There is an unfortunate tendency among us as God’s people – when we are delivered from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light – to become sour and prunish – to scrunch up our faces and bemoan the sad state of the world. Rather than have faces full of joy and hearts full of gratitude, we look as though we’ve drunk a quart of vinegar. 

Why is this? Why do we respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ not with joy and liberation but with sorrow and acerbity? No doubt the reasons are many – both cultural and psychological. But one, which we see occurring in Nehemiah, is that we can become so overwhelmed with our personal and corporate sin, so overwhelmed with a sense of guilt, that we think it our fundamental duty to mourn and weep rather than to give thanks, to fast rather than to feast. The response of our fathers to this temptation will hopefully help us navigate these waters carefully and to become a thankful people.