This post is part of the Christian Writers blog chain. Our theme for this month is “Joy”. Please see the list to the right and visit my friends’ blogs to see what they have to say about this topic
Our church is having a Good Friday Tenebrae Service tonight. Tenebrae is a Latin word meaning shadows or darkness, and the service commemorates Jesus’ last days leading to the cross. With a combination of music, and Scripture readings from the Prophets and the Gospels, we’ll follow the path from light to darkness.
The candles will be lit during the opening song, “Jesus is the Light of the World”. As the service progresses with more songs and Scripture, the candles will be extinguished one by one. Total darkness comes after the singing of “The Power of the Cross” and a reading of John 19:30: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” The congregation will leave in silence (in the shadows, in the darkness) as the choir sings “Beautiful Savior”.
As you might imagine, it can be a solemn and touching service. Participants can find themselves grieving like the people of Israel when Ezra read the Law. In the eighth chapter of Nehemiah, we read of Ezra and other priests publicly reading the Word of God. Apparently, that had not been done for many years, and “all the people wept when they heard the words of the Law” (v9).
Nehemiah’s response to their weeping: “Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and 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.” Nehemiah 8:10-11 KJV
Nehemiah wasn’t telling them God’s Word should have no effect on them. He was saying the time to weep was over – it was now time to rejoice – much as described in Ecclesiastes 3:4, there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” At times, The Word should cause us to mourn over our sin, but The Word will also take us beyond that into great joy. And, as Nehemiah said, the joy of the Lord is our strength that overcomes and can turn us from grief to rejoicing.
In a Tenebrae service, such as many churches will have tonight, or in our own time of Bible study and meditation, we should be broken-hearted when we consider the suffering Jesus endured for us. It may bring tears to our eyes when we imagine the hammer’s ring as the nails are driven in, or remember His forlorn cry of “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” as the Father turned His face away.
But, we can’t stay there long. We should continue to what awaits – to what washes all the darkness away – the joy of the empty tomb! Yes, the joy of the Lord – Who He is and what He has done for us – is our strength that overcomes the darkness.
“Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:4-5
32 thoughts on “The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength!”
Our Maundy Thursday service is pretty much the same. We had that last night. Very somber and haunting by the end. The joy is gone… until Easter morning!
Thanks Pegg – I had read that some churches did include it as a Maundy Thursday service. Our service went wonderfully tonight – very somber as you say.
Praise God! Powerful Post! Thank you, Bill.
God Bless You!
Thank you Dei – God Bless you too.
Thinking about Him today… excellent Bill, thank you 🙂
Beautifully written. Not so much the physical pain, Jesus endured but his taking on the whole wrath of God so we don’t have to. Wow. We can’t even comprehend. Such a wonderful day to meditate on God’s power and glory through Jesus. Thank you for this post.
Thank you Carol – and you’re wlecome. Our choir sings a song call “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” that has a line “how deep the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away” that always brings tears to my eyes.
HE HAS RISEN! True joy rings out after the darkness. Thank the Lord we do not have to linger in the darkness, but can move on to a better place.
Great post. My Lenten commentary tells me that in times past the candles were extinguished one-by-one until a single candle remained. Known as the Christ Candle, it was carried out prior to the Canticle of Zechariah. At the end of the service (concluded in darkness) the choir banged their books against the choir stalls to simulate the sound of an earthquake. At this signal, the Christ Candle was carried back in as a foreshadowing of the Easter Vigil Service of Light. I love those old practices.
Peace and Blessings this Easter.
Thanks EG – We added a variation on that this year. One of our stained glass windows is the empty tomb. So at the end we lit a candle in front of it and put some backlighting on it so that the participants would see that as they walked out.
“But, we can’t stay there long.” Nicely said for Good Friday.
Thanks CH – we can’t be very effective for Christ if we’re stuck in grief
Very nice! I love this part: “Yes, the joy of the Lord – Who He is and what He has done for us – is our strength that overcomes the darkness.”
Thank you Sandi – I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Bill, what an encouraging post. We forget that celebrations don’t always include song and dance, but a quiet celebration of the heart “rejoicing in Him” Lovely post. I hope your evening went well.
Thanks Terrie – The Lord blessed us with a wonderful service – I believe His love and presence were felt by all of us there.
this year we had a similar service and left in darkness
Praise God Sunday is Party Day
biiiiiiiiiiiiiiig hug brother
Thank You Debra!
Just like the hopeless moment before the second plot point of a novel, we have that moment, when all looked lost. How must Jesus’ followers have felt at that moment? But we know what was coming next, and we know why it all happened, so we can have joy even in that moment.
Thanks Adam – it’s a great thing to already know what happened next.
I enjoyed this post and it reminded me of something that happened this weekend. There was a huge storm on Friday and my sister’s church had planned an inter-denominational church service for Good Friday evening. the power was out so the service went ahead by candle light which made it even more powerful than originally planned.
Thank You Tracy – that’s a wonderful story, and I bet it was powerful
Great Job Bill
What a beautiful idea! I’ve never been to such a service, but I’ll definitely look for one locally next year.
I recommend it! Some churches have theirs on Maundy Thursday, some on Good Friday.
Powerful post, Bill. Felt as though I were there. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Thanks Deborah – glad you enjoyed it.