The People Restored
Imagine the frustration of Ezra when he finally arrives in Jerusalem ready, anxious, and excited to get started in his work teaching the people only to receive horrible news. His mind was no doubt filled with much anticipation and excitement of what the city looked like and how well the people were doing.
After a few days of rest Ezra 9:1-2 records that the officials approached him and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations…for they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands.”
This was a devastating blow to Ezra and to the people. Ezra tore his cloak and garment and pulled hair from his head and beard and sat appalled v.3 tells us. The people had fallen back into the same mess that wound them up in captivity to begin with. Where do you go from there? How do you even begin fixing this situation?
There are many lessons we can learn from this text but notice with me at least 5 take away lessons.
1. They looked to God
The solution was that they would look to God’s law for what He would have them do and then make a covenant to heed those words (Ezra 10:2-5). In this time of distress and problems they didn’t strive to justify their situations or come up with their own way of fixing it. They had the courage to turn to God and submit, though difficult, to His will.
2. Don’t Let the Past Become the Present
This small remnant of Israel has allowed their past to become their present. All throughout their captivity they understood from the prophets why they were there. They failed to learn from their past and mistakes and have found themselves entangled once again. Jesus said recognize what is causing you to sin and get rid of it (Matt. 18:7-9).
3. There Is Always Hope
Israel has just come out of some very dark days and even while back in Jerusalem have had a difficult time. Ezra arrives back only to find a very difficult situation. You can’t help but wonder if Ezra and the people found themselves thinking that there was no hope. But notice the words of Shecaniah in Ezra 10:2 when he said “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Ever find yourself thinking there is no hope because of your past or your sins? Satan doesn’t want you to have any hope but we serve the “God of hope” and through Christ Jesus there is always hope.
4. Rarely Is There A Quick Fix
We all love quick fixes because after all they are quick and typically less painful. When it comes to sin and overcoming it rarely is there a quick fix. Notice that same observation by the people when in Ezra 10:13 they are wanting to get out of the rain but also “Nor is this a task for one day or two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter.” Sin isn’t something we should take lightly and in order to overcome or help someone overcome and battle the temptation to sin it’s going to take involvement and time.
5. While Forgiveness Can Be Received, Action Is Still Required
Sadly the religious world has blurred the line between forgiveness and repentance. As in the case of our text dealing with unlawful marriages, can someone today in an unlawful marriage be forgiven of that? Of course they can. Can someone practicing and living in a homosexual relationship be forgiven of that? Of course they can! But…action on their part to remove themselves from that unlawful relationship is still required. Repentance requires action and turning away from the sinful actions or relationships.
Let’s live as people longing to be restored and teaching others how they too can find that restoration.