We have abandoned your commands

Today’s Reading: Ezra 8:21-9:15, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, Psalm 31:1-8, Proverbs 21:1-2

The message of Ezra is powerful to me in two ways. First, it is the story of God providing for His people to restore His temple in Jerusalem, essentially reestablishing the nation of Israel. Second, it is the story of Ezra leading the nation in repentance. Ezra confesses on behalf of the entire nation, with a heartfelt prayer.

10 “And now, O our God, what can we say after all of this? For once again we have abandoned your commands! 11 Your servants the prophets warned us when they said, ‘The land you are entering to possess is totally defiled by the detestable practices of the people living there. From one end to the other, the land is filled with corruption. 12 Don’t let your daughters marry their sons! Don’t take their daughters as wives for your sons. Don’t ever promote the peace and prosperity of those nations. If you follow these instructions, you will be strong and will enjoy the good things the land produces, and you will leave this prosperity to your children forever.’

13 “Now we are being punished because of our wickedness and our great guilt. But we have actually been punished far less than we deserve, for you, our God, have allowed some of us to survive as a remnant. 14 But even so, we are again breaking your commands and intermarrying with people who do these detestable things. Won’t your anger be enough to destroy us, so that even this little remnant no longer survives? 15 O Lord, God of Israel, you are just. We come before you in our guilt as nothing but an escaped remnant, though in such a condition none of us can stand in your presence.”

He is grieved that Israel has fallen away and has stopped thinking about being conformed as closely as possible to the image of God – they became contaminated by the world they lived in. I believe this is the state of the church today. We are concerned with approval from the world and shudder at the prospect of being intolerant. Yet we spend little time confessing our sins and seeking to be wholehearted in following God as closely as we can.

I must also say that I dread reading tomorrow’s passage in Ezra, where he will insist that the people of Israel who have intermarried with the local people send their foreign wives and their children with those wives into exile. As a father, I am certain that these men loved their wives and, perhaps even more, their children. It is one of the hardest passages in the Bible for me to consider. More on this tomorrow.

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