Living for God (Nehemiah 10:28-39)

Bible Passage: Nehemiah 10:28-39

In this chapter, we see the people of Israel making a covenant to follow God wholeheartedly (see 9:38). Having heard the preaching of God’s word and responded with repentance, they now want to make some promises about how they will live differently in the future. The first 27 verses of the chapter name the different people who sealed this agreement, and we pick up the narrative by looking at the content of their promises.

In particular, the people promised to wholeheartedly live for God in three ways:

Honouring God with their relationships. The first area that they addressed was their relationships, and in particular inter-marriage with the nations around them. This was not an issue of ethnicity (at many points in the Bible we see people of different ethnicities being brought into the people of Israel). Instead the issue was one of religious devotion. By marrying those who do not worship the Lord, the people would be compromised and potentially led astray. The New Testament teaches a similar ethic for believers (see 2 Cor. 6:14-18), and for Christians exploring the possibility of marriage and romantic relationships, the potential partner should also be a believer.

Honouring God with their time. The second promise was to not trade on the sabbath day and also to celebrate the sabbath year by allowing the land to rest and debts to be cancelled. These promises speak to relationships with God, with one another and with creation. In all three cases, rhythms are being built into how time is used to create good relationships. The exact patterns of sabbath observance do not transfer directly from the Old Testament to the New, but the principles are the same and it is important to think about the ways we use our time and how we can establish patterns for worshipping God, for treating others with justice and for stewarding creation.

Honouring God with their money. The final promises they made were about their money. They promised to make donations for the upkeep of the temple, to bring tithes of their incomes, and also to provide additional offerings. Again, things are slightly different from Old Testament to New in that the specific percentage is not mandated, though the idea of a tithe is a helpful starting point, and the principle of financial generosity to allow the ministry of the house of God (seen in the New Testament as the church) to function is one that all Christians should embrace.

Potential Applications:

  • You could invite people to consider these three areas that the Israelites wanted to honour God and reflect on which one they feel most challenged in, and what God might be calling them to do differently in this area.
  • You might want to lead into a time of worship that includes songs of commitment that allow people to articulate the choices they are making to honour god in different areas of life.