Scripture reading – Ezra 9

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Ezra 9

 

Ezra arrived in Jerusalem with gold and silver furnished by King Artaxerxes, the leaders of Persia, and the Jews who chose to continue dwelling in the land of their captivity (Ezra 8:33-35). He also delivered to the Persian leadership living in Jerusalem his commission from the king, giving him authority over the Jews in religious and civic matters (Ezra 7:26; 8:36). Soon after, Ezra learned that the Jews that returned from exile had compromised their homes with the heathen who had settled in Israel (Ezra 9:1).

 

A Spiritual Crisis (Ezra 9:1-5)

The laws and commandments of the LORD state clearly that fathers and mothers are the gatekeepers of their homes and children’s hearts (Deuteronomy 6). Sadly, Ezra 9 records the tragic failure of spiritual leaders and parents. They had failed to guard their homes from the influences of the heathens who were re-settled in Israel during the captivity years. Ezra wrote, “The princes [leaders of the people] came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands…2For they have taken of their 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” (Ezra 9:1-2).

A Spiritual Crisis

Ezra’s response to the compromise of God’s people is notable, for he was overcome with grief and sorrow (Ezra 9:3). In a public display of heartbrokenness, he tore away his robe and outer garment, plucked out his hair and beard, and sat down stunned by the sins of the people, especially knowing the leaders of the people were “chief” in the trespass (Ezra 9:3).

One by one, “those who trembled at the words of the God of Israel” (Ezra 9:4) assembled before Ezra. They continued to sit “astonied [appalled] until the evening sacrifice” (Ezra 9:4b). Ezra, having said nothing, arose at the evening sacrifice (3:00 pm) and fell upon his knees before the congregation. There he “spread out [his]hands unto the Lord” (Ezra 9:5) and prayed (Ezra 9:6-15).

 

Ezra’s Prayer and Reflection on God’s Grace (Ezra 9:6-11)

Ezra identified with the sins of the people and confessed, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens” (Ezra 9:6). He then rehearsed the past sins of the nation (Ezra 9:7). He acknowledged God’s grace (Ezra 9:8). Though the people had forsaken the LORD, Ezra reflected, “Our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage” (Ezra 9:9).

Yet, despite God’s grace and mercy, Ezra confessed, “O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken thy commandments, 11Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness” (Ezra 9:10-11).

A Call for Radical Separation

A Call for Radical Separation (Ezra 9:12-15)

The people had violated the fundamentals of God’s laws and compromised their families by giving their sons and daughters to intermarry with the heathen of the land (Ezra 9:12). Ezra proposed a purging of sin that was nothing short of radical amputation of the offense. He commanded the people, “Now therefore 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” (Ezra 9:12).

Ezra rehearsed the sins and judgments Israel and Judah suffered in the past and conceded that only God’s grace and mercy had spared the people from annihilation (Ezra 9:13). He admonished the people, “14Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?” (Ezra 9:14) Because of their sins, Ezra confessed that the people could not stand before the LORD (Ezra 9:15b).

Closing thoughts

Ezra’s response to the people’s sins and compromises graphically displayed his sorrow and fear of the LORD’s judgment. He understood that the people’s sins and disobedience invited God’s judgment. Casting himself and the nation before the LORD, Ezra prayed for His mercies.

The spiritual leaders and fathers of Israel failed to be the spiritual gatekeepers of their homes and children’s hearts. They failed to insulate their families from the heathen and their sinful ways (Ezra 9:2). Their failure led to familiarity with the heathen’s sins and, eventually, a bond of friendship that led to marriage. Ezra realized that intermarriage with the heathen endangered the nation’s future.

Mom and Dad, you are the spiritual gatekeepers of your home and family. Are you guarding your children’s hearts from friendship with the wicked and insulating them from the sins and allurement of the world?

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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