“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words which that were declared unto them” (Nehemiah 8:10-11).
Wherever the love of God's Word has been restored and repentance has resulted, there will always come forth a mighty wave of joy and celebration. But there is a kind of phony joy and false celebration in the land today: It is the celebration of self and idolatry—the dancing around the golden calf! We need great discernment to know the difference between the true joy of repentance and the false rejoicing of idolaters.
Moses and Joshua came down from the mount to a great shout in the camp: “It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery (in triumph) . . . but the noise of them that sing do I hear” (Exodus 32:18). They were shouting, singing, and dancing and Moses knew all along it was of the flesh. He knew they were a stiff-necked, rebellious people, full of lust, fornication, nudity, and sensuality. It was the shout of idolatry!
Can you tell the difference? If there is no preaching of the Law to convict of sin —no weeping or faces on the ground—if there is no love of God’s reproving Word—no repentance—then there is no spiritual shout, no godly song! Be careful! You may get caught up in the song of idolatry.
Why was there such great happiness, such a festive spirit of joy in this revival recorded in Nehemiah? “Because they had understood the words that were declared unto them” (Nehemiah 8:12). In other words, they discerned and took it to heart; they obeyed!