Confession and action

Today’s Reading: Ezra 10:1-44, 1 Corinthians 6:1-20, Psalm 31:9-18, Proverbs 21:3

The readings today do not seem like a life greater than I can imagine. In fact, the story in Ezra 10 about breaking up families is simply dreadful to me. It is the story of men confessing their sins and then turning their repentance into action in response to those sins.

Let us now make a covenant with our God to divorce our pagan wives and to send them away with their children. We will follow the advice given by you and by the others who respect the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law of God.

This is hard for me to read because throughout the Bible, there is a tremendous emphasis on keeping families together. Malachi 2:16 is a strong warning against divorce.

16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,”[e] says the Lord Almighty.

Some translations actually quote God as saying, “I hate divorce,” yet that is what Shecaniah suggested, apparently in response to Ezra’s instructions. And that is what they did, with a few exceptions noted in Ezra 10:15. Was God instructing them to do something awful, something that he normally opposed, to avoid something even worse? If this had continued would Israel have been assimilated with the local tribes of Canaan and ceased to exist? The story focuses on the Levites, but there are references to the other tribes. Was one of the names from Judah in the genealogy of Jesus Christ? Perhaps the seriousness of this action reflected the need to maintain God’s plan of salvation through Jesus?

I am glad I was not there to see this happen, or to be one of the men who had intermarried. Later this month, we will read 2 Corinthians 6, where Paul warns Christians against marrying unbelievers, so this episode in Ezra still has application in our lives. As I’m writing now, I remember a description of how Solomon fell away from serving God “because of his many foreign wives.” See I Kings 11.

So as painful as this passage in Ezra is to me, there is a deep lesson here about the impact of marrying the right (or wrong) people on a believer’s life of faith and relationship with God. There may also be a lesson about God working through history and insisting that His laws be obeyed so that our salvation could be assured. Very serious business – hoping for something a bit more lighthearted tomorrow.

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