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In Nehemiah 10:1-Daniel : are the names of those who put their seals under the agreement. After having stopped doing evil, they now want to learn to do good (Isaiah 1:16-Esther :).
Making an agreement or covenant, no matter how well intentioned, is a negation of man’s inability to fulfill his obligations. This is evident at Sinai, where they have committed themselves to do everything God says (Exodus 24:3; Exodus 24:7; Acts 7:53), and under Josiah (2 Kings 23:3; Jeremiah 3:10).
Making a covenant gives the impression that things will improve in the future. But in man there is no guarantee for that. On the contrary. Every promise made by a person not to fall into a certain mistake shows a lack of self-knowledge. Yet in those days the law is the foundation of God’s dealings with man. That is why it is not to blame these Israelites for imposing this obligation on themselves. It indicates their sincere desire to comply with God’s will.
It is only with the coming and rejection of Christ that the foundation of God’s dealings with man changes. The cross is the great turning point. At the cross, the utter hopelessness of expecting anything good from man has become fully apparent. Anyone who still places himself on the foundation of the law has not yet grasped the meaning of the cross. But until then man has been under self-imposed responsibility to obey God’s statutes. That is why it is the right path for those who join the covenant here.
Names of Nehemiah and the Priests
Nehemiah is the first to put his signature. Then twenty-two priests put their signatures. Remarkably, Ezra’s name is missing. Would he understand that a signature is not a guarantee? What’s good for one person, another doesn’t need to have any part in it. Ezra probably understands, through more insight into who God is and who man is, that God does not call him to sign. This kind of distinction between believers can be found in the church in Rome. There we find weak and strong believers. They must learn to interact and tolerate one another in matters relating to conscience (Romans 14-15).
Names of the Levites
After the priests seventeen Levites sign the covenant. Among them many have been the mouths of the assembly in prayer (Nehemiah 9:2; Nehemiah 9:5). This shows that they themselves are impressed by what they have said, and that they do not want to impose burdens on others that they themselves refuse to touch. Those who lead in prayer should also lead in any other good work.
Names of the Leaders of the People
After the Levites forty-four of the heads of the people have signed that they want to keep God’s commandments. As heads of the people they do the same for all those they represent and over whom they have influence by their position. Their names are mentioned here for their honor as men working diligently to revive and maintain the service of God in their land. The memory of such men will be a blessing.
It is noteworthy that most of those previously mentioned as heads of houses (Nehemiah 7) are mentioned here among the first of the heads of people who have signed the covenant. It is also remarkable that many who are heads today bear the same name as those who are heads at the exodus from Babylon (Ezra 2:3-Habakkuk :).
The Rest of the People
The children are also involved in the covenant. They are part of the people of God and share in their privileges and responsibilities. They are sanctified in the parents, who have the obligation to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). There are also proselytes who sign. These are “all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands”.
The Self-Imposed Obligations
All those who have entered into the agreement are called “kinsmen”. They all take the same place before God. Even the “nobles” among them are “kinsmen”. Faithfulness to God humbles the high and increases the low. They are connected not only by family ties, but also by a common desire. They all want to obey the law of God.
The nobles join the covenant . The people affirm with a curse and an oath that they will obey the law. They solemnly declare their sincerity before God, invoking His righteous wrath when they act unfaithfully.
As an application to us who are not under the law, we can say that the commitment they make to obey the law is for us a renewal of the desire to obey. Obedience is a fundamental principle in the Christian’s life in every area of his life: family, society and church. For us the admonition of Barnabas, who encourages the church in Antioch to remain to the Lord with the purpose of their hearts (Acts 11:23), applies to all the areas mentioned.
Nehemiah 10:29-Obadiah : describe the obligations to which the people submit themselves and their families. The covenant covers
1. their personal walk (Nehemiah 10:29),
2. their children in view of the matrimonial obligations they enter into (Nehemiah 10:30), and
3. the keeping of the sabbath and the sabbath year (Nehemiah 10:31).
So the first obligation is for each one personally, the second for the children. If there is no obedience in personal or family life, God cannot possibly be honored. Obedience brings about separation from the world. Friendship with the world is given up and instead there is dedication to God. They want to walk in God’s law, that is, in submission to Holy Scripture. Personal obedience to God’s Word is the starting point.
Secondly, they want to maintain the separation of the nations of the land, and therefore they do not want to allow their children to enter into an unequal yoke. Separation from evil and dedication to God is the first consequence of obedience.
Thirdly, they want to honor God by keeping the sabbath and not give in to greed in response to what the nations offer on that holy day. The sabbath is the peace of God in which His people may share.
They fourthly pledge to leave the land fallow in the seventh year, for because they did not, they were transported to Babylon at that time (Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 26:33-Habakkuk :). It also means that they will not claim the debts their brethren owe them, and therefore will not give in to the spirit of domination. The sabbath year is the year of release and remission (Deuteronomy 15:1-Exodus :).
In that spirit God wants us to treat our brothers and sisters. These are all lessons for us if we want to give Christ His place as Head and act according to the unity of His body, the church, and preserve the unity of the Spirit. Have we not been unfaithful to the Word of God? We have boasted on our position in Christ, but we have not personally submitted to God’s Word. The voice of people in the church sounds louder than the voice of God through the Word. Tradition has more authority than Scripture.
Haven’t we also lacked true separation? We may be separated from church systems, but in our dealings and walks we resemble people of the world. Hasn’t the spirit of the world come into our homes and into the churches? What does church separation say when we are connected to the world in other ways?
Are we not cool in our dealings with God-fearing believers from whom we sometimes differ in a slight way, while we deal with worldly people in a warm-hearted manner? All these questions are better answered now than before Christ’s judgment seat.
The sabbath speaks of the peace that Christ has given us through His work. But do we not fall short of that rest when we believe that we can gain a certain merit, a certain profit, on the basis of something in ourselves, is it not with God than surely it is with our fellow Christians?
And what about life in faith? Leaving the land fallow in the seventh year represents the confidence that God will provide even if it seems to us that things are going wrong. It is an acknowledgment of God’s right to the land. That acknowledgment determines us with God Himself. Is it really only about Him in our lives? We can ‘come together on a Godly foundation’, ‘break bread in a Scriptural way’, ‘maintain the testimony’, and do all kinds of other things that are only perceptible and verifiable externally, while our appreciation of the eternal and unseen decreases further and further, and we only live for the here-and-now.
The fifth obligation, that of not claiming debts, is related to the previous one. Are we not often demanding of our fellow believers the more we lose sight of eternal things and live for the present? “Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9). The end of this dispensation is in sight. It is high time that we stop demanding of each other, and start living in the awareness of all that has been forgiven us by God. A demanding attitude prevents fellowship. If we judge it, we will together be able to uphold and honor God and His truth.
One Third of a Shekel for the House of God
Now follow obligations concerning the house of God. Caring for the house of God – which is mentioned nine times in Nehemiah 10:32-Malachi :, once in each verse and twice in Nehemiah 10:36 – occupies a great place in the agreement. There is no mention of the wall, although it is the main subject of this book. The great touchstone of faithfulness to God is the maintenance of His house, the temple, the maintenance of those who serve in it, and the obeying of the statutes that govern order in the house.
If in the individual lives of the members of God’s people everything is directed toward God and lives are arranged according to His will, the common interest will also develop in prosperity. This is expressed in the care for the house of God, which is now the church of God. There will be a desire to arrange everything in the church as God prescribes in His Word (1 Timothy 3:15). There will be sufficient means to maintain the visible testimony. If there is no spirituality, hearts and purses will remain closed. If there is such a mind, both will open.
The original amount to be paid per head is half a sickle (Exodus 30:13). It is possible that because of the poverty of the people this cannot be paid. But then we see that the poverty of the people is not a barrier. If the consciences are exercised, the possible will be given and sometimes more than the possible (2 Corinthians 8:1-Deuteronomy :). God will then make sure that the lesser leads to the same result as the greater. This makes His greatness shine all the more, as is always the case where man relies more on God’s goodness.
Provisions for the House of God
Through the contribution of one third of a sickle a year, the following provisions can be made, through which the work in the house of God and the feasts connected with it can progress:
1. The showbread.
2. The continual grain offering.
3. The continual burnt offering.
4. The sacrifice for the sabbaths.
5. The sacrifice for the new moon.
6. The appointed times (Passover, Pentecost and Feast of Booths).
7. The holy things (peace offerings).
8. The sin offerings to make atonement for Israel.
9. All the work in God’s house.
“The showbread” – these are the twelve showbreads – represents the whole people. The unity of the people can no longer be seen through the scattering, but for God that unity is there. The remnant may think of it in their worship. This is the first thing that is brought to God’s attention by the contribution and is therefore also the first thing that is placed in front of our attention.
The “continual grain offering”, that is the daily grain offering, speaks of the Lord Jesus in His life on earth as perfectly devoted to God. The “continual burnt offering”, that is the daily burnt offering, speaks of the Lord Jesus in His full surrender to God in His death on the cross. The sacrifice for the “sabbaths” shows the work of the Lord Jesus in His result: rest for God and rest for the believer. The sacrifice for “the new moons” sees the work of Christ as the basis for the restoration of Israel.
The “appointed times”, i.e. the three great feasts, indicate the great results of Christ’s work, namely the deliverance of a people from the power of sin (Passover), the coming into being of the church (Pentecost), and the establishment of the kingdom of peace (Feast of Booths). “The holy things”, that is the peace offering, indicate the fellowship of believers among themselves and of the believers with God and the Lord Jesus. “The sin offerings” are “to make atonement for Israel.” Christ works atonement between the holy God and sinful man, an atonement on the basis of which once all things – not: all men! – to be reconciled with God (Colossians 1:20-Song of Solomon :). All work that takes place in God’s house takes place on the basis of the atonement.
Supply of Wood for the House of God
To know the will of God often the lot is cast, that is to say, in the time of the Old Testament. The last time we read about throwing lot is at the beginning of Acts (Acts 1:26). It happens
1. when dividing the land among the tribes (Numbers 26:55; Joshua 14:2; Joshua 18:10);
2. to discover a guilty one (Joshua 7:14; 1 Samuel 14:42; Jonah 1:7);
3. to appoint the first king, Saul (1 Samuel 10:19-Ecclesiastes :);
4. to resolve disputes (Proverbs 18:18);
5. in the division of various Levite orders (1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 25:81 Chronicles 26:13; Luke 1:9);
6. appointing who would dwell in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:1) and
7. to appoint Judas Iscariot’s substitute (Acts 1:26).
Occasionally there is the casting of the lot, without learning the will of God. We see that the lot is cast superstitiously by Haman in order to know the time that would be most suitable for exterminating the Jews (Esther 3:7; Esther 9:24). The soldiers cast the lot for the clothing of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24).
After the Holy Spirit has come to earth, there is no more casting the lot in order to learn the will of God. The New Testament believer is not guided by the lot, but by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
For “the supply of wood” we find nowhere a special commandment of God. Yet what happens here is according to God’s thoughts, for without wood there can be no sacrifice. It is an important supply, so important, that Nehemiah mentions this supply again at the end of his book (Nehemiah 13:31). When hearts are set on God and His interests, they also think about what is not explicitly mentioned in God’s Word, but what is important for the service in God’s house.
Wood grows out of the earth and is a picture of man as born on earth. If every believer offers something so that the sacrifice becomes possible, it means that he himself comes into God’s house. After all, if the believers do not come, no sacrifices will be made.
The wood is brought to the families at the appointed times. In turn, a family makes sure that the necessary wood is present at the right time, so that the sacrifices can be made. The church has its regular meetings. There the whole family of God comes together to make offerings at the Table of the Lord in accordance with God’s Word and God’s desire. The wood burns. In it we can see that what we ourselves are disappears. It is about the sacrifice. What ascends is the aroma of the sacrifice, that is what the church offers to God of the Lord Jesus.
The First Fruits for the House of God
The willing people continue their consecration to the LORD. They are not content with partial surrender. They want to obey the law in everything. Therefore they also want to offer to the LORD the first fruits of the land (Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Leviticus 19:23-Jeremiah :). The land belongs to the LORD and they may enjoy the fruit of it. But they do not want to enjoy it without Him.
Enjoying all God’s good gifts, whether they are blessings from the earth or blessings in heaven, is only real enjoyment if we involve Him from Whom we have received everything. That is what He wants as well. He has a right to it. The bringing of the first fruits is the acknowledgment that everything belongs to the LORD.
After the first fruits are offered to the LORD in His house, they are given to the priests and Levites for their sustenance (Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 26:1-1 Kings :). Thus the LORD deals with all that He gives us. If we give it to Him, He gives it back to us as food to perform our priestly service and to be able to perform our task as Levites (our gift).
After the first proceeds of the land, the first-born are brought to the priests in the house of God (Exodus 13:11-Ezra :). These are both the first-born of the people and the first-born of the cattle. They are brought to the priest. Priests bring offerings. That is why we see here in the picture that new life is consecrated and sacrificed to God. He is the Giver of new life and is entitled to it. Whoever has learned the mercies of God and thereby received new life, will want to make his body available to God “for a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).
Further sacrifices are brought. These sacrifices are brought to the priests, not so that they may sacrifice them or that they may serve for their sustenance, but to bring them into the rooms of God’s house. This emphasizes the enduring nature of these sacrifices before God. They are constantly in God’s presence, before His attention. Then the tithes are brought to support the Levites. If God gets His share, there will also be care for His servants.
The Tithes for the House of God
The charging of the tithes by the Levites is done under the supervision of a priest. What is to be given for the maintenance of God’s servants is to be given in a priestly manner. What is offered spiritually to God and what is given materially to His servants are both called “sacrifices” (Hebrews 13:15-Nehemiah :).
The Levites, in turn, will give the tenth of the tithes they have received. The tithes of the Levites are taken to the chambers of the storehouse in God’s house. There it lies in God’s presence. He watches over it and disposes of it. At the right time He will give it to those who need it. Everything we entrust to the Lord is managed in the best possible way. There is no thought of speculation. Whoever invests in faith in the house of God gets the highest return.
He who does not abandon the house of God to its fate (cf. Haggai 1:4-1 Samuel :) will give. In spite of the heavy taxation by the king of Persia (Nehemiah 5:4), Nehemiah reminds us that the LORD is entitled to the first fruits. We must “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Faithfulness in giving is a great part of a revival. In addition to faithfulness in giving, there will also be faithfulness in attending the meetings of the church. Also in that respect the care for the house of God becomes visible.
Wherever the love of Christ reigns, there will be love for the house of God. In spite of the fact that the glory that descended upon it in the days of Solomon is no longer there, the heart of the people goes out to that house, because it is the house of God. This also applies to us who are being built up “into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). The Spirit is the Spirit of truth Who will always be with us and in us (John 16:16-Esther :).
The concern for the house of God summarizes all previous commitments. Under the guidance of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people have been led to give priority to spiritual things and thereby also to provide the restored temple with what is needed for the service. The main elements are grain ( a picture of Christ), new wine (represents joy, fellowship) and oil (a picture of the Holy Spirit).
The people of God conclude their agreement with the impressive wish: “We will not neglect the house of our God”. Is that also our desire in view of what is now the house of our God: “The church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15)?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Nehemiah 10". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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