A Fresh Look at the Great God
“They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.”
“Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress.”
“Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.”
The Bible says that the people made a “binding agreement” to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, they made a commitment to renew the covenant with the Lord their God (9:38). They put it in writing and sealed it.
Their renewal effort had several aspects:
They were so serious in the desire to renew the covenant with the Lord God of Heaven that they bound themselves with a curse.
“The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes.”
#1: The covenant of the Heart—obey God’s Word.
#2: The covenant of the Home—the sanctity of marriage and the family
#3: The covenant of the Day of Worship—the Sabbath and Sabbatical years!
#4: The work of God—support for the house of God.
“We will not neglect the house of our God.”
Now what should we learn about these oaths renewing the covenant?
“If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”
“When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow.”
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
We do not find our redemption, hope and help after a failure, sin and/or rebellious life by making another vow or oath.
“Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.”
“Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.”