Scripture reading – Ezra 10; Nehemiah 1

* We conclude our study of the Book of Ezra with today’s Scripture reading. This is the first of two devotionals. The second will be an introduction to the Book of Nehemiah.

Soon after he arrived in Jerusalem (Ezra 8), the leaders of the people came to Ezra with devastating news. Ezra was told, “The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations…2For they have taken of their [the heathen nations]daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed [the Jews] have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass” (9:1-2).

Overwhelmed with grief, Ezra understood the sins of the people had put the nation in danger of God’s judgment. Rending his robe, and plucking out his hair and beard, Ezra “sat down astonied” (9:3), as the people “trembled at the words of the God of Israel” gathered around him (9:4). “At the evening sacrifice” (9:5), Ezra began to pray to God and confessed the sins that had polluted the land (9:5-11).

Ezra then charged the people to obey the law of God (Deuteronomy 7:1-3), and separate from the heathen, and “give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever” (9:12).

Ezra 10 – A Spiritual Crisis: Unequally Yoked Marriages

Ezra’s prayer before the Temple, and his confession of the sins of the nation, so moved the people that they “wept very sore” (10:1). One of the men, “Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam” (whose family was guilty of marrying unbelieving wives, 10:26), answered Ezra and confessed, “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing” (10:2).

What hope could there be for a nation that had not only sinned against the LORD, but compromised their bloodline by intermarrying with the heathen nations? There was only one path forward, and it was to repent and turn from their sins to God. The great wickedness of Israel required a radical separation that would inevitably divide families, and sever relationships (10:3).

The Severity of the Solution Suggested the Seriousness of the Sin. (10:1-8)

Such wickedness could not be treated lightly, and Shechaniah proposed a covenant be established between the nation and God, saying, “put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law” (10:3).

Tragic, you say? Yes, but when believers follow a path of sin, they sacrifice more than their fellowship with the LORD, they also damage the perception the heathen have of God. Continuing to speak on behalf of the people, Shechaniah challenged Ezra and assured him, “this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it” (10:4).

Ezra then made a proclamation, and gave the nation three days to assemble in Jerusalem (10:7-8). Those who failed to come before the congregation were warned they would forfeit not only their lands and possessions, but also their worship and fellowship with the congregation (10:8).

Public Confrontation (10:9-10)

Two of the principal tribes, Judah and Benjamin, assembled in Jerusalem “within three days… and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain” (10:9). Speaking honestly and sparing no words, Ezra confronted the people, “and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel” (10:10).

Though heart-rending, there was only one solution, so Ezra commanded, “make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives” (10:11).

Public Confession and Personal Separation (10:12-15)

The congregation assented to Ezra’s challenge, and answered “with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do” (10:12). Yet, because of the rain, and the great number who had taken wives of the heathen, it was suggested that a committee of leaders be formed and tasked with the responsibility of seeking out those who had taken wives of the heathen (10:13-15).

Personal Separation (10:16-44)

On the date appointed, the names of the guilty were presented to Ezra, who sat down and began to “examine the matter” (10:16). Named among those culpable were “the sons of the priests,” even the sons of Jeshua, the high priest (10:18-22), who “put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass” (10:19). Ten Levites had taken heathen wives, along with one Temple singer, and three gatekeepers of the Temple (10:23-24). The list of the guilty also included 84 men of the congregation (10:25-43), all who “had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children” (10:44).

Closing thoughts – Believer, it is the will of God that His people not be yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Should you find yourself unequally yoked with an unbeliever, it is God’s will that you “come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

It was God’s will for Israel to separate from their heathen wives; however, the same does not apply to a believer married to an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:12-14). God’s people should not partner with nor marry unbelievers; however, should a believer be married to an unbeliever, they are to treat the bond of marriage as sacred to the end their spouse might receive Christ as their Savior (1 Corinthians 7:12-14).

Marriage is more than a physical union, it is also a spiritual institution sanctified and established by God (Ephesians 5:25, 28-33; 1 Peter 3:7).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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