Ezra 9-10 … 1 Corinthians 6
We hear a lot of meaningless apologies. “I’m sorry if you took that the wrong way,” “I apologize if anyone was hurt,” or “Mistakes were made.” But the reality of sin in light of God’s holiness doesn’t allow for wiggle room with insincere confessions like, “God, I’m sorry if I sinned in some way.”
When we are confronted with the reality of our sinful attitudes and actions, our response should be like Ezra — to throw ourselves before the Lord in repentance and confession. Not because we are worms groveling at the feet of a sadistic monster, but because, like Ezra, we know that our God is gracious.
“Even in our slavery, God has given us new life and light to our eyes. Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us new life, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.” Ezra 9: 8b-9
Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Ezra finds out that the people of Israel, including the priests and Levites, have been intermarrying with the pagan cultures surrounding them. His reaction?
“As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled” (9:3)
It seems almost inconceivable that the Israelites of Ezra’s day could have fallen into the sin of intermarrying with the idolatrous peoples around them. God had strictly forbidden inter-marriage with other nations, because He knew that His people’s hearts would be led astray by these unions. This was not an issue of racial purity, by the way, but spiritual purity.
And much like patterns of sin in our own lives, Israel’s pattern of intermarrying with pagan cultures was not new. Solomon married many foreign women who worshipped detestable idols and turned his heart from the Lord.
We might have thought that Israel’s seventy-year captivity in Babylon finally cured God’s people of their infatuation with idol worship. But here were some of the former exiles, including the leaders, disobeying God and inviting His judgment again by taking foreign women as wives for themselves and their sons. No wonder Ezra tore his clothes and even pulled out some of his hair, a sign of extreme anguish.
In my more modern image, I picture Ezra doing a major forehead slap and screaming at them, “Are you KIDDING me?!?!”
If spiritual amnesia comes as easy to us as it did the people of Ezra’s day (and it does), maybe we need to practice our remembering.
Here’s a brief prayer checklist list I found that you can use each day to keep your memory of God’s will sharp in your mind.
1) Give thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:18)
2) Ask God to search your heart and show you any “offensive way” (Ps. 139:23–24)
3) Don’t be anxious about anything, but bring your requests to God (Phil. 4:6)
4) Ask God to cleanse you from “hidden faults” and keep you from “willful sins” (Ps. 19:12–13)
After sitting appalled, and praying to God himself, Ezra gave the people this advice,
“make a confession to Yahweh the God of your fathers and do His will. Separate yourselves “ Ezra 10:11
Being sorry is a necessary step, but doing something about it is what shows sincerity. It also can help to keep us from repeating the same mistake again.
Maybe we should add a step 5 to that list in honor of Ezra…
5.) Take action in your repentance. Show it. Live a changed life. (Ezra 10:11)