This occurred during the 5th century BC, when over 42,000 Israelites had just returned to Jerusalem from their exile that had began while under Babylonian rule. Nehemiah had responded to the call God put on His heart to rebuild the city of Jerusalem for Israel. As the people gathered together back in their "new" home, the Israelites asked Ezra the prophet to read God's law. They understood God's ways and heart through His words and were moved to weep and mourn as they were convicted of their sin. However, though they were correct in their understanding of both God and their sin, Nehemiah and the other leaders taught them to rejoice in this day as Holy to the Lord. The Lord had forgiven them and restored them to their land so there was no more need to be sorry, but instead a call to celebrate in gratitude and rejoicing. The joy of the Lord was actually to bring life and strength to them, to restore their hearts and spirits just as God had restored them to their land.
True joy still has this effect today. It lifts us out of grief and despair. Joy gives us strength, life, healing and hope! Just as Proverbs 17:22 says, "A joyful heart is good medicine." Who has God been to you and how have His ways, love and forgiveness given you cause to rejoice and hope again?
"Nehemiah said, 'Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.' The Levites calmed all the people, saying, 'Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.' Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them." Nehemiah 8:10-12
Furthermore, this is the time of year many Jews still celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, which represents restored fellowship with the Lord and is associated with God's presence dwelling among His redeemed people as He promised in Exodus 29:44-45 and John 14:23...
“So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God."
"Jesus replied, 'Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.' "