Ezra 9 Ė 10 part 6

 

Ezra and those with him have arrived at Jerusalem and the sacrifices have been made and now the story continues in chapter 9.

 

Ezra 9:1 When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.2 "For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass."

 

When we finished up chapter 8, we learned that Ezra had to send word to all the Kings people in their region. This would have taken some time. Approximately 3- 4 months passed before this news came to Ezra about the intermarriage problem with the Jews. This was a forbidden practice by God because God knew that when they started marrying others outside their nation that it would increase the possibility of them turning to idol worship by the influence of their mates. Also, if the continued to intermarry with foreigners, their identity would eventually disappear.

 

Notice what Moses said about this,

 

Deuteronomy 7:1 "When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you,2 "and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.3 "Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.4 "For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.

 

This Law had not changed and it was easy to understand, but many of the Jews ignored this Law as some of their forefathers had. Solomon is good example of what could happen when you marry other women from other nations. They ended up corrupting him and he built alters for their Godís and allowed them to continue their false worship even though he knew that God almighty was the only one that should be worshipped.

 

This sin made Ezra stomach turn even more since the spiritual leaders consisting of the Levites and the priest were some of the main ones that had taken foreign wives. If anyone should have known that this was against Godís Law it would have been them, but they ignored it as well.

 

Ezra 9:3 So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished.4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive, and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice.

 

When Ezra heard this news, it devastated him and as the custom was, he tore his inner and outer garment. Ezra also pulled out part of his hair from his head and his beard and he is the only one recorded in the Bible of doing this. The closest example of this is what Job did when his children died. He tore his cloths and shaved his head (Job 1:20). This just shows how distressed Ezra was about this situation. For hours he just sat there astonished and he was probably contemplating what God was going to do them and how they might rectify the situation.

 

While he was there grieving over this news, those who feared Godís wrath for disobeying his commands gathered around Ezra. These Jews knew that God would not tolerate disobedience and had already punished them once by making them captives for 70 years, so this is why they were trembling.

 

Ezra 9:5 At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God.

 

When it was time for the evening sacrifice, He got up from the ground and prepared himself to pray to God. He fell down on his knees and spread out his hands to God. The rest of chapter is Ezraís prayer to God. Instead, of reading the whole prayer through at once, we are going to examine a few verses at a time.

 

Ezra 9:6 And I said: "O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.7 "Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day.

 

Ezraís approach to God is prayer was like the tax collector that Jesus talked about in Luke 18:13 who stood off at a distance and wouldnít even raise his eyes to heaven, beat his chest and said 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' Ezra did not take the sin of his people lightly because he knew that they were drowning in their sins.

 

Even though Ezra was not guilty of this sin, he includes himself as being part of this sin because he knows that his fate is tied to the outcome of the fellow Jews. He knew the history of his people well and he didnít try to pretend that they had been better than they were because he admits that they had been guilty of sin on many occasions and that is why they had been defeated many times throughout their history.

 

Ezra 9:8 "And now for a little while grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage.9 "For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

 

Some like to say there was no grace in the Old Testament, but there was and Ezra knew that Godís grace had allowed the Jews to return from their captivity. Throughout the history of the Jews there have been many times that God could of have completely destroyed them because of the sinful ways, but because of his grace and mercy, he allowed them to continue on.

 

When he kept His promise and allowed these Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild and have peg in this Holy place, it should have opened the eyes of these Jews to the grace of God and caused them to want to be faithful from that point forward, but just as their forefathers, they had ignored Godís Law.

 

Ezra 9:10 "And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments,11 "which You commanded by Your servants the prophets, saying, 'The land which you are entering to possess is an unclean land, with the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from one end to another with their impurity.12 'Now therefore, do not give your daughters as wives for their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons; and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land, and leave it as an inheritance to your children forever.'

 

Ezra couldnít offer any excuses for the behavior of his people, all he could say was that they had forsaken Godís commands. Even though these Jews knew that God had forbidden them to marry these foreigners they did it anyway.

 

Ezra 9:13 "And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this,14 "should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor?15 "O LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!"

 

Ezra reflects upon the evil deeds that his forefathers had committed and how they had been punished for the sins. Notice, Ezra doesnít complain that their punishment was too harsh or not deserved. Instead, he says that they didnít get punished near as much as they deserved and he is thankful that God had mercy on them and allowed them to be where they are right now, but he is concerned because he knows that his people have married these foreigners who still worship their false Gods.

 

Ezra knew the only way for them to stand before the righteous God was by appealing to Him in prayer and seeking His forgiveness. Until these Jews repented and took care of this sin, they would not be able to stand before God.

 

Ezra 10:1 Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly.2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, "We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this.3 "Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.4 "Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it."5 Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath.

 

Ezra was not alone in his concern for the Jewish nation because as he prayed and wept before God many men, women and children gathered around him and wept as well. When we see a brother or sister in Christ who is living in sin it should cause us to weep bitterly as well. When we hear about our sister congregations moving away from God and worshipping God according to man-made traditions, again it should make us sad and want to pray for those people. There is only remedy to correct our sin and that is to repent.

 

Shechaniah understood this. This is why he knew that there was still hope for them. He knew that if they would repent by removing their foreign wives and children, God would forgive them. Now this would not be an easy thing for them to do because these Jews would have loved these foreign wives and their children. This would be one the hardest things they would ever have to give up in their life. The emotional stress this would have caused would have been almost unbearable, but they would have to overcome their emotions and end their unlawful relationship with their wives if they were going to follow Godís Law.

 

Looking at this with human eyes, many would think this was cruel and unusually, but God knows what is best and even we donít fully understand the reasoning behind it, we have to trust in Godís judgment. While this specific Law does not apply to us today, the New Testament does teach the principle that a Christian should marry another Christian.

 

The reason this is important is because a married couple should be helping each other get to heaven, but if you marry a non-Christian, many times they will hinder and not help because they donít have the same goal as you.

 

We also have a Law under the NT that can put a person in the same circumstance as these Jews during Ezraís time and it comes from what Jesus taught about marriage, divorce and remarriage. Jesus said,

 

Matthew 19:9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."

 

Jesus has taught us plainly that if anyone divorces their mate for some other reason than fornication, then they are not allowed to remarry and they must remain single for the rest of their life. If they do remarry, Jesus says they will be living in adultery. This law applies to Christians and non-Christian. So, if a non-Christian decides to become a Christian and they are in their 2nd or 3rd marriage that is unlawful, they must resolve that marriage as part of their repentance.

 

Again, this is not an easy thing to do because a person must be willing to put Godís will first and themselves second. Just like the people of Ezraís day, if we are going to abide by Godís Law, we cannot be living in an adulterous relationship and be pleasing to God.

 

So, they encouraged Ezra to take charge of the matter and make it happen and Ezra didnít waste anytime and he got the leaders of the Jews to take an oath that would abide by the Law of God and send their foreign wives away.

 

Ezra 10:6 Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan (jee-hoe-hay-nuhn) the son of Eliashib (e-lie-uh-shib); and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity.7 And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem,8 and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.

 

Ezraís fast of food and water shows his continuing sincerity of his guilt for his nation. The leader wanted this matter taken care quickly, so the sent word out to all the Jews in that area they must come to Jerusalem within 3 day. If they did not come to the assembly their property would be taken and they would be forced to move off. Ezra had the backing of the elder and leaders and they all wanted to do what was right in the sight of God.

 

This is the same attitude that elders in every congregation should have. They should not tolerate those who are willing to live in sin and the sin should be dealt with, so the sin doesnít spread. Not only should the eldership want to stand up for what is right the entire congregation should be behind and encourage an eldership that keeps on top of those living in sin.

 

Ezra 10:9 So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.11 "Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives."12 Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, "Yes! As you have said, so we must do.13 "But there are many people; it is the season for heavy rain, and we are not able to stand outside. Nor is this the work of one or two days, for there are many of us who have transgressed in this matter.14 "Please, let the leaders of our entire assembly stand; and let all those in our cities who have taken pagan wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of their cities, until the fierce wrath of our God is turned away from us in this matter."15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai (Shab-uh-thigh) the Levite gave them support.

 

The Jews gathered together in the 9th month and it was raining on them. This made them cold and it added to their trembling they were already suffering from this matter. When Ezra spoke to them he didnít act like a politician and talk all around the issue, he got right to the point and told them they had sinned against God by marrying these foreign women and they needed to confess before God that they had sinned and then they must follow Godís Law and separate themselves from these foreign wives. Notice confessing their sin was not enough they had to repent as well before they could be forgiven.

 

They agreed to do this, but they didnít want to do it all at once that day because of the great crowd and the rain. So, they proposed that each city come at appointed times to take care of this matter.

 

Verse 15 could be taken two different ways. It could be saying that these 4 men opposed the idea of having to separate from the foreign women or it could be saying that they opposed the delay of taking care of this sin. Whatever it is they opposed, it didnít change anything.

 

Ezra 10:16 Then the descendants of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain heads of the fathers' households, were set apart by the fathers' households, each of them by name; and they sat down on the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.17 By the first day of the first month they finished questioning all the men who had taken pagan wives.

 

Within one week after this proclamation the Jews started this procedure and it took them 3 months in all to investigate the various marriages and all those who had married foreign women, with no exceptions sent their wives away along with their children. Verses 18 Ė 44 list all the names of those who had foreign women and had put them away. The number of them was 112. This was a small number considering there were about 20,000 Jewish men at that time. However, if Godís Law had not been preached and upheld that number would have grown immensely in no time. That is why it was so important that this sin be taken care as soon as possible.


This same thing is true in the church today. The more we allow a sin to continue unchecked the more its going to have a chance to grow and spread like cancer. We must learn to bold like Ezra and stand upon Godís truth even if it means that we must make a great sacrifice in our human relationships. Jesus said,

 

Matthew 10:37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.38 "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

 

For now, these Jews had made their sacrifice and they were putting God first in their life. Ezraís commitment to the Law of Moses caused these Jews to be built up spiritually, which was far greater than any physically thing they could every build.

 

These two chapters have taught us a great lesson in what it means to be committed to serving God. We learned that there are no excuses we can give for our sin, but if we repent and turn away from that sin God will forgive us. Even though we donít deserve it God extends His grace to all of us. We learned that God wants us to keep all His Law and not just part of it because there are no compromises in Godís Word. We learned that when sin rears it ugly head it must be dealt with promptly or it will spread. Overall it teaches us that if we want to be able to stand before our righteous God we must do our best to respect His authority by obeying His commands.