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Devotions by Ray Stedman for August 20 -The Oath

Topic:The Oath
READ THE SCRIPTURE: NEHEMIAH 9:38-10:29

In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.
Nehemiah 9:38

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This verse includes a list of what might be termed the company of the committed. These people see a need for preserving and perpetuating the changes in their lifestyles so as to keep in step with God; thus, they sign this agreement to bind themselves to that end. This agreement represents a kind of universal urge found among humans to publicly pledge themselves to be loyal to a cause they feel is right.

When the Pilgrims were about to land at Plymouth, they formed what they called the Mayflower Compact. They drew up rules for living in the new land, and they all signed it as an agreement to live by these principles and laws.

Probably the most famous document in American history is the Declaration of Independence. Our forefathers signed that great statement setting forth the reasons they felt God was leading them to establish a new nation upon this continent. Recall the closing words of that document: For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. History records that most of those signers of the Declaration actually did have to give up their lives. Those who did not lost their fortunes. But all of them retained their sacred honor. Perhaps you have done something like that in your own life. There came a time when you realized you needed to make some changes in your behavior. Some of the greatest saints of the past did this. They drew up rules for their own conduct that they felt would help them to walk with God and to grow in grace and favor before Him.

But there is one other very important point here. Ultimately these people failed to follow through with their commitment. Subsequent history reveals that all the old habits returned. The nation once again lost the blessing of God upon it. Why? We discover the key in Nehemiah 10:29. They said, 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. They were depending on their own efforts to obey. They bound themselves with a curse and an oath. They were saying, We will do this or else. They were relying upon their own will power. They were gritting their teeth and swearing to perform. There is no expression of any need of help from God or of any provision for failure and return.

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That is what the New Testament adds. It is right to vow. It is right to write it down for your own benefit and remind yourself frequently of your goal. But we must always add the words that Paul uses of himself, I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). That is what makes the difference.

Lord, I can do nothing apart from You. I commit myself to You and what You desire for me, but I realize that even the desire to do that comes from You.

Life Application
How fully set apart and committed are we to knowing Jesus Christ? When we consent to God’s will, do we fully count on His power to keep us faithful and fruitful?

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