A. The people had just prayed and told God in prayer that they would renew their covenant with Him and now we see that they meant what they had said in their prayer. There should be actions taken after you say amen.
II. 10:1-27, The Renewing Fathers
A. V1a, In ancient times you didn’t sign a document, you sealed it. Here we see the important leaders, priests, and Levites who placed their seal of authority on the document. In placing their seal’s they agreed to the covenant and vouched for all those under their authority as well.
1. “The way someone signed a document in the ancient world was similar to the use of a wax seal in more recent times. A distinctive seal was pressed into soft clay. The pattern of the seal showed what authority issued that document.”
B. V1b-8, The Renewed Covenant started with Nehemiah. If there was anyone in the city who probably didn’t have to renew his covenant with God it would have been Nehemiah, being that he was already living rightly in accordance to God’s law. Even still, Nehemiah set the example and was the first to put his name on the list. The rest who signed the document were priests who were heads of households.
1. The word priest in the Hebrew can be defined “priests, principal officer or chief ruler”.
a) It is my conviction that this first list represents the chief rulers and principal officers, although they may have also been temple priests or of the family of the high priesthood (Aaronic Priesthood). So the highest of leadership was unified in setting the example and binding themselves to this covenant.
C. V9-13, Next you have a list of the heads of households for the Levites, who sign. The religious leaders set the example in religion. That might seem like common sense, but how few so called spiritual leaders really set the example and lead people spiritually according to God’s Word.
D. V14-26, These guys were the purely political leaders, they had nothing to do with the religious life of Israel but they too would lead their people into a right relationship with God.
E. Application: Of all the people those who set their seal would be the most accountable to keep the covenant, since their seal would be available for all to see. With leadership comes a higher responsibility to set the example, and it means being willing to be held to a higher standard as well.
III. 10:28-29, All Who Had Understanding and Knowledge
A. V28, The rest of the people gathered together to agree in the covenant and enter into it, although they did not get to place their seal on it. Anyone who was old enough to understand the covenant that they were entering into joined in it.
1. I think that this may be part of where the idea of the age of accountability comes from. Many people feel that unless someone is old enough to understand good and evil, and can discern the knowledge of God that God will not hold them accountable for their sins until this age. So babies that die would not go to hell, although they never personally accepted Jesus Christ.
B. V29, The nobles are called their brethren. Although the nobles had authority over them, they were still brethren. All men are created equal, they just at times have different stations of authority but that does not mean they are no longer equal. They had not only entered into an oath to obey God’s Law but also a curse should they fail to obey it.
1. It was due to an earlier covenant with God that they w ere in this situation that they were in right now. God had kept His end of the deal and gave them the land of promise, but they had broken their end of the deal and therefore had received the curse part of the covenant. They must have taken this oath and curse very seriously, being that they were still seeing the effects of disobeying it.
IV. 10:30-39, Articles of the Renewed Covenant.
A. Making this renewed covenant included keeping all of God’s laws, but they are going to note three articles in particular that they had recently been failing in. Not marring foreign wives nor giving their daughters to foreigners, keeping the Sabbath, and promising to not neglect the house of their God.
B. V30, Their first article of renewal was to affirm that they would not give their daughters to marry the foreigners nor would they take daughters of foreigners to marry their sons. This responsibility was one of the parents since marriages were arranged back then. The parents had sold their daughters to foreigners or taken a foreign wife for their sons likely due to economic or political reasons. This was a problem because with the foreign spouse came also the foreign religion. The Jews had strict laws on purity, such as the dietary laws, which would have made it impossible to live with a Gentile and obey God’s Word and likely would have ended up in compromise for the Jew.
C. V31, Secondly, they resolved to keep the Sabbath anew. Apparently they had begun to buy and sell on the Sabbath, likely because it meant one more day to make money on. Greed has always been and always will be a sin that has kept people from living in complete obedience to God’s Word. It takes faith to use your money or run your business in a way that is glorifying to God, but God blesses obedience and disciplines disobedience.
D. V32-39, Next they resolved to make sure they did not neglect the house of God. They promised to give their tithes as well as pay the yearly temple tax.
1. V32, They people were already burdened by the taxes from the kings of Persia, and the land was still dangerous and they were not rich. This was not an easy thing for them to do. Yet, giving to the Lord always costs us something and there will never be a good time to start tithing. According to the Law it was supposed to be one half of a shekel, but keeping in mind their current situations they decide to pay slightly less on this one tax. By the time of Christ though the tax is back to where it should be, at one-half shekel. It is not how much you give that is really all that important, although the word tithe does mean one tenth, but how much did it cost you to give. To one person giving 20 dollars is a lot, to another it is nothing, so it is not the amount but the amount it is to you. To them, one third of a shekel was a lot.
2. Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10). Tithing to the Lord is the one thing we are allowed to test God in, where He promises blessings if you do it in obedience and faith. That shouldn’t be our motivation though, we should do it out of worship or not do it at all. Giving to God our first fruits is a very healthy way to help protect us from the sin of greed and keeps our priorities and perspectives straight.
3. V39, “We will not neglect the house of our God” This is the key them of this chapter. The house of God had been neglected, both physically and spiritually. You can’t just give materially to God and think that is enough, giving to God materially doesn’t matter unless your heart is right about why your giving. Here we see that the people have decided to start giving back to God by living rightly as well as giving back to God by physically taking care of His house.
E. “The New Testament speaks with great clarity on the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private (1 Corinthians 16:1-4); that it must be generous, freely given, and cheerful (2 Corinthians 9).
If you are reluctant to be a giver as the Bible says you should, simply talk to those who are. Ask them if it has been a blessing or a curse in their life to give as God says to. God promises He will never owe us anything, and we cannot out-give God – though the return is often far better than dollars and cents.” –David Guzik
A. When the people said “Amen” to renewing their covenant with God they meant it and formed a document and sealed, starting by the good example of the leadership.
B. All the people of Israel who could understand gathered together to agree to the covenant and enter into the oath and curse of it; knowing all too well the consequences of not keeping it. Thankfully, we are now under the New Covenant of grace and we no longer obey God out of fear of curses. Instead we obey God because He first loved us so we want to love Him back.
C. They agreed to keep all of God’s Law, but made special note of their weak areas. It is a good idea to take special precautions against those areas that we are weak in so that we can walk in obedience to God.
D. Lastly, it is still the responsibility of ever Christian to give their tithes to God although we do it out of love instead of out of fear.