COVENANT: A CALL FOR RENEWAL
The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and olive oil to the storerooms, where the articles for the sanctuary and for the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the musicians are also kept. (Nehemiah 10:39)
Nehemiah continues the history of the Jews after their homecoming from exile in Babylon where Ezra leaves off. He went to Jerusalem and encouraged the people to repair the city walls. With Ezra he provided religious leadership for the people too. The first half of the book (chapters 1-7) is devoted almost completely to Nehemiah's work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. The second half of the book (chapters 8-13) presents the combined climax of the two reformers' work in the spiritual renewal of the community and related matters. The community enters into a binding agreement to observe various aspects of the Law, mostly, though not entirely, related to the support of the temple and its services (9:38-10:39).
Covenant: A call for Renewed Leadership: Neh. 10: 28-39 is people's response to restoration, not a condition of restoration. This implies two things. One, restoration is made possible through the grace of God, and not because of the exceptional leadership qualities of Nehemiah or Ezra. God initiates restoration. And, God fulfills restoration. God elects leaders to cooperate with him. Second, Nehemiah does not consider restoration as his personal achievement; rather, he perceives it as an achievement of the people. Sometimes, as leaders, we are tempted not to give due credit to the toil and sweat of many-known and unknown; visible and invisible-which made our roles as leaders a success, in our own respective walks of life. Nehemiah challenges our craving for credit and appreciation. He shows us as to from where renewal must begin.
From Restoration to Renewal: The sincerity of the people to live a life worthy of those who have experienced the restoring grace of God is revealed in 10:28-39. Confession of faith needs to be translated into a practical and visible change of life style and practice. Each individual has a responsibility to accept for himself or herself the values which characterize the whole. Restoration is not a one off phenomenon. It becomes complete only if we constantly revisit restoration itself. Revisiting restoration is called renewal. The details of the agreement in 10:28-39 reflect a holistic understanding of renewal. It touches not only all aspects of life, but life itself. Commitment to God, His Law and His temple is the basis of any renewal (vv. 28-29, 32-34). The purity of life (v. 30), importance of observing the Sabbath (v.31) and tithing their earthly first fruits and biological first fruits (v. 35-38) were also not exempted from the purview of renewal. Let us grow from restoration to renewal and from renewal to fullness of life.
O Lord, in your grace, restore us, renew us and consecrate us! Amen.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
A change of heart can lead to a change in our destiny.
Christian Education Forum, Diocese of NAE of the Mar Thoma Church