Ezra: Rebuilding through Repentance
Chapter 9 shows us that the Israelites that had returned were compromising on their covenant with God. One of God's major prohibitions was that His people were not to marry outside the community of believers (Ex 34:11-16; Deut 7:1-4). This was not because of racial difference, for the people of the surrounding areas were of the same Semitic race. The reason was strictly religious. Intermarrying with people who did not worship Yahweh was symptomatic of the way the people forsook other aspects of God's law. If they would break this aspect of the Law in the most intimate of human relationships then they would probably also break the Law in other less intimate human relationships.
Verse 1 also speaks of "their abominations". They worshipped around Ashera poles, and they sacrificed their children to the god Molech. Again, they compromised their first love to God. Unfortunately, some leaders led the way in this compromise.
When Ezra understood what was going on (v3), he says, "I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled." Tearing the garment was customary in times of distress, but Ezra's response shows extreme grief. The people "gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice". This represented hours of sitting and watching.
Once he rose from his "fasting" or humiliation, he said, "I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God." Ezra knew that it was for just this sort of sin that his nation had gone into captivity.
Verse 6 begins with the word "SAYING". Here is what Ezra prayed:
V 6-7 - Confession of sin (Ezra leads well in that he owns the sin of his people)
V 8-9 - God's Goodness
V 10-11 - Admitting Disobedience
V 13-15 - Asking for Mercy
Chapter 10 shows us the response of the people. While Ezra is continuously throwing himself on the ground, "a very great assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly." The people agreed with Ezra and:
V 2 - confessed their wrong doing against God
V 4 - Agreed to follow Ezra
V 7 - They should assemble - and agreed that if someone didn't show up, their possessions would be forfeited!
V 9 - They all sat in the open square trembling because of their repentance AND because there was a cold rain falling on them for hours.
V 10-11 They agreed to "do His will". This means not only to change your action, but to change your mind as well.
In verse 12 it says, "Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, "It is so; we must do as you have said."
We agree that there are 2 acts of repentance:
1. Repent once and for all for salvation unto Christ. This is sealed and done!
2. Repent daily for giving in to the desires of the flesh and breaking a right relationship with God. We grieve the Spirit and must "turn back" to His best for our life.
To Discuss Today:
1. When you look at the state of our community brokenness and national sin, do you own that for yourself? What part do you play in that sin? When was the last time you confessed that to God?
2. Have you ever been a part of a personal revival? Have you broken a thought pattern, a behavior pattern, and was your relationship with God was made right again? What caused that? Meditate on that goodness.
3. Is there any places in your life where you have subtly compromised and allowed places in your life to move away from God's best for you? What are those things? Will you confess them today?