What does it say?
Nehemiah the governor and leaders signed the document. They vowed (knowing the curse) to walk in God’s law as was given through Moses, to keep all of the commandments and statues of the law; they also vowed not to intermarry with the people of the land and to keep the Sabbath. They also vowed to give a temple tax, one third of a shekel. They cast lots for who would bring up wood to burn in the temple at appointed times; and vowed to bring in the first born, the first fruits, and give one-tenth of what up from the ground to the Levites. Lots were cast for one-tenth of the people to live in Jerusalem, while nine-tenths lived in the other cities of Judah; those who lived in Jerusalem were blessed by the people. The people who did not live in Jerusalem lived on their own property. The sons of Judah, the sons of Benjamin, the priests, and Levites who lived in Jerusalem are listed and numbered according to their patriarchal names. The Levites who were in charge of singing kept the commandment of David concerning music day by day in the temple. The people who lived in the other cities of Judah and Benjamin are not listed but the cities were.
What does it mean?
For the retuned exiles the law given through Moses, the Temple and the city of Jerusalem became central and the outlying communities less important. For the returned exiles community meant Jerusalem, worship meant the Temple and obedience the law. However, can any man perfectly keep the law? If the works that they vowed to do are not done with a whole heart they would be guilty of violating the law. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) When the community does these things what will be the intentions of the heart?
What shall I do?
Jesus said to not make vows because we do not have the power to make things happen but let your yes be yes and your no be no. (Mt 5:33-37) Theonomy is a hypothetical form of government ruled by God’s law. I do not believe that theonomy is possible in this fallen world. Men have rebellious hearts. Under threat, men will outwardly observe the law but not from the bottom of the heart. I shall not place a yoke on my brother which no man is able to bear but I shall point all men to Christ alone for salvation from the curse of the law. (cf. Acts 15:10-11)