Ezra 10:1 (NIV) 1 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites–men, women and children–gathered around him. They too wept bitterly.
On verse 1: Ezra weeps violently because of how his people have sinned, when eventually he is surrounded by a large crowd of men, women and children who weep with him. What can we learn from this? Though you might sometimes feel alone, in the kingdom of God you are not alone. In Christ you are part of a bigger body such that there are others who feel the pain that you, most notably Jesus Christ our brother and our Saviour.
Ezra 10:2-4 (NIV) 2 Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. 4 Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”
On verses 2-17: With the encouragement of Shecaniah, Ezra assembles the people, points out that they have sinned by marrying unbelieving women and calls them to repent. The people agree with Ezra. However, they tell Ezra that sending away the unbelieving wives and their children cannot be done in a day or two, but will take some time, some investigation and some ordering of their affairs.
What can we learn from this? Repentance is not simply feeling sorry for your sins, or agreeing with God that you have sinned, but it’s about being willing to take those practical steps to turn from sin. When you start to take practical steps to get rid of sinful habits or patterns in your life, you may find that it is not as simple as raising your hand in a worship service. There are decisions and life changes to make that will take intentional planning and effort. Just as the repenting adulterer needs to take practical steps to cut off ties with the person they committed the affair with, just as the repenting thief needs to comb through their past to determine how much they stole and from whom and make restitution for it, there are practical implications to repentance. Living out those implications requires time, effort and intentionality.
Ezra 10:18 (NIV) 18 Among the descendants of the priests, the following had married foreign women: From the descendants of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah.
On verses 18-44: The book of Ezra ends by listing the names of those who sinned against God by marrying unbelieving women, starting with the sons of priests (v18-24) and then listing the rest (v25-43).
What can we learn from this? In Jewish culture parents placed a great emphasis on picking the right name for their child, even more so than today in Canada. It was believed that a person’s name spoke about that person’s destiny. So parents would naturally try to pick the best name for their child. That’s why it shouldn’t surprise us to see in this list a man named after the history-making patriarch Joseph (v42), another man named after the great prophet Elijah (v26), his relative named after the prophet Zechariah (v26), and FOUR men named after the famous warrior Benaiah (v25, 34, 35, 43). Yet despite being giving such great names, these men still sinned against God. Their own names could not save them from their sin and the mark that sin left on their lives. There is only one name that can save us from our sins. It’s the name of Jesus. Were it not for the name of Jesus, our names would be recorded in hell’s list of sinners. But isn’t it awesome that through faith in Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven and our names are now included on another list: God’s list of saints, His children.
The book of Ezra, which was written while the Jews were still under the old covenant (remember the book of Hebrews?), ends on a sad note. It spotlights the sin that God’s people, including the priests, had committed. Praise God that our stories do not need to end that way. Because of Jesus, what marks the end of our story is not our sin, but God’s grace, forgiveness and salvation.
This brings our look at the book of Ezra to a close. What were the most important lessons God taught you through this book? To deepen your grasp of this book, I encourage you to look back at what you learned and journal a prayer to God, asking Him to help you to apply each specific lesson to your life.
Lord Jesus, Your name is the only name that saves. Whereas I deserved to be listed among sinners, You chose to be named on that list in my place so that I could be named among Your children. If there are practical ways that I can change my lifestyle, my habits or my attitude so that I can live more fully in Your blessing, help me to take those practical steps and to make those necessary decisions and arrangements. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!