The People Make
38And so, a firm agreement was made that had the official approval of the leaders, the Levites, and priests.
28-29All of us, including priests, Levites, temple guards, singers, temple workers and leaders, together with our wives and children, have separated ourselves from the foreigners in this land and now enter into an agreement with a complete understanding of what we are doing. And so, we now place ourselves under the curse of the Lord our God, if we fail to obey his laws and teachings that were given to us by his servant Moses.
30 We won't let our sons and daughters marry foreigners.
31 We won't buy goods or grain on the Sabbath or on any other sacred day, not even from foreigners.
Every seven years we will let our fields rest, and we will cancel all debts.
32 Once a year we will each donate a small amount of silver to the temple of our God. 33This is to pay for the sacred bread, as well as for the daily sacrifices and special sacrifices such as those offered on the Sabbath and during the New Moon Festival and the other festivals. It will also pay for the sacrifices to forgive our sins and for all expenses connected with the worship of God in the temple.
34We have decided that the families of priests, Levites, and ordinary people will supply firewood for the temple each year, so that sacrifices can be offered on the altar, just as the Lord our God has commanded.
35 Each year we will bring to the temple the first part of our harvest of grain and fruit.
36 We will bring our first-born sons and the first-born males of our herds and flocks and offer them to the priests who serve in the temple, because this is what is written in God's Law.
37 To the priests in the temple of our God, we will bring the bread dough from the first harvest, together with our best fruit, and an offering of new wine and olive oil.
We will bring ten percent of our grain harvest to those Levites who are responsible for collecting it in our towns. 38 A priest from the family of Aaron must be there when we give this to the Levites. Then the Levites will put one tenth of this part in the temple storeroom, 39which is also the place for the sacred objects used by the priests, the temple guards, and the singers.
Levites and everyone else must bring their gifts of grain, wine, and olive oil to this room.
We will not neglect the temple of our God.
Having confessed their sin (9:1-37), the people now make a formal commitment to obey the commands from God. This public commitment is much like what is done in baptism, when a person makes a public commitment to faithfully follow Christ. Or, in a different setting, at a wedding, the partners makes public commitments to live faithfully with each other.
The specific commitments seem rather strange to us in our modern Christian setting – not intermarrying with foreigners (v 30), not doing business transactions on the Sabbath (v 31a), not working the land, and canceling debts every seventh year (v 31b). And the majority of their commitments deal with contributing financially and materially to the Temple worship (vv 32-38). When we are no longer under the same Law obligations, how do their specific commitments relate to us as followers of Christ?
We need to keep in mind that their commitments were based on their specific lapses in practices. Having read the Law (chs 8 and 9), the people are now responding by answering the question: “How have we very specifically not been obeying God’s commands?” And this is the “to do” list that they came up with. That is the instructive point for us, both corporately and individually. We are to read God’s Word, and find out how we have been specifically lacking in our obedience. And then we are to make a list of those things, and recommit to faithfully serving God. On a group level, as believers, our list might include things like: we will not divorce; we will not violate the sanctity of marriage; we will engage financially in world evangelization. Today, our list will look totally different than did theirs. But the question is: “What would be on our ‘to do’ list?”
Jesus, I know that you have told us that if we love you, we will do as you command (John 14:15). So show me the areas of my life where I have not been faithfully serving you, and help me to follow through on my re-commitment to obeying you, as I demonstrate my love for you. Amen.