Ezra 9 – Come with a Repentant Heart
“After these things had been done, the leaders approached me and said, “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the surrounding peoples whose detestable practices are like those of the Canaanites, Hethites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. 2 Indeed, the Israelite men have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed has become mixed with the surrounding peoples. The leaders and officials have taken the lead in this unfaithfulness!” 3 When I heard this report, I tore my tunic and robe, pulled out some of the hair from my head and beard, and sat down devastated.” (Ezra 9:1-3)
It was devastating that some of the first group of Jews fell into the exact same patterns of sin they committed before becoming slaves. Part of the first group of exiles that returned to Jerusalem had lived in Judah before the nation was sent to Babylon and knew the severity of consequences of intermarrying and participating in evil practices with the foreigners in the land.
The discontentment started when the group of Israelites wept when they saw the foundation of the temple rebuilt (see Ezra 3), and realized it wouldn’t be as beautiful as the original one that Solomon made. By not learning from and letting go of the past, they brought it into their present lives and fell into the same ruts as before they were exiled.
This is an important warning for us. If we just try to run from our sin without actually dealing with it, we’ll run right back into doing it again. This is the difference between remorse and repentance.
Remorse says you’re sorry but doesn’t actually affect a heart change within you.
Repentance means acknowledging your sin, confessing it, and allowing the Lord to do what is necessary to restore you so that you don’t repetitively commit that sin again.
Ezra knew the danger of where God’s people were at in their sin. Though never having lived in Jerusalem before, he knew what this group was doing was the very thing that sent them into exile in the first place.
“Everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me, because of the unfaithfulness of the exiles, while I sat devastated until the evening offering. 5 At the evening offering, I got up from my time of humiliation, with my tunic and robe torn. Then I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God.” (Ezra 9:4-5)
God had shown His people favour, grace, and forgiveness by allowing them to return and rebuild the temple and Jerusalem, when they should have remained in exile. Ezra did what He was instructed to do in 2 Chronicles 7:14,
“…And My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray, and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
In 2 Chronicles 7, Solomon had just finished praying and dedicating the temple to the Lord. This was part of God’s covenantal response to Solomon that night. Ezra would have known this passage. How fitting for him to trust God’s promise while kneeling before the Lord at the newly rebuilt temple.
“But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from the Lord our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in his holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us a little relief and light to our eyes. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us relief, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.” (Ezra 9:8-9)
The Lord is so gracious! He had giving them a fresh start to try again and some were apathetic towards His grace. Ezra and those who, “trembled at the words of the God of Israel,” lamented before the Lord and confessed the sins of their brothers. Then they ended in praise.
That’s the beauty of Biblical lamentation. It is acknowledging God, confessing your sins, grief, and/or suffering before the Lord, and ending with hope because of who He is.
“Should we break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit these detestable practices? Wouldn’t you become so angry with us that you would destroy us, leaving neither remnant nor survivor? 15 Lord God of Israel, you are righteous, for we survive as a remnant today. Here we are before you with our guilt, though no one can stand in your presence because of this.” (Ezra 9:14-15)
God is your Master. He’s slow-to-anger and abundant in His faithful love. He listens to your prayers when you come to Him with a genuine heart. There is no sin too awful that God can’t and won’t redeem if you are genuinely repentant. Come, lay your burdens and sins down, and pick up God’s grace, forgiveness, and love today.