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THE NAMES OF THOSE WHO SEALED, AND THE TERMS OF THE COVENANT (Nehemiah 10:1-39.). The covenant which the Levites had recommended, probably at the suggestion of Nehemiah and Ezra, whose hand may perhaps be traced in the long address of the preceding chapter (verses 6-38), was at once accepted by the heads of the nation in Church and State, and was "sealed to" by Nehemiah, by his secretary, by the heads of the priestly and Levitical families, each sealing for his house, by the heads of various lay families or communities, and by a certain number of individual laymen, sealing (as it would seem) for themselves only. The rest of the people, those who did not actually seal, still "clave to their brethren," i.e. agreed with them, and accepted the obligations of the covenant as fully as if they had put their seals to it. There was no opposition, no dissentient voice, no party even which stood sullenly aloof. That sort of enthusiasm had come upon the nation which carries everything before it, and causes a whole multitude to become "as one man" for good or for evil. This time it was for good. The people bound themselves, first of all, in general terms, to keep the whole law, "to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord their Lord, and his judgments and his statutes" (verse 29); after which they went on to particularise certain special points of the law, recently infringed upon, which they bound themselves to observe in future. These were chiefly the following:—
1. The prohibition of intermarriage with the neighbouring idolatrous nations (verse 30);
2. The command to hallow the sabbath;
3. The law concerning the sabbatical year (verse 31);
4. The law of firstfruits (verses 35-37);
5. The obligation to pay tithes to the sacerdotal order (verses 37, 38).
Finally, they undertook certain new obligations, not expressly contained in the law, but perhaps regarded as flowing from it by way of natural consequence, or else as desirable modes of carrying out its provisions.
These were three in number, viz.—
1. The entire abolition of the custom which had grown up of lending money to their brethren upon pledge (see Nehemiah 5:3-13);
2. The support of the temple service by an annual tax upon each adult male, which was fixed for the present at the rate of one-third part of a shekel (verse. 32); and,
3. The supply of the wood requisite for keeping the fire alight upon the great altar, and for consuming the various offerings (verse 34).
It is-remarkable that these two latter regulations became permanent national institutions, maintaining themselves into Roman times, when we find them still continuing (see Matthew 17:24; Joseph; 'Bell. Jud.,' Matthew 2:17, § 6).
Nehemiah, as Tirshatha, or civil ruler, naturally appended his seal first of all. He was followed by Zidkijah, or Zadok, probably his secretary (Nehemiah 13:13).
The heads of the priestly houses attached their seals next; and among these the high-priestly house of Seraiah had, very properly, the precedence. The other names of this list recur for the most part in Nehemiah 12:1-6, where they designate "priests" (i.e. priestly houses) "which went up with Zerubbabel." Eliashib, the high priest of the time, probably appended the seal of the house of Seraiah.
Jeshua, Binnui, and Kadmiel represent the three chief families of returned Levites (see Ezra 2:40; Ezra 3:9; Nehemiah 7:43, Nehemiah 7:44; Nehemiah 9:4, Nehemiah 9:5, etc.). Binnui, it may be remarked, has now supplanted Kadmiel, and stepped into the second place. Of the remaining names, those of Hashabiah and Sherebiah designate families which returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:18, Ezra 8:19). The remaining names are probably also those of families.
The chief of the people. Down to Magpiash the names correspond to those of lay families which returned with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:3-30; Nehemiah 7:8-33), the first eighteen being personal, and the last three names of localities. Nebai is the same as "Nebo" (Nehemiah 7:33), and Magpiash the same as Magbish (Ezra 2:30). From Meshullam to Baanah (Nehemiah 10:20-27) the names seem to be again personal; but they are new, and therefore probably those of individuals who were not authorised to represent either clans or localities. In Nehemiah 10:17, the two names Ater and Hizkijah should be united by a hyphen, since it is clear that they represent the single family, Ater of Hezekiah, mentioned in Ezra it. 16 and Nehemiah 7:21. "Hizkijah"and "Hezekiah" are in the original identical.
The rest of the people. i.e. those who had not appended their seals, whether others had sealed for them or no. The writer makes no exception, and thereby indicates a very general, if not a universal, concurrence on the part of the nation. His enumeration of classes is the same as Ezra's (Ezra 2:70). All they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God. Such proselytes from the heathen as had joined themselves to the Jewish people since their return from the captivity (comp. Ezra 6:21). Every one having knowledge, and having understanding. All who were of age to understand the nature of the covenant and what was meant by sealing to it—not a specially "intelligent" or "learned" class, as Ewald supposes.
They clave to their brethren, their nobles. They gave their support and adherence to their more distinguished brethren who had attached their seals to the document, approving what they had done, and ratifying it. Entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law. Something of this kind seems to have occurred in the wilderness, when God's law was first given to his people (Deuteronomy 29:12); and therefore, when renewals of the covenant were made, and the people were required to ratify the act, it was natural to recur to the old sanction, An oath was probably taken of the people in the time of Josiah (2 Kings 23:3), when they are said to have "stood to the covenant." Moses the servant of God. The epithet "servant of God," or "servant of the Lord," attaches to Moses in a peculiar way. God called him (Numbers 12:7) "my servant Moses, who is faithful in all my house;" and henceforward "servant of God" was his epitheton usitatum (see Joshua 1:1; Joshua 8:31, Joshua 8:33; 1Ch 6:49; 2 Chronicles 24:9; Daniel 9:11; Hebrews 3:5; Revelation 15:3). St. Paul contrasts "Moses, the servant" with "Christ, the Son" (Hebrews 3:1-6).
That we would not give our daughters, etc. On the recurrence of the mixed marriages so soon after the reformation of Ezra, see the comment on Nehemiah 13:23.
If the people of the land bring ware … on the sabbath. If the heathen of this region will insist on bringing their wares into our cities and offering them for immediate sale on the sabbath, we Jews bind ourselves not to deal with them on that day. Subsequently, Nehemiah carried out more stringent regulations (Nehemiah 13:15-22). Or on the holy day. Rather, "or on a holy day." The people bind themselves to abstain from trade not only on the sabbath, but on any holy day. That we would leave the seventh year. By "leaving the seventh year," leaving the lands untilled every seventh or sabbatical year is meant. This precept of the law had been frequently neglected during the times of the monarchy, and its neglect was one of the sins which the captivity was expressly intended to punish (2 Chronicles 36:21). It now appears that after the return the precept had been again disobeyed. The exaction of every debt. Literally, "the pledge of every hand." Compare Nehemiah 5:2-13, and note that, notwithstanding Nehemiah's curse and the people's assent to it (verse 13), the practice of lending upon pledge had recommenced.
To charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel. Hitherto the Jews had had no impost analogous to our "church-rate." The "half-shekel of the sanctuary," as it is called, being only payable on the rare, and forbidden, occasion of a census of the whole people (Exodus 30:13-16), could not possibly have served for the ordinary support of the temple service; but it was calculated to suggest to thoughtful minds the need of some regular fund, and the persons on whom the obligation lay to provide it. While the Jews were an independent nation, with their own kings and their own revenue, no difficulty had been felt in keeping up the service, since the kings easily provided for it; but in the existing condition of affairs the case was different. .A "governor" was not like a king; he was responsible; he was removable; he was bound to remit the great bulk of the taxes to the court. Under these circumstances, and probably in connection with an immediate need, the idea arose of a special (voluntary) tax, to be paid annually by all adult males, for the support of the service, the continual provision of the morning and evening sacrifice, the incense, the shew-bread, the red heifers, the scape-goat, the numerous victims, and the numerous meat and drink offerings required on various occasions, and especially at each of the great festivals. It was felt that the provision in the law ruled two things—
1. The uniformity of the tax; and,
2. The sphere of its incidence—that it should be paid by all adult males.
With regard to its proper amount, that had to be fixed by a consideration of existing needs in comparison with existing means. The third part of a shekel was determined on, as sufficient at the time; but it was not long ere for the third part the half-shekel was substituted, a return being thus made to the standard fixed by the law, and an ample provision made for the maintenance of the established rites in full completeness and efficiency (comp. Matthew 17:24-27).
For the shew-bread. See Leviticus 24:5-8. Small as the cost of the shew-bread was, consisting, as it did, of no more than twelve cakes of fine flour weekly, it is yet placed first on account of its importance, being the bread of God's presence, the type of the sacramental bread of the new covenant. The continual meat offering is that offering of flour mingled with fine olive oil which God had required to be offered twice a day, at morning and at evening, in conjunction with the two lambs, which constituted the continual burnt offering (Numbers 28:5). Of the sabbaths. i.e. "for the offering of the sabbath days," which consisted of two lambs with appropriate meat and drink offerings, in addition to the offering of every day (Numbers 28:9, Numbers 28:10). Of the new moons. Two bullocks, one ram, seven lambs, with appropriate meat and drink offerings (ibid. Nehemiah 10:11-14). For the set feasts. The passover, the feast of Pentecost, the feast of trumpets, and the feast of tabernacles. The offerings required at each are given with great exactness in Numbers 28:1-31, and Numbers 29:1-40. The holy things. "Wave-offerings" and "peace-offerings" (Le Numbers 23:10, Numbers 23:17, Numbers 23:19) are probably intended. They were "holy to the Lord for the priest" (ibid. Numbers 29:20). The sin offerings are those commanded in Numbers 28:15, Numbers 28:22, Numbers 28:30; Numbers 29:5, Numbers 29:11, Numbers 29:16, Numbers 29:19, etc. And for all the work of the house. The internal "work" of cleansing and keeping in proper order the apparatus of worship is probably intended, not external repairs.
We cast the lots for the wood offering. The "wood offering" is now first heard of. Fuel had probably been more plentiful in the times of the monarchy than it had now become, and the temple treasury had been rich enough to provide what was needed in order to keep the altar fire perpetually burning (Le Nehemiah 6:13). But times had changed. The hill-country of Judaea had gradually been stripped of its forests. The temple was, comparatively speaking, poor, and some permanent arrangement for the supply of the required fuel had become necessary. It would seem, from the present passage, that the arrangement actually made was one by which different families or districts undertook the duty of furnishing the wood in turn, and lots were cast to determine the order in which they should discharge the office. According to Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' it. 17, § 6), the wood needed for a year was brought in on a particular day—the fourteenth day of the fifth month—which was kept as a festival, and known as the "Xylophoria." At times appointed year by year. It may be gathered from this that, originally, no single day was selected for bringing in all the wood; much less one and the same day appointed for every year. The original system was variable and elastic; but in course of time a rigid uniformity was introduced and established. As it is written in the law. See Le Nehemiah 6:12.
And to bring the first-fruits … unto the house of the Lord. The idea of offering "first-fruits" may be ascribed to natural piety. They were well known to the Greeks and Romans (ἀπαρχαί, primitiae). But in the Mosaic law they were commanded (Exodus 22:29; Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 23:10, Leviticus 23:17, etc.), and thenceforth became a matter of religious obligation. The present passage furnishes, however, distinct evidence that the obligation had now for some time been disregarded. The first-fruits of all fruit. First-fruits were required not merely of wheat and other grain, bat also expressly of wine and oil, the produce of the vine and olive, and by implication of all other fruit trees (see Numbers 18:12; Deuteronomy 18:4, etc.).
The first-born of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the law. See Exodus 22:29; Exodus 34:19. The firstborn children were to be "redeemed."
The first-fruits of our dough. See Numbers 15:18-21. And our offerings. Literally, "our heave offerings" (Numbers 15:20; Le Numbers 23:11, Numbers 23:17). To the chambers of the house. The store-chambers attached to the temple-building (see Nehemiah 13:4, Nehemiah 13:5). The tithes of our ground. As with the law of first-fruits, so with that of tithes (which was more burthensome), there had grown up a practice of neglecting it on the part of many, if not of all. The natural result would be the non-attendance of Levites at Jerusalem, and so a falling-off in the solemnity and grandeur of the temple-worship (comp. Nehemiah 13:10). It was now covenanted afresh on the part of the people that they would resume the legal practice, at any rate to the extent of paying what has been called "the first tithe," or that due to the Levites for their sustentation. In all the cities of our tillage. The Levitical tithe was not taken to Jerusalem. but stored up in some neighbouring, generally Levitical, city.
The priest shall be with the Levites when the Levites take tithe. Some representative (or representatives) of the priestly order was to be present whenever the Levites received their tithes, to take note of the quantity, and prevent the Levites from depriving the priests of their due share—the tithe of the tithe. This tenth, being thus ascertained, was to be conveyed to Jerusalem at the expense of the Levites, and deposited in its appropriate store-chamber.
The children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering. The priests were not to be troubled with the conveyance of any of the offerings. The first-fruits and other oblations of the people were to be brought to the temple by the people themselves; .and the "tithe of the tithe,' which was the priests' due, by the Levites. Thus the priests would not be drawn away from their duty of ministering in the temple by secular employments and matters of mere worldly business. We will not forsake, or neglect, the house of our God. We will not suffer, that is, any interruption of the continual service of the temple, we will not be parties to any neglect or slovenliness in the conduct of it. So far as we are concerned, everything shall be done to enable the priests and Levites to remain constantly at Jerusalem in full numbers, and to devote themselves wholly to their sacred duties in God's house. With this emphatic declaration of their intentions the people concluded the engagements by which they voluntarily bound themselves.
A solemn covenant.
The public confession and recital of God's dealings with Israel, recorded in the previous chapter, concluded with a declaration of the making of "a sure covenant," written and sealed. This chapter contains a particular account of the transaction.
I. WHY THE COVENANT WAS MADE.
1. For the reasons contained in the previous confession. "Because of all this" (Nehemiah 9:38).
(1) The covenant of God with their fathers, and his faithfulness to it. They had been chosen as his people, and now felt they ought to act accordingly. They held the land again by virtue of his covenant and promises, and would forfeit it by unfaithfulness.
(2) The manifold goodness of God to them as a nation throughout their history. "The goodness of God leadeth to repentance," and they felt its influence for this end, as they recalled the displays of it to their fathers and themselves.
(3) The long succession of their national departures from God. Showing how prone they were to evil; how much they needed every safeguard against it.
(4) The successive punishments inflicted upon them. Impressing them with the evil of sin, and the necessity of godliness and righteousness to their happiness.
2. In the hope that so solemn an engagement would greatly aid in insuring their future obedience. Feeling that all that had been said consisted of so many reasons for conformity to the Divine law, they are concerned to adopt what- ever means were likely to secure it. To this end they unite in a solemn public vow, written and sealed, by which they engage, not only to God, but to each other, to obey the Divine laws and maintain the Divine worship. And doubtless such a transaction was adapted to strengthen their good resolutions, and promote the fulfilment of them.
II. BY WHOM IT WAS .MADE, AND IN WHAT MANNER. By all the assembly—priests, Levites, etc; and the whole body of the people, men and women, and their sons and daughters who were of understanding. Included amongst them were "they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, partly, perhaps, proselytes from the heathen, but including probably the descendants of Israelites who had been left in the land by the Assyrians and Chaldaeans, and had become much mixed up with the heathen (see Ezra 6:21).
1. The chiefs of the people affixed their seals to the document (Nehemiah 10:1-27). At their head was Nehemiah himself, as governor; then follow the heads of the priestly and Levitical houses, and after them the chiefs of the laity.
2. The rest of the people signified their solemn assent by an oath with a curse.
III. THE PROMISES OF WHICH IT CONSISTED.
1. A general comprehensive promise of obedience to all the law of God (verse 29).
2. Certain special promises.
(1) Not to intermarry with the heathen (verse 30). A matter about which both Ezra and Nehemiah were very much concerned (see Ezra 9:10; Nehemiah 13:23-30). Laxity in this respect threatened to destroy the distinctiveness of Israel in respect both to race and religion.
(2) To observe strictly the sabbath and other holy days, and the sabbatical year, including the remission of debts (verse 31; see Deuteronomy 15:2).
(3) To contribute to the support of the temple, its ministers and services (verses 32-39). The promised contributions included an annual money payment of one-third of a shekel each towards the expense of the ordinary services; the bringing up in turn to the temple of the wood required for the altar fire; the offering of the first-fruits of all produce, the firstlings of cattle, and the first-born children (i.e. the redemption money for them); and the payment of tithes to the Levites, who on their part would pay "the tithe of the tithes" unto the priests.
(4) Not to forsake the temple. They would continue to support it, and attend its services at the appointed times.
1. The review of the past is adapted to impress on our hearts the duty and wisdom of serving God.
2. In the service of God, the observance of the sabbath and the maintenance of public worship are of the greatest importance. As Divine ordinances, and for the well-being of individuals and families, the Church and the State.
3. All should unite in supporting the worship of God. By contributions, attendance, and endeavors to induce others to attend.
4. Solemn definite engagements are aids to the cultivation and practice of religion. The impressions and purposes of times of peculiar religious feeling may thus become of permanent value. Obligations thus recognised and adopted are more likely to be called to mind in times of temptation. The Christian settles it thus with himself that he is the Lord's, and must not, wilt not, depart from him; must and will serve him in all things. In such a definite settlement are peace and safety. Hence the worth of those ordinances by which a profession of piety is made, and from time to time renewed. To these some have added forms of "covenanting" more resembling that recorded in this chapter. They have put hand and seal to a written document. Dr. Doddridge did this, and in his 'Rise and Progress' recommends the practice and supplies forms for the purpose. The Scottish Covenants present probably the most memorable instances of documents of this kind publicly agreed to, signed by thousands of all classes, and exercising a great and lasting influence on the course of affairs. A definite promise is specially appropriate and useful in respect to outward practices, such as the devoting of a certain proportion of income to religion and charity. The demands for money for the ordinary purposes of life are so numerous and urgent, that the claims of God's cause and of the poor are likely to be very insufficiently met, unless some specific portion be distinctly devoted to them. When this is done, the other branches of expenditure adjust themselves to the income as thus diminished. Care, however, needs to be taken lest vows are made which cannot be kept, and so become a snare and burden to the conscience. They should for the most part be simply promises to do what, apart from them, is incumbent upon us, or to avoid what, apart from them, is wrong, or commonly, if not uniformly, leads us into wrong-doing.
5. It is pleasing when all classes of society unite in solemn acts of dedication of themselves and their property to God, and in arrangements for the maintenance of religion amongst them.
6. General religious excitement and professions are, however, often deceptive. The solemn covenant recorded in this chapter was soon violated (see Nehemiah 13:10-29).
—"The service of the house of our God." Difference between this in the temple at Jerusalem and in Christian sanctuaries. Superiority of the latter. In remarking upon it, while chiefly thinking of the part taken by ministers, we have in view also the "service of song," and all else that is needful for suitably conducting the worship of God. Note, then, that the service of God's house—
I. IS PECULIARLY SACRED. It has immediately to do with God, and Christ, and the souls of men. Should, therefore, be attended to with reverence, devoutness, purity of motive. Frivolity, selfishness, covetousness, and worldly ambition, wrong everywhere, are flagrantly wrong here. Every part of the service should have a distinctively religious aim, and should be done in a religious spirit.
II. SHOULD BE CONDUCTED ACCORDING TO DIVINE DIRECTIONS. Not only to act in opposition to these, but to go beyond them into "will-worship," is impious and perilous.
III. SHOULD ENGAGE THE BEST ENERGIES OF THE BEST MEN. Requires, doubtless, first good men, but furnishes scope for the talents of the ablest; and all engaged in it should do their best. To leave this work to the feeble, or do it in a perfunctory or slovenly manner, is disgraceful and sinful.
IV. Is ENCOURAGED BY SPECIAL DIVINE PROMISES. The preaching of the gospel, united prayer, united praise, the celebration of the sacraments, all are thus encouraged.
V. Is FRUITFUL OF BLESSING. To those active in it, to those uniting, to society, etc. Of blessing in this life and for ever.
VI. SHOULD BE GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY ALL. In many, the sense of obligation to render such support is of the feeblest.
Cleaving to the house of God.
"We will not forsake the house of our God." Introduce, by reference to the context—
I. THE PLACE. "The house of our God." The temple thus designated in a sense quite peculiar. In a deeper sense, however, the Christian Church is God's house, and each member of it (1Co 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22; 1 Timothy 4:15). In a lower sense, the name may be given to buildings set apart for Christian worship. In the Old Testament seems to be used of synagogues (Ecclesiastes 5:1). Such buildings may be called houses of God because—
1. Devoted specially to him. There is a sense in which all buildings should be devoted to God (motto over the Royal Exchange); but the meeting-houses of the Church are peculiarly consecrated to him, his worship; the publication of his great name, his laws, invitations, promises, threatenings; endeavours to promote his kingdom. Yet places of worship are not always devoted to God, and never perfectly.
2. Blessed and honoured by him. By his presence, and gracious operations, in the enlightenment, conversion, sanctification, consoling, strengthening, etc. of the worshippers. God's works in the sanctuary are amongst his greatest and best—better than the turning of the material chaos into κοσμός.
II. THE RESOLVE RESPECTING IT. "We will not forsake," etc. (see also Nehemiah 13:10, Nehemiah 13:11). The declaration means more than it expresses. It is equivalent to saying, "We will interest ourselves in it, support it, promote its prosperity."
1. By our gifts. The main point here. See preceding verses.
2. By attendance on its services.
Temptations in the present day to a total or partial neglect of public worship, or a wandering which is almost as injurious. Temptations from unbelief, worldliness, perpetual or occasional want of interest in the services, poverty, even sorrow.
3. By effort and prayer for its prosperity.
III. REASONS FOR MAKING IT OUR OWN.
1. Because it is God's house—"the house of our God."
2. Because of the pleasure to be there enjoyed.
3. Because of the profit to be there gained.
4. Because of attachment to the people who meet there.
5. Because of the good of others which is there promoted. The highest welfare of individuals and of society is bound up with the maintenance of public Christian worship and instruction.
6. Because of what has been already expended upon it. Love, zeal, contributions, work. They who have done most for their place of worship will be most attached to it. Let the young make and keep this resolution. Especially let those who have left home and the minister and friends of their early life be careful not to forsake the house of God. They will thus be preserved from temptation, secure new friendships helpful to their character and happiness, and, if sincere in their worship, the guidance and blessing of God, and eternal salvation.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Entering into covenant.
Nehemiah and Ezra, and those who acted with them, showed true insight into character when they provided—
I. THAT STRONG RELIGIOUS FEELING SHOULD TAKE DEFINITE FORM. "Because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, set their seal unto it" (Nehemiah 9:38). And Nehemiah and Zidkijah (Zadok), and many others, priests, Levites, and heads of families, formally signed and sealed a solemn covenant, pledging themselves and the people generally to a purer and more loyal service of the Lord. Feeling was running strong m Jerusalem. Many things concurred to call it forth. At the great gathering which followed the feast of tabernacles it rose to its height; the multitude had to be calmed by the leaders (Nehemiah 8:9); then followed a day of fasting and confession; when all the people drew very near to God in humiliation. In what should it all end? Should it pass off in emotion, in religious excitement? That would have been a serious mistake. Nehemiah wisely provided that they should formally and solemnly pledge themselves to the purer and worthier service of Jehovah, turning from evils which had grown up, and returning to duties which had been neglected. He was well sustained by all in this movement, and we have a long list of the influential men who added their seals to his, committing themselves and all whom they represented to a renewed and revived national holiness. Let strong feeling in
(1) the individual, in
(2) the Church, in
(3) the society or community pass soon into some definite shape; let it take tangible form; let it come to some deliberate resolution that can be formulated and written down, or it may pass away, leaving nothing but spiritual lassitude and demoralisation behind. We learn further—
II. THAT A RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT SHOULD BE HEADED BY A FEW, BUT SHOULD HAVE THE ACTIVE PARTICIPATION OF ALL (verses 1-29). "Those that sealed" were less than a hundred (verses 1-27); these were leading men, "nobles," few enough for their names to be attached to the roll and to be entered in our sacred Scriptures, there enjoying an honourable immortality which many that have taken great pains to secure, it will assuredly miss; but "the rest of the people," including "porters, stagers, Nethinims,… "their wives, their sons, and their daughters" (verse 28), all these "clave to their brethren, the nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath" (verse 29). They publicly and audibly swore to "walk in God's law," thus sustaining all that the leaders initiated. All movements of revival, and indeed of any religious action or undertaking, must be orderly; there must be leaders who will give direction and counsel; also general followers who will give practical and cordial concurrence. God would not have an ill-regulated service, in which is confusion and haphazard, nor yet does he desire a mere representative service, in which a few act for the many without their sympathy. All must join—
(1) the humblest classes—porters, Nethinims, etc.;
(2) the weaker sex—the wives, the women;
(3) the young—"the sons and daughters," "every one that has understanding (verse 28); for the service of God should be intelligent as well as general and orderly. We must serve him "with the understanding" (1 Corinthians 14:15).
III. THAT THE "VOWS OF GOD" SHOULD BE NOT ONLY GENERAL, BUT PARTICULAR. These Jews vowed "to walk in God's law,.; to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our God, and his judgments and his statutes" (verse 29); but they were not content with such a general covenant: they undertook to refrain from particular evils—from forbidden marriage alliances (verse 30), sabbath breaking, usury (verse 31); and also to discharge particular obligations—they charged themselves with
(1) payment of money for the temple service (verses 32, 33), with
(2) provision of wood for the fire that never went out (verse 34),
(3) with rendering the first-fruits and tithes according to the law (verses 35-39).
There are times of revival and reconsecration in the lives of men and the history of Churches. These are irregular, coming in the grace of God we know not when or whence. "The wind bloweth where it listeth," etc. (John 3:8). And regular: anniversaries, festivals, etc.—times when we are moved to consecrate or reconsecrate ourselves to the service of the Saviour. These should be used for a solemn and thorough devotedness of ourselves and our possessions; and they should comprise the deliberate separation of ourselves from worldly entanglements (verse 30), from neglect of ordinances (verse 31), from injustice and hardness, from all pressure of legal right which is indistinguishable from unchristian severity (verse 31), and the deliberate resolution to worship the Lord and dedicate a good share of our material resources to his service and the glory of his name.—C.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Solemn engagement to maintain the house of God.
I. ALL SHOULD PLEDGE THEMSELVES "not to forsake the house of our God." Those who are first in position, influence, capability should be leaders in caring, for God's house. Distinction of rank is lost in the unity of dedication. The service of God will call to itself all the variety of human faculty. Where there is the heart "to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our God," there will be found an office or a post for each one, from the nobles to the children.
II. THE BOND WHICH BINDS US TO THE HOUSE OF GOD AND HIS SERVICE should be regarded as THE MOST SOLEMN AND IRREVOCABLE.
1. We should be ready to give our name and take upon us the vow of a public profession. The Jew placed himself under the oath and curse. We are in a dispensation of liberty, but our liberty is not license. The bond of love is the strongest of all bonds. We are made free by the Son of God; but our freedom is the surrender of our all to him, that we may take his yoke upon us, and bear his burden.
2. We shall separate ourselves from the world that we may be faithful to God. We cannot serve God and mammon. We must be free from entanglements, that we may be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, enduring hardness.
3. Our consecration to God will include the consecration of our substance. With ungrudging liberality we shall fill the "treasure house of our God," that there may be no lack in his service, that every department of Divine worship may be praise to his name. While the proportion of contributions was a matter of written prescription under the law, for the guidance of the people in their lower stage of enlightenment, let us take care that with our higher privilege, and our larger knowledge, and our more spiritual principles, we do not fall below their standard. Our hearts should not require any formal rule; but it is well to systematise our giving for our own sake, for human nature requires every possible assistance, and habit holds up principle and fortifies feeling. The effect of a universal recognition of duty in giving to God's house would be immeasurable. Any true revival of religion will certainly be known by this test. The larger hearts will secure a larger blessing in the future.—R.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Nehemiah 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany