Monday, September 10, 2007

Ezra on Repentance

After returning to the Promised Land from captivity in Babylon, Ezra lead the people in the restoration of the sacrificial system. Shortly after this, however, Ezra heard some disappointing news; some of the people, including priests and Levites, had taken wives from the pagan cultures that were living in the land. Even worse, many of the men responsible for governing the people were the ones falling to this temptation.

Here is Ezra's response to this disappointment:

"O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7 From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. 8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.

10 "And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 11which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, 'The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.' 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, 14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? 15 O LORD, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this."

Not only did Ezra humble himself before the Lord, but he called his people to act upon this repentance! In Ezra 10, the people (except for a select few) all committed to divorce their pagan wives (and even sons) in order that they might be right with God.

Wow... so... in application... what are we ready to divorce ourselves from in order to obey God? What "pagan" influences are standing between us and the Lord? What difficulties are we experiencing in our lives that are a direct result of unresolved sin?

Forgive us, heavenly Father! "We are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you..."

We all thank God for Jesus Christ because he has obeyed perfectly! He has paid for our sins, and now we CAN stand before God, because we no longer have guilt if we trust in Christ!

This is the gospel! This is the good news!


No comments: