(Today’s post by Adam Cooper)
The commitment of the Israelites that have come out of exile continues to be displayed and in this portion of Nehemiah it is being displayed through the execution of a covenant among themselves. This covenant is their way of recommitting to the Levitical laws that prior generations failed miserably to adhere to; and it was these failures that eventually led to their exile to begin with. Nehemiah has succeeded in bringing the Jews back to their God and now he has a signed document to prove it. As I look upon this act of the Jews it makes me think about baptism; you repent from your sins and accept Christ as your Lord and savior and then you participate in Baptism as a public declaration of your new faith. The Jews repent from their sins and rededicate themselves to the laws of God through this public declaration of placing their names on this document.
It would take a discussion of the Biblical books that follow this period in history to see how seriously this covenant was or was not taken. The return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile makes the third return from exile in Jewish history; Egypt, Assyria (circa 722 BC), and now the Babylonian (circa 586 BC). This history would indicate that the Jewish re-commitment this covenant declares will probably be less than sincere in the long run. However, I may be mistaken, but I do not believe another exile follows although the Jews continue to live as a people occupied constantly by foreign armies; most notably the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.
As I read Nehemiah I have this “déjà vu” feeling almost like hearing a promise from a friend that has let you down MANY times. Although there is a sincerity in their actions I feel that the actions lack INTEGRITY. (Integrity: 1. firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; incorruptibility, 2. an unimpaired condition; soundness, 3. the quality or state of being complete or undivided.) Even though in the grand scheme of Jewish history their actions may have led to decades, maybe even centuries of dedication to God, they continually struggled with their commitment.
What is God trying to tell us through this Old Testament scripture? Why is this written covenant of the Jewish exiles important to those of us living today?
I feel like one of the biggest enemies of the Church today is the integrity of its members. Hypocrisy runs rampant as people live one way on Sunday and another way the rest of the week. People espouse a commitment to God and the teachings of Christ but walk over others as they attempt to further THEMSELVES rather than glorify God. People reach out to God in prayer when they face hardships but when things are going well they completely forget God is moving within their lives. I can probably sit here and name hypocrisy after hypocrisy but that would lead people to believe that I am judgmental and saying that I am better than everyone else. I fail miserably day after day just like the rest of you. But it is important to realize that the difference between being hypocritical and being a product of living in a fallen and sinful world is the conviction that is felt when one fails miserably. The hypocrisy I talk about is when those who commit these indiscretions do not realize they are being hypocritical in their actions. If we are to have a proper witness for Christ we must maintain our integrity and that means being as real as possible when we do, or do not, represent Christ properly.
Now that the momentary stride upon the soapbox is over, I feel that God is trying to tell us through this story in Nehemiah that it doesn’t matter how much we declare our commitment to Him if we do not live that commitment to Him. Many of you probably wish I had just said that in the first place huh?
My prayer for you and I today is that we allow ourselves to examine our lives, our actions, and our commitment to Christ to discover if we are living with integrity. Ask God to point out any failings in these areas and take action to correct them. Maintain your witness for Christ by being real.