Walking Through Ephesians
“Israel’s Agreement with God”Categories: Lessons on Leadership
In Nehemiah chapter 10, Israel is not making a covenant with God. She is making a firm agreement to live according to the existing covenant that God had established through Moses. In essence, this was Israel’s way of saying that they were going to start taking God seriously. They showed they meant business in two ways.
First, by their willingness to write it down and sign their names. Second, by binding their promise with a curse and with an oath. In other words, they said in their agreement, “Lord, if we don’t keep this promise then may we receive the curses that are found in Your law for disobedience.”
Let’s look at the three specific promises they made to God.
Promise number one is when they say, “We will maintain our distinctness in personal relationships. We will stand out from the crowd when it comes to our choices about who we allow ourselves to be closely aligned with. We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the people around us or take their daughters for our sons” (Neh. 10:30). The concern here is not racial; it’s religious. The Law said specifically, “If you marry pagan peoples, it will affect your walk with God” (Ex. 34:15-16). When it comes to trusting God, isn’t that the real issue for many of us when it comes to our relationships? Are we willing to put our trust in God or in people?
Second, “We will maintain our distinctness in our money making.” They said to God in their agreement, “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” (Neh. 10:31). There is a time for business and there is a time to forget about business. Israel was making a vow to be governed by a higher principle than profit. Once again, the real issue is trusting God. Are we going to trust God to make up what we give up?
Finally, they said, “We will maintain our distinctness in matters of faith” (Neh. 10:32-39). At the very end in verse 39 they close by saying, “We will not neglect the house of our God.” In other words, taking God seriously meant that Israel was going to be conscientious about the care and maintenance of the temple and its activities. Israel made promises to put God’s will first in their homes, business and in their faith. Once again, they were pledging to demonstrate their distinctness to the nations around them by showing how much they trusted God when those first fruits of harvest came in. They were saying we are going to trust God to bring in the rest of the harvest. We’re going to put Him first.
For us today, in Nehemiah’s day the place where God dwelled was the Temple, that is the place they said, “We will not neglect.” Where does God live now? Today the house of God is within you. Talk about a mind-boggling concept! This passage urges us to place the highest priority on the inner person where Jesus Christ resides, where the Holy Spirit has built His temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
God doesn’t try to trick us with fine print. We’ve all signed documents that we didn’t read closely, and we found out later that we wish we had because we didn’t read the fine print. God doesn’t put fine print in the terms of His covenant. He is honest and up front about what He wants.
“If you’re going to follow Me and come into My kingdom, you’re going to put Me before all other relationships. You’ll put Me ahead of all other agendas. You’ll put Me ahead of all other choices.” To be Lord at all, means He’s Lord of all. He wants to be taken seriously.