Life must continue on. But life cannot be marked by the cycle of rebellion as demonstrated in their forefathers and recounted in the prayer of chapter 9. No, this time – this time – they will carry on life with God. They will obey. They will be faithful to their Lord and Savior. And so, as they plan to continue their legacy as God’s chosen people, they make a covenant and seal it.
A covenant, of course, is a promise. Such a thing is risky business, especially with the God of the Universe. These redeemed people, cognizant of their own sin and the failures of their forebears, are making a holy promise to God that they will in fact remain faithful. 84 individual leaders sign it in the presence of all the people.
Included in this covenant are prohibitions against mixed marriages, keeping the Sabbath holy, giving to the Lord, and tending the temple. Israel seems determined this time to stay close to God and his law and not fall into the sins that led to judgment and turmoil as in the past.
This episode raises questions for God’s New Covenant people. Are covenants necessary, or even helpful today? Should we promise God our obedience? How far does this go?