ACTION FOLLOWING PRAYER
Ezra expected an answer to his prayer, and God provided the answer immediately in moving a very huge number of men, women and children to gather together before Him, weeping bitterly, for they realized that this was not a matter merely to pray about, but to be faced and settled before God.
One man, Shechaniah, became a spokesman for all, confessing their guilt in having trespassed against God in taking pagan wives."Yet now," he said, "there is hope in Israel in spite of this" (v. 2).He asked that a covenant be made with God to put away these foreign wives and children born to them, and to let it be done according to the law (v. 3). He therefore encouraged Ezra to rise and act on this advice, since Ezra was in a place of authority, assuring him that he (Shechaniah) and others would back him up.Ezra then rose and required an oath to be sworn that Israel would clear themselves of their evil compromise by putting away their foreign wives and their children (v. 5).
Such an action certainly shows the seriousness of the evil of sinful associations.We must not diminish the seriousness of this, though in our day, under grace, we cannot require the putting away of wives, though they are not saved.The nations Israel was involving themselves with were actually demon worshipers, so that God had absolutely forbidden any marriages with them. Believers today are not under such a law, though they are told, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14).If they disobey this scripture, they are not told to put away the unbeliever, but rather, "a wife is not to depart from her husband" (1 Corinthians 7:10), though "if the unbeliever departs, let him depart" (1 Corinthians 7:15). Once the marriage is consummated, the believer is not free before God to leave it except in the case of the partner being unfaithful (Matthew 19:9).Today, a believer who marries an unbeliever must learn by experience the painful results of this disobedience, rather than being relieved of suchresults.
However, Ezra, still under deep exercise of soul, went apart from the people, into the chamber of Jehohanan, the son of Eliashib the high priest, where he fasted and mourned because of the guilt of the remnant of the captivity (v.6). How good it is too if we seek solitary, protracted exercise of heart before God in connection with any occasion of serious trouble amongst the saints of God.Daniel, when deeply concerned about the low condition of his people Israel, "was mourning three full weeks"(Daniel 10:2).
Then a proclamation was issued and sent to all the descendants of the captivity that they must gather at Jerusalem, this order being accompanied by the warning that one who refused to come would have all his property confiscated and he himself separated from the assembly of the returned remnant (vv. 7-8). Why should this be in the case of those who were not guilty of mixing with the nations?Because all were affected by the evil of even a few, though in this case it was more than a few.But all the people were intended to feel the guilt that Israel had incurred by the evil allowed in their midst, so that it would not be so likely to quickly rise again.We surely must always feel the shame of wrongs committed in our own company, and take sides with God in a proper judgment of them.
Within three days after the proclamation was made, this gathering took place, and even though the people had to sit outside in a heavy rain, there was no delay in facing the matter.The time would correspond to our December or January, so that the weather only increased their trembling over the matter that troubled them.
Ezra then spoke briefly and to the point, "You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.Now therefore make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives"(vv. 10-11). Perhaps it was Ezra's prayer and self-judgment that kept the people from resisting this order, for generally those who have sunk into evil are stubborn enough to resist any reproof.But God was working, as He always does in response to faith and self-judgment.
All the people answered decisively, "Yes!As you have said, so we must do" (v. 12).How thankful Ezra must have been to hear these words!However, as they say, this work would take time, both because of the weather and because there were many involved in this transgression.They suggest that appointments might be made at stated times for the judging of every case, with judges and elders present, and this suggestion was accepted in spite of some apparently disagreeing (v. 15).
The most responsible for this guilt are mentioned first, priests, the sons of Jeshua (v. 18), and then other priests (vv. 20-22).Jeshua had been identified with Zerubbabel in building the house of God (Haggai 2:2-4), and for his sons to fall into the snare of the enemy was deeply serious, for this provided a bad example for others.When they gave their promise to put away their strange wives, they presented a ram as a trespass offering.Whenever we have been guilty of any sin, we must be reminded that Christ is "the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:1-2).If we think seriously of the agony He suffered on account of our sins, are we likely to carelessly slip back into sin again?Thus, self-judgment should be real, and full.
Levites are spoken of in verse 23, and singers in verse 24, then others of the people in verses 25-43. Thus we are reminded that, however greatly we may be blessed, none of God's people are automatically exempt from being tested by the seductions of the enemy.
Thus, every one of these unequal yokes had to be broken, regardless of what either party felt about it.This was under law.Under grace today, if one should find himself in an unequal yoke, the general principle is that he should leave it if he can do so without injustice toward the other party. Supposing it is a business yoke, if a believer has committed himself to a contract, he may find the only right way to break the contract is to buy himself out of it, which he should do if possible.It is not so easy as this in marriage, for scripture tells the believer, "a wife is not to depart from her husband" (1 Corinthians 7:10). For under grace, "the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband?Or how to you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" (1 Corinthians 7:16). How thankful we ought to be that we are living under grace rather than under law!
Is it not striking that the only work recorded on Ezra's part in returning to the land is that of dealing with the unfaithfulness of the people?This should deeply impress us with the fact of God's abhorrence of bad associations on the part of His beloved people.But the faithfulness of Ezra is beautifully commendable.
Following this, it seems that Ezra faded into the background, at least not having an outstanding place in the history of the returned remnant of Israel, though, being a scribe, he is seen in Nehemiah 8:1-6 reading to the Jews from the Book of the Law of Moses. Though the Lord had pressed him into a most forward position for the purpose of purifying Judah from the corruption into which they had fallen, there was no ambition on Ezra's part to take a prominent place in the government of the nation.This is a lovely contrast to the attitude of the disciples of the the Lord Jesus when they disputed among themselves as to who should be greatest (Luke 22:24).We have much to learn from the character of this devoted servant of the Lord.Indeed, the Lord's disciples had far more reason to be humble and self-effacing than Ezra had, for they had companied with the Lord Jesus Himself and had seen this marvelous lowly character manifested in all His ways.Ezra had not had this wonderful advantage, but he had learned well in the presence of God.
There can be no doubt that the most significant reason for the writing of this book of Ezra is to deeply impress on believers the seriousness of the question of our associations. This is particularly necessary ministry for our present day, at the end of the dispensation of grace, when the enemy of oursouls is trying every artifice to involve believers in the schemes of unbelievers and to mix believers and unbelievers so that no clear difference can be seen between them.May we take these things deeply to heart, that we may rightly honor our blessed Lord.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ezra 10". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany