sorrow over the sins of the world, and the sins of our past. Yet we rejoice over the forgiveness and the presence of the Lord.
Nehemiah then implemented the feast of tabernacles or booths where the Israelites would gather branches and “camp” outdoors, even on their own rooftops, for a few days to remember their 40 years of wandering.
I personally believe that the Feast of Tabernacles should be remembered by Christians but not just to remember the Old Testament story how the people of God had to wander for 40 years. No the Tabernacles remind us that some day we too will leave behind our earthly tents and be clothed anew with our heavenly and perfect heavenly bodies.
I could not sorrow for long at my grandmother’s funeral. I knew her tabernacle in the casket was her old tent. But what made her “Nonna” to me, her spirit, was now in heaven with her preacher father and mother, her only daughter (my mother) and so many other loved ones. Her hearing was now perfect, she no longer said “ouch, ouch, ouch” as she walked as she did in her latter days.
When sorrows like sea billows roll, welcome the tears with joy because every tear is kept in a bottle by the Lord and the weeping will be turned into laughter when this tabernacle of twigs in the earthly realm turns to magnificent mansions in the heavenly realms.