Nehemiah 10:28 speaks of “the rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants, and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand.”
Notice that small word, “all.” Can you say that, father? Can you say that, mother? “All my sons and all my daughters.”
“All … who are able to understand.” This shows the importance of understanding the word of God and the God of the word. “All these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our God.” This is no partial obedience!
If God has given you new birth, and if God has given you the Holy Spirit, if God has opened your eyes to understand his word, then you will delight in the law of God, in the government of God, in the kingdom of God. The gospel is: Your God reigns! There are a lot of people who want a God without laws, without regulations. We will never find such a God, who promotes our autonomy.
So the men and women, with all their sons and daughters, in public, are putting themselves under a curse if they violate God’s law. Remember, a covenant has curses and blessings. They are saying they understand covenant. They are saying, “If I fail to live this covenant life, may your curse come down and rest on me.” That shows very deliberate making of a covenant, not making some silly, stupid promise. It is serious, self-maledictory, self-condemning. They took an oath and they put themselves under a curse. What are they saying? That they will follow the law of God, and obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord their God.
If you want to know what a curse is all about, look at the list of curses in Deuteronomy 28. It could be that Ezra was reading the book of Deuteronomy. Chapter 29 of Deuteronomy is the covenant renewal during the time of Moses; he instructed them how to live. Beginning with Deuteronomy 28:15, “However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.” This means you don’t have anything to eat. “The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.” You get the picture.
They finished confessing by saying, “You did all this to us because we were arrogant, disobedient, forgetful and defiant.” Now they state, “I make a covenant, in public, with my wife and with all my sons and with all my daughters. We promise to keep your laws, and we put ourselves under a curse if we fail to do it. If we do not live a changed life, if we do not live an obedient life, let the curses of Deuteronomy 28 come upon us.” They found out that a disobedient life is a miserable, wretched life. They said, “We are slaves in our land, and we are in great distress. You have justly punished us. But we are taking advantage of 2 Chronicles 7:14. We are humbling ourselves and we are asking you to please help us.”
This is not based on a little feeling. This is based on serious deliberation of the word of God. “If I do not love God and obey him, let me and my family be destroyed.” It is personal, it is public, it is practical and particular. It is not just saying in some general way, “Well, we’ll love God; we’ll do it.” Intellectual adjustment by God’s word always brings about volitional adjustment. Change of mind brings about change of will.