Today’s Reading: Ezra 9-10
A sadness fills my heart at the words “After these things had been done…” because I can guess at what is going to happen! It happens in my life, (in my opinion too often). I woke this morning to the words – I have learned that I am not God… Paul says somewhat the same thing – “In my flesh, dwells no good thing”! It is so easy to slip after making some progress (all the good things been done!). But I must warn you that we have an unrelenting enemy who has 6,000 years more experience than we do, and who has the ability to keep a watch on us, and when he sees that we are not careful, then he knows exactly how to tempt us!
Although it says, “…have mixed the holy race with peoples around them” – and that is truly what had happened – the real disaster is that “they have not kept themselves separate from the neighbouring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of…” And by now we know what that means – idol-worship and all kinds of horrible things – even leading to the practice of offering their children as living sacrifices to idols! If we falter in our faithfulness to our loving Father, I have learned from painful personal experience, there is no stopping the toboggan slide, so to speak!
And I find Ezra’s sincere and honest prayer painful to read and think about – “O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.” And He talks about how wicked the forefathers had been and then touchingly goes on in his prayer – “But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant…” and concludes with a very moving part to his prayer, “But now, O our God, what can we say after this? For we have disregarded the commands…” “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, You have punished us less than our sins have deserved…” and then he finally concludes by stating that God is completely righteous and THEY are completely guilty – “Would You not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? O Lord, God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before You in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in Your presence.” And what is so very touching to me is that Ezra himself is not the one who committed the sin but other people! I fear that I grow frustrated and angry with people who sin and don’t as an older responsible person know how to truly be a loving leader. I don’t know how to accept responsibility for others’ mistakes (because of my stinking proud heart – to use a graphic expression!).
But only two things can remedy sin! Firstly, action to clear oneself, and secondly unreserved confession – in other words – no excuses added! It gives me pause to realize that they started on the first of the tenth month and they finished by the first of the first month! I take it, this is the Jewish calendar and am not sure how months in a year (same as ours?) but the point is – getting sin taken care of properly is never a simple thing! Certainly you can see the cost of sin in our Saviour’s personally offering Himself as the only acceptable sacrifice which could pay my debt!
And then comes the long list of persons with all the names and where they came from! If God knows how to notice who has been faithful to Him, He also knows how to note who has sinned! And notice that it is not just “ordinary” people, but leaders who are involved in unfaithfulness and they are mentioned first in the list!
But I am thankful that I have a faithful loving Father to go to when I have sinned. Unreservedly making confession to Him doesn’t scare me, because I know I am so special to my loving Heavenly Father’s heart, Who even before I knew Him had been planning on how to deal with my tendency to wander like the wayward sheep I often prove to be!