I was reading through Ezra and I was really touched by chapters 9 & 10. God’s people have returned from captivity. They have been given permission to rebuild the temple of God. There is just one big glaring problem that Ezra notices. He sees that God’s people have intermarried with the pagans who have inhabited their land and have had children with them. It brings Ezra to tears because he knows God’s stance on that. God had warned them not to do that, not because there is anything inherently wrong with intermarriage between races but because God knew that the pagan nations would lead his people astray. This was a spiritual issues, not a racial one. When God’s people get all tied up in the world it is easy for us to start being the world and stop being the people of God. That is a serious matter. It is so serious that when Ezra sees it is happening, he is in great distress. He cries. He tears his clothes. He even pulled hair from his head and beard in anguish (Ezra 9:3). This is painful…it is painfully physically, emotionally and spiritually. Do we hurt like that in times like those?
What happens next is striking. Ezra prays to God and asks for God’s forgiveness (9:6ff). While he is praying he makes such a scene that a crowd gathers around him and joins in. “While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites – men, women and children – gathered around him. They too wept bitterly.” (10:1). Then those in the crowd start confessing their sins too. They see what Ezra is doing, find out why he is doing it and they start doing it too. Amazing. Do you know how the book of Ezra ends? It ends in confession. It ends with a list of names of those who had intermarried with the pagans.
Have we lost something here? Have we lost a certain tenderness of heart that we don’t always get bent out of shape when the church starts looking like the world and even identifying more with the world than they do Christ and his church? There is a lot of weeping, praying, and confessing that needs to be done here. Maybe when the church sees that they will get on board much like the people of Ezra’s day did. And there is a lot of confessing that needs to be done if we are going to get on the road to healing. You can’t do that for anyone else…you can only start with your own issues and go from there.