Ezra 9:1-2 (NIV) 1 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. 2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”
Ezra 9:3-6 (NIV) 3 When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. 4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God 6 and prayed…
On verses 3-4: Ezra is appalled and upset at his fellow Israelites for sinning in such a foolish and blatant way. He tears his clothes and pulls out his hair, which were traditional signs of mourning. Wisely Ezra does not speak right away to anyone. Instead, Ezra waits until the evening sacrifice to speak, and when he does speak it’s a desperate prayer to God.
What can we learn from this? When you receive upsetting news, let your first instinct be to run to God with your pain. Instead of doing something you will later regret, go to God first. Sit in His presence. He is a God who knows you, loves you and who rises to show you compassion.
Ezra 9:13-14 (NIV) 13 “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this. 14 Shall we again break your commands and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor?
On verses 6-15: When people around us sin, we can turn a blind eye, we can vilify them, or we can stand in the gap on their behalf. Ezra chose to do the latter. He begins to confess sin and intercede on behalf of the people. As Ezra prays, notice that:
– Ezra identifies with the sinners. He does not say, “Look at what those sinful people have done!” Instead, he takes ownership of the peoples’ sin and says, “We have sinned”.
– Ezra is sincerely ashamed and remorseful because of the sin (v6)
– Ezra recognizes that it’s because of these sinful ways that his people have been subject to attack, captivity and humiliation in the past (v7, 13)
– Ezra does not take for granted the grace that God has shown him and his people (v8-9)
– Ezra makes no excuse for the peoples’ sin. He acknowledges that “we have disregarded the commands you gave” (v10-12).
What Ezra did for his people reminds me of what Jesus would later do for all of us, except that Jesus would go to a far greater extent. Jesus would identify with us sinners, even assuming the penalty for our sin by dying on a cross. Jesus didn’t turn a blind eye to our sin or condemn us for our sin. Instead, He saw our sinful state and decided to be condemned in our place. Jesus did what only He the Son of God could do: save us from our sin.
Praise God that just as the Israelites had a priest like Ezra who tore his clothes and stood in the gap for them, we have someone even greater – Jesus our great high priest – who tore his flesh and stood in the gap for us to make forgiveness and reconciliation with God possible.
Lord Jesus, thank You so much that when we had sinned blatantly against God, You came, identified with us sinners, and stood in the gap for us. Because Your commands are not given to limit our happiness but to maximize it, I pray for every single Christian who wants to get married and who is reading this GAME sharing. May they not yoke themselves to an unbeliever, but look for a life partner who believes in You and trusts You, for the sake of their own happiness and for the sake of Your glory. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!