Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
Ezra 9:1-2 (NIV)
After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”
Ezra 9:1-2 (MSG)
After all this was done, the leaders came to me and said, “The People of Israel, priests and Levites included, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring people around here with all their vulgar obscenities—Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, Amorites. They have given some of their daughters in marriage to them and have taken some of their daughters for marriage to their sons. The holy seed is now all mixed in with these other peoples. And our leaders have led the way in this betrayal.”
“When these things were completed, the officials came to me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, but have committed the repulsive acts of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands. Indeed, the officials and chief men have been foremost in this unfaithful act and direct violation [of God’s will].” -AMPLIFIED
Ezra has set his mind to accomplish everything that the king, Artaxerxes, has entrusted him to do. He came to Jerusalem to carry out certain tasks for the king. The first was to lead the Jews back to their homeland. Another was to return to the Temple all the items that belonged there; things that had been left behind when the first group returned to Jerusalem. The next thing was for the people to make sacrifices to Jehovah, their God. This had also been accomplished. Lastly, Ezra was help the people reestablish their nation. As we look into today’s text we see that they were not off with a very good start.
We find a group of leaders approaching Ezra with a very disturbing problem that needed to be addressed and addressed quickly. If left unattended to it was very possible that this problem would completely destroy the remnant of Jews. The problem was this: many of the people, including the priests and Levites, were intermarrying with the neighboring peoples.
Why was this a problem? First, and most importantly, because God had forbidden it and they were walking precariously by doing so. God knew what would happen if they allowed themselves to intermarry with the locals, the people would start to worship the local gods and turn away from Him once again. Secondly, by intermarrying, the people were putting themselves into the situation where they could socially be assimilated and absorbed into the local culture. This would mean that God’s people would no longer be distinct and separate, they would be exactly like the people around them. This was not God’s plan for His people.
When Ezra heard this bit of news it devastated him and he was broken. He tells us that he ripped his own clothes, ripped his hair out from his head and chin and sat in stunned silence for quite a while. (Consider, everything that he had been working so hard to accomplish appeared to be for nothing and he knew if this problem was left unchecked his heard work was going to go down the proverbial drain.)
Ezra wisely turned his attention to God. He knew dwelling on the problem would not fix the problem, so he turned his attention to the most High and brought the problem to Him. He did this in humility; for he realized that the people had once again royally messed up.
“O my True God, witness my shame and embarrassment as I appeal to You. My True God, our sins are so great that they have flooded over us, and they have reached to the heavens. Our people are chronic sinners, our sin is greater than we could have imagined, and You have tried to correct our behavior by subjecting our kings and our priests to death, captivity, theft, and shame by foreign rulers. Those pagans continue to rule us today. Even though You, our Eternal God, have shown Your grace by preserving a remnant and by giving us a secure hold in Your holy place, may You, our God, brighten our eyes and grant us assurance even in our bondage to the Persian rulers. We are still their slaves. In this bondage, You, our True God, have not forgotten us; Your loyal love inspired the kings of Persia to allow us to rebuild Your house and the walls to provide protection in Judah and Jerusalem. But in spite of Your love, we have abandoned Your commands, and we have no excuse.” –Ezra 9:6-10 (VOICE)
We will continue looking into Ezra’s prayer of repentance tomorrow. What we need to grasp and understand today is the need for God’s people to remain separate. The Bible reminds us that God’s children are a holy people. We are to be separate, set apart. For the ways of the World are not the ways of God. Scripture teaches us:
* “Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way: “I’ll live in them, move into them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people. So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,” says God. “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself. I’ll be a Father to you; you’ll be sons and daughters to me.” The Word of the Master, God.” -2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (MSG)
* “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” -1 Peter 2:9-10 (MSG)
* “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” -Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
God has called us to be separate; set apart for Him. Too many Christians today of forgotten the need for separation, for living holy lives. We are to be in the World, but not of it. God says, “Be holy, because I am holy.”
“He that chooses God, devotes himself to God as the vessels of the sanctuary were consecrated and set apart from common to holy uses, so he that has chosen God to be his God, has dedicated himself to God, and will no more be devoted to profane uses.” ~Thomas Watson
Lord, help me to remember the need to be set apart and holy. I am yours, and I understand the need to remain separate for your purposes. Lord, be number one in my life. Lord, I am yours. Help me to keep my eyes firmly focused on you and the goal that lies before me. I want to be found faithful and true to you.