All those who have entered into the agreement are called “kinsmen”. They all take the same place before God. Even the “nobles” among them are “kinsmen”. Faithfulness to God humbles the high and increases the low. They are connected not only by family ties, but also by a common desire. They all want to obey the law of God.
The nobles join the covenant . The people affirm with a curse and an oath that they will obey the law. They solemnly declare their sincerity before God, invoking His righteous wrath when they act unfaithfully.
As an application to us who are not under the law, we can say that the commitment they make to obey the law is for us a renewal of the desire to obey. Obedience is a fundamental principle in the Christian’s life in every area of his life: family, society and church. For us the admonition of Barnabas, who encourages the church in Antioch to remain to the Lord with the purpose of their hearts (Acts 11:2323Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and [began] to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain [true] to the Lord;), applies to all the areas mentioned.
Verses 29-3129are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of GOD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes;30and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.31As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego [the crops] the seventh year and the exaction of every debt. describe the obligations to which the people submit themselves and their families. The covenant covers
1. their personal walk (verse 2929are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of GOD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes;),
2. their children in view of the matrimonial obligations they enter into (verse 3030and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.), and
3. the keeping of the sabbath and the sabbath year (verse 3131As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego [the crops] the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.).
So the first obligation is for each one personally, the second for the children. If there is no obedience in personal or family life, God cannot possibly be honored. Obedience brings about separation from the world. Friendship with the world is given up and instead there is dedication to God. They want to walk in God’s law, that is, in submission to Holy Scripture. Personal obedience to God’s Word is the starting point.
Secondly, they want to maintain the separation of the nations of the land, and therefore they do not want to allow their children to enter into an unequal yoke. Separation from evil and dedication to God is the first consequence of obedience.
Thirdly, they want to honor God by keeping the sabbath and not give in to greed in response to what the nations offer on that holy day. The sabbath is the peace of God in which His people may share.
They fourthly pledge to leave the land fallow in the seventh year, for because they did not, they were transported to Babylon at that time (Exo 23:1111but [on] the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard [and] your olive grove.; Lev 26:33-3533You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.34‘Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.35All the days of [its] desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it.). It also means that they will not claim the debts their brethren owe them, and therefore will not give in to the spirit of domination. The sabbath year is the year of release and remission (Deu 15:1-21“At the end of [every] seven years you shall grant a remission [of debts].2This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD’s remission has been proclaimed.).
In that spirit God wants us to treat our brothers and sisters. These are all lessons for us if we want to give Christ His place as Head and act according to the unity of His body, the church, and preserve the unity of the Spirit. Have we not been unfaithful to the Word of God? We have boasted on our position in Christ, but we have not personally submitted to God’s Word. The voice of people in the church sounds louder than the voice of God through the Word. Tradition has more authority than Scripture.
Haven’t we also lacked true separation? We may be separated from church systems, but in our dealings and walks we resemble people of the world. Hasn’t the spirit of the world come into our homes and into the churches? What does church separation say when we are connected to the world in other ways?
Are we not cool in our dealings with God-fearing believers from whom we sometimes differ in a slight way, while we deal with worldly people in a warm-hearted manner? All these questions are better answered now than before Christ’s judgment seat.
The sabbath speaks of the peace that Christ has given us through His work. But do we not fall short of that rest when we believe that we can gain a certain merit, a certain profit, on the basis of something in ourselves, is it not with God than surely it is with our fellow Christians?
And what about life in faith? Leaving the land fallow in the seventh year represents the confidence that God will provide even if it seems to us that things are going wrong. It is an acknowledgment of God’s right to the land. That acknowledgment determines us with God Himself. Is it really only about Him in our lives? We can ‘come together on a Godly foundation’, ‘break bread in a Scriptural way’, ‘maintain the testimony’, and do all kinds of other things that are only perceptible and verifiable externally, while our appreciation of the eternal and unseen decreases further and further, and we only live for the here-and-now.
The fifth obligation, that of not claiming debts, is related to the previous one. Are we not often demanding of our fellow believers the more we lose sight of eternal things and live for the present? “Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (Jam 5:9b9Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.). The end of this dispensation is in sight. It is high time that we stop demanding of each other, and start living in the awareness of all that has been forgiven us by God. A demanding attitude prevents fellowship. If we judge it, we will together be able to uphold and honor God and His truth.