Then the rest of the people—the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, Temple servants, and all who had separated themselves from the pagan people of the land in order to obey the Law of God, together with their wives, sons, daughters, and all who were old enough to understand—joined their leaders and bound themselves with an oath. They swore a curse on themselves if they failed to obey the Law of God as issued by his servant Moses. They solemnly promised to carefully follow all the commands, regulations, and decrees of the Lord our Lord:
“We promise not to let our daughters marry the pagan people of the land, and not to let our sons marry their daughters.
“We also promise that if the people of the land should bring any merchandise or grain to be sold on the Sabbath or on any other holy day, we will refuse to buy it. Every seventh year we will let our land rest, and we will cancel all debts owed to us.
“In addition, we promise to obey the command to pay the annual Temple tax of one-eighth of an ounce of silver for the care of the Temple of our God.” (Nehemiah 10:28-32)
The wall was completed, and the agreement God made with his people in the days of Moses was restored (Deuteronomy 8). If God’s chosen people were going to witness for him in an unbelieving world, they needed united, God-fearing families. They also needed to avoid any enticements to worship the idols of the people who lived around them. This was why God prohibited marriage between Israelites and the inhabitants of the land (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). God also knew that the lure of money would conflict with the need for a day of rest, so trade was forbidden inside the city on the Sabbath. By deciding to honor God first, the Israelites would be refusing to make money their god.
This covenant has principles that are important for us today. Our relationship with God must go far beyond church attendance and regular devotions. It should affect our relationships (Nehemiah 10:30), our time (10:31), and our material resources (10:32-39). When you chose to follow God, you promised to serve him in this way. Our culture often makes us choose between convenience and profit on the one hand, and putting God first on the other. Look at your work and worship habits. Is God really first?