As I read through chapters 9 & 10 of Ezra I kept looking for something about God. In chapter 8 we see God’s gracious hand as they are allowed to go from captivity back to Jerusalem. This was the second of three returns of remnants from captivity. I kept waiting to see my gracious forgiving God appear to forgive them of their sin and save the day for all of these families. Ezra ends with no such appearance. God is strangely quiet though I know He was there. I know He is a forgiving God! I know He has forgiven me over and over again! So how can I grow in knowing Him in these hard last two chapters of Ezra?
Ezra must have been on a spiritual high! God had protected them and provided for them as they returned. Then there was a knock on the door and he had a visit from the leaders to call his attention to one small detail about the remnant that had returned. God had said not to intermarry in the promised land as it was polluted by the corruption of its people. They were not to give their sons or daughters in marriage to these people. (ch. 9 vs. 10-12.) It appears by Ezra’s reaction that he hadn’t noticed this before. I find that hard to believe. Was this prophet just turning his head at this sin of theirs? I am not sure but he falls on his knees with hands spread out to the Lord and prays. Some of the points he makes are:
- I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.
- Our sin goes back to our forefathers and because of it we were subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings as it is today.
- But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief to our bondage.
- God has not deserted us in our bondage.
- He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia.
- He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins.
- He has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.
- You have punished us less than our sins deserved.
- Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.
Next in chapter 10 we see the people being convicted of their sin. Shecaniah tells Ezra that there is still hope for Israel. That Ezra needs to rise up and since the matter was in his hands he needed to have courage (they of course would support him) and make a covenant before God and send away all of the women and their children they had intermarried with.
The next scene is of all of the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered in the rain in Jerusalem. All the people were sitting in the square of the house of God. The mood? They were greatly distressed. No kidding? I can’t even imagine being told that I had to send my wife and children away because I had sinned. Since it said they were all guilty of this sin, each family would be affected by this edict. They agree to allow the officials to act for them and to bring each case before the elders and judges for determination. This process took three months to accomplish. Verses 18-43 give the names of each person who had committed this sin.
Ezra finishes the book with verse 44, “All these had married foreign women, and some of them had children by these wives.” What a sad ending to a happy story of God working in a Persian king to allow them to return and rebuild the temple. So what do I learn about my God in these last two chapters? His gracious hand was upon them but He didn’t come to the rescue as I would think He would. He had told them what He expected and they had disregarded that. The grave consequences of captivity didn’t give them permission to sin even more. Though for the wives and children’s sakes I wish all could have been forgiven and God would allow these families a fresh start. That is why I am not God. I do know my God is a loving God and in keeping the line of Christ pure there were huge consequences to their sin. I am sure He is just as serious about the things He tells me I am to do.
My dear God, I am so very grateful you have forgiven my sins. Are there things in my life that I allow myself to slide on because of you forgiveness and grace? Do I continue on with things you have made clear are not good for me? I can think of a couple. How about you? As our study ends in this book of Ezra the sobering ending makes me want to take a sobering look at my life, my choices and my heart. What perfect timing on New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow is a bright New Year. What a great time to start a bright new beginning! How did I grow in knowing my God in these last two chapters of Ezra? Though He loves me and forgives me He will not be mocked. I need to be serious about the things He calls to my attention.
Have a very happy new year! I am not sure where God will lead us next but I look forward to studying with you as we Grow in Knowing God in 2013! God bless you and yours!