Having covenanted against the sins they had been guilty of, they proceed in obliging themselves to revive and observe the duties they had neglected. We must not only cease to do evil, but learn to do well.
I. It was resolved, in general, that the temple service should be carefully kept up, that the work of the house of their God should be done in its season, according to the law, Neh. 10:33. Let not any people expect the blessing of God unless they make conscience of observing his ordinances and keeping up the public worship of him. Then it is likely to go well with our houses when care is taken that the work of God’s house go on well. It was likewise resolved that they would never forsake the house of their God (Neh. 10:39), as they and their fathers had done, would not forsake it for the house of any other god, or for the high places, as idolaters did, nor forsake it for their farms and merchandises, as those did that were atheistical and profane. Those that forsake the worship of God forsake God.
II. It was resolved, in pursuance of this, that they would liberally maintain the temple service, and not starve it. The priests were ready to do their part in all the work of God’s house, if the people would do theirs, which was to find them with materials to work upon. Now here it was agreed and concluded, 1. That a stock should be raised for the furnishing of God’s table and altar plentifully. Formerly there were treasures in the house of the Lord for this purpose, but these were gone, and there was no settled fund to supply the want of them. It was a constant charge to provide show-bread for the table, two lambs for the daily offerings, four for the sabbaths, and more, and more costly, sacrifices for other festivals, occasional sin-offerings, and meat-offerings, and drink-offerings for them all. They had no rich king to provide these, as Hezekiah did; the priests could not afford to provide them, their maintenance was so small; the people therefore agreed to contribute yearly, every one of them, the third part of a shekel, about ten pence a-piece for the bearing of this expense. When every one will act, and every one will give, though but little, towards a good work, the whole amount will be considerable. The tirshatha did not impose this tax, but the people made it an ordinance for themselves, and charged themselves with it, Neh. 10:32, 33. 2. That particular care should be taken to provide wood for the altar, to keep the fire always burning upon it, and wherewith to boil the peace-offerings. All of them, priests and Levites as well as people, agreed to bring in their quota, and cast lots in what order they should bring it in, which family first and which next, that there might be a constant supply, and not a scarcity at one time and an overplus at another, Neh. 10:34. Thus they provided the fire and the wood, as well as the lambs for the burnt-offerings. 3. That all those things which the divine law had appointed for the maintenance of the priests and Levites should be duly paid in, for their encouragement to mind their business, and that they might not be under any temptation to neglect it for the making of necessary provision for their families. Then the work of the house of God is likely to go on when those that serve at the altar live, and live comfortably, upon the altar. First-fruits and tenths were then the principal branches of the ministers’ revenues; and they here resolved, (1.) To bring in the first-fruits justly, the first-fruits of their ground and trees (Exod. 23:19; Lev. 19:23), the first-born of their children (even the money wherewith they were to be redeemed) and of their cattle, Exod. 13:2, 11, 12 (this was given to the priests, Num. 18:15, 16), also the first-fruits of their dough (Num. 15:21), concerning which there is a particular order given in the prophecy concerning the second temple, Ezek. 44:30. (2.) To bring in their tenths likewise, which were due to the Levites (Neh. 10:37), and a tenth out of those tenths to the priest, Neh. 10:38. This was the law (Num. 18:21-28); but these dues had been withheld, in consequence of which God, by the prophet, charges them with robbing him (Mal. 3:8, 9), at the same time encouraging them to be more just to him and his receivers, with a promise that, if they brought the tithes into the store-house, he would pour out blessings upon them, Neh. 10:10. This therefore they resolved to do, that there might be meat in God’s house, and plenty in the store-chambers of the temple, where the vessels of the sanctuary were, Neh. 10:39. “We will do it (say they) in all the cities of our tillage,” Neh. 10:37. In all the cities of our servitude, so the LXX., for they were servants in their own land, Neh. 9:36. But (as Mr. Poole well observes), though they paid great taxes to the kings of Persia, and had much hardship put upon them, they would not make that an excuse for not paying their tithes, but would render to God the things that were his, as well as to Caesar the things that were his. We must do what we can in works of piety and charity notwithstanding the taxes we pay to the government, and cheerfully perform our duty to God in our servitude, which will be the surest way to ease and liberty in God’s due time.