By Nevin Bass
They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandment of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes (Neh.. 10:29).
ONE OF THE UNIVERSAL features of true revival is a renewed interest and commitment to the old paths. Revival begins with God’s people, not with new converts. New converts are a result of real, biblical revival. When God’s people are inspired and stirred to the point of revival, it is a stirring to return to the old paths and to the foundation of the faith. This was true in Nehemiah’s day, and it is also true today.
With renewed interest must come renewed commitment. Commitment is the fuel that feeds the flame of revival. Commitment that causes one to renew covenant with God is the essence of any true revival. And there is a fellowship of renewal that is shared by those who seek a real move of God in their lives. Renewal of our covenant with God includes a renewal of our commitment to the things of God.
Not all are willing and able to be a part of the fellowship of renewal, this circle of revival. There is one particular characteristic that will universally prevent one from participating and being a part of this fellowship. And thus, this characteristic is what stifles revival on a personal basis and can indeed prevent revival in a group. Are you wondering what this characteristic is? Then keep reading.
And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding (Neh. 10:28).
Chapter nine of Nehemiah highlighted the role of leadership in the renewal of the ancient covenant with God. A memorial of this recommitment was created—a document pledging obedience to the law of Moses. It was written, rolled up, and sealed by the princes, Levites, and priests (Neh. 9:38). Chapter ten begins with a listing of the names of leaders who pledged their faithfulness to the Lord in this way.
Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah… (Neh. 10:1).
And the list goes on for twenty-seven verses. These are the leaders who felt in their hearts that the nation needed a change in priorities, in lifestyle, and in commitment. We are not told that all of Israel’s leaders felt this way, but a significant number obviously did.
It is both unrealistic and unscriptural to assume that the entire congregation was willing to recommit themselves to the ancient covenant. Just as there were leaders who were not willing, I am sure there were lay people as well, as in any congregation there will always be those who refuse to change in any appreciable way other than in word. I ‘he move of God cannot be held hostage by such as refuse to apply the Word to their own lives and their own situations.
We mentioned the second phase of this great book of rebuilding and renewal. Rebuilding the walls was merely the first phase of a two-told process would put the nation back on track spiritually. The second phase was the renewal of the ancient covenant and restoration of proper priorities. Personal restoration requires these two phases also. The second phase of restoration must be inspired by an understanding and personal application of God’s Word. The ministry can help with the understanding department, hut the application must be done by the individual. When people are honest with themselves, are willing to apply God’s Truth to their own lives, and are willing to change, rededication and recommitment can take place.
There will always be a separation between those who are, shall we say, along for the ride, and those who want true spiritual renewal in their lives. Spiritual renewal does not happen without change. Those who insist on remaining inflexible and unchanged will not experience spiritual renewal. Did I mention to you that there is one characteristic that will always prevent revival? That characteristic is inflexibility unwillingness to change!
The unchangeable may:
• Live within the walls
• Visit the temple
• Even count themselves among God’s people
Yet in an environment of renewal, those with a heart for God will draw close to Him while the unchangeable remain the same.
Not all the people were willing to have their lives rearranged and recommitted themselves to following God completely. Others were. After giving a list of the nobles who sealed the covenant, Nehemiah turned to the people. There was a certain group of people who agreed with this act of renewal taken by their nobles and wanted to add their names to the list also. They made a curse and entered an oath to reestablish the ancient covenant in their own lives:
And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God… (Neh. 10:28).
Who were these people? Verse twenty-eight gives their characteristics. They were the ones who “separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God.” This means that they separated themselves from worldly practices and attitudes that went contrary to the Word of God. Frankly, this will never be the entire congregation, as there will always be those who refuse to take this step. This step is radical; it is outrageous to many; it is considered “going too far” by some.
. . . every one having knowledge, and having understanding. . . (Neh. 10:28).
Every one of those who stepped out in favor of renewal had knowledge and understanding of what was expected by God. There was no great mystery about what was expected. Much time and effort had been spent teaching, explaining, and helping people apply these truths to their lives. Those unwilling to change will simply refuse to apply the Word.
They clave to their brethren, their nobles… (vs29).
These are the ones who clave to their brethren, the nobles who had sealed the covenant. There is a fellowship of renewal that is very strong among the committed. Those willing to take the plunge and live all out for God appreciate leadership that stands for this kind of commitment.
No doubt there were others who were critical of the nobles for this very same reason. There always have been and always will be critical folks in the congregation. But the ones eager to experience spiritual renewal are the ones who embrace leadership that desires to return to the ancient ways.
To What Did They Pledge?
The things the text specifically mentions are things that drastically affected the lives of those making the commitment. It is easy to commit to something that doesn’t affect you or only affects you in a limited way. Where the strength of your desire for more of God is evident is when the commitment means drastic changes in your life.
And that we would not give our daughters unto) the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons (Neh. 10:30).
First, they pledged not to practice mixed marriages. This probably touched more lives than we can imagine. What is the point of separating ourselves from those who do not serve God or observe His commandments if we are willing to pick a spouse from among them? Over and again in Israel’s history, mixing with unbelievers in marriage put God’s people on the road to disaster. A willingness to enter marriage with an unbeliever is yet today a sign of a divided heart and compromised loyalty.
And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt (Neh. 10:31).
Next, they pledged to honor the Sabbath. This included all the Old Testament laws regarding Sabbath observance. A few particulars that really affected a lot of people are mentioned.
Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God; For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God (Neh. 10:32-33).
They also pledged to support the house of God with the temple tax. Isn’t it amazing that the closer people get to God, the more understanding they gain as to what is required to continue the services of worship?
Much about the heart is revealed in one’s attitudes toward finances. The uncommitted are perfectly willing to allow others to carry the financial responsibility of maintaining the house of worship and its ministries. But commitment to God must include commitment to those things through which God speaks and ministers to us. A renewed interest in the things of God is an essential aspect of any revival.
And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites , and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law: And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD: Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God: And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests , to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage (Neh. 10:34-37).
They also pledged to obey God’s financial plan of tithing to support the ministry. This tithe (one-tenth of their increase) was presented to the minister “in the house of our God.” This pledge was to support the work of God in good times and also in bad times. As King David was about to pass the scepter to his son, Solomon, he reminded the young man that faithfulness to support the work of God financially must continue even through hard times.
Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the LORD an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest (1(1(1 thereto (1 Chron. 22:14).
This kind of understanding is not by any means universal in a society where many people do not seem to understand that it is important to keep a steady job or to pay their bills!
You can believe that after twenty-plus years of pastoral ministry, I certainly could write another book about all the reasons people use to escape their financial obligation to the work of God. The same people who personally over-obligate themselves to the point that they feel compelled to rob God of His tithe and offerings are also the ones who expect the work of God to operate on a shoestring. I have actually had people ask me to pray for God to provide them with a financial miracle, even though they had knowingly neglected their responsibility to God’s work for years! Sometimes being able to receive a blessing requires being willing to share a blessing. Am I bold to suggest that one should renew one’s commitment to support God’s work before asking God to remove the curse of past failure?
Again, part of the process of renewing our covenant with God involves recognizing and acknowledging that there are responsibilities associated with the family of God. Renewing our covenant with God means also renewing our commitment to God.
And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house. For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God (Neh. 10:38-39).
And, finally, they pledged to honor those who minister and to obey (God’s plan in this area. They recognized that to forsake the support of the ministry and the house of God was to forsake their covenant with the Lord.
The same is yet true today. We must remain faithful to the things and methods of God. It may sound clever to state that you are not much into “organized religion,” but the alternative is disorganized religion. The house of God and those who minister in it require your support. This support includes your loyalty, your attendance, your encouragement, as well as your finances. To fail to support the things of God is to fail in your commitment to the Lord Himself.
What This Means to Us
Please notice that to be renewed spiritually includes a renewed commitment to the “things of God.” The things of God are all those things associated with His worship and service. Your commitment to God is no stronger than your commitment to the things of God. Your commitment to God cannot be strengthened without the result of this renewal being reflected in your commitment to the things through which we relate to God and He relates to us.
How is it that men continually try to influence character without changing practices? Are we so blind that we cannot see that practice influences and many times serves to shape character?
Many mouth the words that say they desire spiritual renewal, but their attitudes say they are unwilling to change their practices. They expect to stand rigid, with arms crossed, while God magically transforms their character. They are unwilling to separate themselves from worldly influences that corrupt. They are unwilling to gain knowledge and understanding of what God expects. They are reluctant to embrace leadership that covenants with God for renewal. And yet they claim they desire renewal.
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men (Isa. 29:13).
In chapter ten of Nehemiah there is a fellowship of renewal. There is a fellowship of like-minded believers within the family of God. And those who are sincere in their hearts about a move of God within the city of God are identified by their actions and not by their words.
There are those in the family of God who pay lip service to the subject of renewal. And then there are those willing to take whatever steps necessary to see the old covenant restored and the glory of God in His people renewed.
The only way the two can be separated is by the fruit they produce. One is inflexible and unwilling to conform to God’s Word. The other is anxious to see God’s Word implemented in ways and areas it hasn’t been in years.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them (Matt. 7:20).
Chapter Ten Summary
There is a fellowship of renewal—a fraternal order of sold-out worshipers. These folks are committed! They are committed to becoming all that they can be for God. Membership in this elite fellowship will cost you dearly. It will require a total surrender to the revealed will of God. The mind of God is made known to us in His Word, and thus this group is characterized by a sincere desire to comprehend more of the Word.
Most local congregations contain within their ranks a group of totally sold-out believers. The percentage of the total congregation included in this inner fellowship is a reflection of the spiritual health of any local church. The greater the percentage included in the “sold-out” rank, the stronger the body. A small percentage of sold-out believers is evidence of a need for spiritual renewal or revival in the church.
Spiritual renewal may begin with the ministry of an intercessor, but it will never progress to the point of personal consecration without individual recognition of God’s will. The people must commit their hearts and lives to obedience.
As always, some areas of God’s will have a greater impact as others. This will vary from person to person. One thing is certain, we may not pick and choose which aspects of God’s will we act upon. Being sold out means being sold out! Some areas of high impact in Nehemiah’s day remain pivotal today. In Nehemiah’s day:
• They pledged not to enjoin mixed marriages. A mixed marriage is a sign of a divided heart. Being willing to mix that which is holy and set aside unto the Lord with that which is not holy, is evidence of a divided heart and improper priorities. What could be more telling in this way than a lifetime commitment to share everything with one who does not serve God? Marriage to an unbeliever signifies a heart that is not sold out.
• They pledged to honor the Lord’s Sabbath (rest). God’s rest today is enjoyed through fellowship with the Lord Jesus Himself. Such fellowship is essential to the spiritual life.
• They pledged to support the work of God carried on in the temple arrangement. Your commitment to a local body of believers and the ministries of this group is a necessary part of your spiritual well-being.
• They pledged faithfulness in giving; the ministries of your local church require your faithfulness. Continued well-doing and spiritual well-being cannot be separated.
• They pledged to honor the anointed ministry. How is your relationship with the man of God in your life? Is leadership within the body of Christ a target of your prayers or your protests?
Being a part of the fellowship of renewal, or being sold out, yet today requires commitment to God. Commitment is made on God’s terms, not man’s.
The above article, “The Fellowship of Renewal” is written by Nevin Bass. The article was excerpted from the tenth chapter of Bass’ book Building God’s Wall.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.