Read Nehemiah 10
Those who sealed it were:
Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hakaliah.
Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,
3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah,
4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluk,
5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,
6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,
7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,
8 Maaziah, Bilgai and Shemaiah.
These were the priests.
9 The Levites:
Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel,
10 and their associates: Shebaniah,
Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,
11 Mika, Rehob, Hashabiah,
12 Zakkur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,
13 Hodiah, Bani and Beninu.
14 The leaders of the people:
Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,
15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,
16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,
17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,
18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,
19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,
20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,
21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,
22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,
23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,
24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,
25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,
26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan,
27 Malluk, Harim and Baanah.
28 “The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand— 29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.
30 “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.
31 “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.
32 “We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.
34 “We—the priests, the Levites and the people—have cast lots to determine when each of our families is to bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Law.
35 “We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the Lord each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.
36 “As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there.
37 “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. 38 A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. 39 The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and olive oil to the storerooms, where the articles for the sanctuary and for the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the musicians are also kept.
“We will not neglect the house of our God.”
Last we left off, the returned exiles had gathered around the word of God and worshipped God for His goodness. In view of this reading, they confessed their previous failures to keep the Law of Moses before God and one another; now, the exiles seal an agreement among the people to ensure that they never again rebel against God as they had before. The people of Israel are recommitting themselves to the Lord by laying out a covenant before Him.
This covenant has the potential to affect lasting behavioral change because it is specific in its commitment and personal in its accountability. The people specify what it is about their behavior they will change, generally falling under three categories: a commitment to covenant faithfulness in marriage, in business dealings, and in supporting the work of God. These three broader commitments are bound together in a final oath—“we will not neglect the house of our God.”
The people’s covenant agreement, however, is meaningless unless someone puts his name behind it—if no one commits to be held accountable for the actions of the people, then there will be no permanence to what they swear. There were 84 leaders of the remnant out of Babylon who committed to stand in the gap and be accountable for the actions of the people, before God and one another. This is an immense commitment, given that the people at this point likely number over 50,000 if the genealogy in Nehemiah is to be believed. These leaders echo the principle we find again in James 3:1—God holds those who lead to a high standard, and they will answer for those they shepherd.
This text is a powerful picture of how to effectively turn from sin. First, Israel specifically identifies and confesses what they did wrong. Then, they specifically identify what they will do differently. Finally, they make clear how they will be held accountable to making lasting change. Joel 2:12-14 is clear that God’s heart for repentance is not that we would just make a show of knowing we sinned, but that we would offer him our hearts once more in obedience and in affection—exactly what the exiles do here.
- What did this chapter teach you about God? What did it teach you about humanity?
- Try to make your own repentance covenant:
- What sin do you need to repent of?
- What about your disobedience needs to particularly change?
- Who is going to hold you accountable, and how?
- Who can you stand in the gap for and hold accountable to repentance in your community? How might you help them commit to a faithful covenant relationship with Jesus?
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