In the prosecution of Ezra's commission, he makes discovery that the people of God had formed affinity with strangers. This calls forth great distress. Ezra seeketh to God in solemn prayer upon the occasion.
The Lord hath expressly commanded (Deuteronomy 7:1-4.) that there should be no intermarriages between Israel and the nations around. Chiefly, no doubt, with an eye to Christ. God's people were a nation of priests, an holy seed, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood. Therefore this mingling with the heathens was a direct outrage to the divine law. Alas! what are we not capable of doing, when the Lord withholds his grace! And, Reader! have you never remarked in your own instance, how sometimes this is done to teach us what we are, and to cause us to look back again to the hole from whence we were digged. Isaiah 51:1.
What a finished picture hath the Holy Ghost here drawn of a saint of God; silent under the heavy affliction of soul, arising from indignation at the awful calamity. The rending the garment, and the plucking of the hair, were strong expressions of an holy zeal for God's honor, and an holy sorrow for man's transgression. But what I most particularly desire the Reader to notice, is the silent humblings of Ezra, until the evening sacrifice. That grand, and all-important hour, which in all ages of the church, and in every sacrifice, pointed to Jesus. Most probably the ninth hour, the very hour in which Jesus on the cross finished redemption-work, and gave up the ghost, when he offered himself a sacrifice for sin. I cannot but still consider this hour (which corresponds, in point of time, to our three o'clock, in the afternoon) as a most important hour, in reference to Jesus, and with an eye to his sacrifice. For as the several ages, from the time of the first institution of sacrifices to the death of Christ, set apart this hour with peculiar solemnity, as the hour for offering the evening sacrifice; so from the death of Christ, believers now, in looking back to the great event then accomplished, find peculiar comfort in the exercise of faith, in all their prayers and ordinances, which have an eye to the thing signified.
I would have the Reader observe, that until the hour of the evening sacrifice, the man of God expressed the perturbations of his mind in humble silence. Neither the rending of the garment, nor the mantle, could expiate the offence. Not all the silence, and humbleness of soul, could atone for it, or do it away. Neither tears, nor prayers, nor repentance, sweet signs as they are of the humbled state of the soul, can wash away sin. But Jesus alone, in his complete salvation, can make up the deadly breach. Oh! Reader! how precious is it to see Jesus, and his atoning blood, thus looked to by faith, in ages so long before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Doth it not comfort your heart in the review? I profess, with all thankful acknowledgment to the Lord, it doth mine. We have another beautiful example, which the Lord favored the prophet Daniel with, in the preceding generation to this of Ezra, while in Babylon. Daniel 9:3-21.
Reader! what sweet and gracious signs of sorrow, and of real communion with God. The blushing, and dropping countenance, under the conscious sense of the divine presence, are among the truest tokens of this state of the soul. Reader! do not fail to remark the precious lesson held forth to all true believers in Christ in this example. We as fully enjoy the manifestations of Jesus, and the love of Jehovah in him, when we lie low in the dust before him, as when in those rapturous moments we are like the apostles in the mount of transfiguration, and the Son of God unveils to us his glories, and our interest in him. Matthew 17:4-5. I stay not to particularize the several features of Ezra's devotion: I rather desire the Reader to mark, in his own view of things, the leading points in it, which bespeak the gracious impressions he was under. The general confession of the sins of Israel he dwells upon, and takes care to point out the part he himself took in them. Every gracious soul doth this, and in his approaches to the mercy-seat feels his own as if they were the heaviest. And how sweetly doth he dwell upon the divine mercies, in their abundance, fulness, and continuance: as if the Lord had taken occasion, from man's undeservings, to magnify his mercy, and the exceeding riches of his grace; that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. Never, blessed Jesus, was there an instance like to thine, when thou camest to seek and save that which was lost! I beg the Reader to notice these precious things in Ezra's holy mourning before the throne and mercy-seat. A more beautiful instance of the powerful effects of grace upon the soul, except in the parallel humblings of Daniel, (Da 9.) is not to be found in the Bible. But I cannot dismiss this view of Ezra, without calling on the Reader to mark one feature more in his approach to God upon this occasion, and the more so because it leads my soul to yet an higher subject, from whence if I mistake not, the whole virtue and efficacy of Ezra's devotion derived its strength, I mean the spreading out his hands unto the Lord his God, meaning God in covenant, as his God in Christ. Doth it not carry the Reader's mind, on the wings of faith, to Calvary, where Jesus arms were stretched out on the cross, as if in a twofold posture of entreaty, both with God and man. Can we behold Ezra stretching forth his hands in supplication for Israel on this occasion, and shalt we forget, or overlook thee, thou blessed Jesus, whose precious feet were fixed to the cross, while thine arms were stretched forth, at once looking up to the Father in intercession, and spread abroad below to embrace all that came to thee, as if saying, Behold me, behold me; look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else, and beside me there is no Saviour. Isaiah 65:1; Isa_45:21-22.
PAUSE, Reader, over this chapter, and mark in strong characters on your mind the distinguishing love of God to Israel. The Lord by prophecy had pointed out their distinction ages before. They were to dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations. And from everlasting it had been so determined upon. In the gracious purposes of God in covenant relation, they were set apart to be known by their distinguishing peculiarity and character. And their happiness consisted in this; their singularity was to be their singular honor. They were to be a nation of priests, distinguished with peculiar sacrifices, peculiar duties, peculiar privileges, peculiar blessings: a people near to God and set apart for himself. Judge, then, the awful apostacy when Israel forgot her blessings, mercies, privileges, and above all, the God of her fathers, and mingled the holy seed with the idolatrous nations around. Reader! let the thought be suitably impressed upon your mind as one of the spiritual seed of Israel. Are not believers in Christ peculiarly set apart and formed for Jesus glory? Are they not a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. Doth not Jesus mark them for his own; make them kings and priests to God and the Father; the purchase of his blood, the subjects of his grace, and the token, gift, and pledge of the Father's love? And what ought to be the immediate consequence of these distinguishing mercies, but to show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light. Who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God; who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
Let me only add one thought more on this sweet chapter. Who can behold Ezra thus acting as the intercessor for Israel, but must instantly call to mind that Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, in this glorious, all-prevailing office, in whose eventful death and intercession all the high priests under the law found favor and acceptance with God. Yes! blessed Jesus! to thee would I unceasingly direct my attention. Now, even now, thou wearest thy priesthood still; appearest in a vesture dipped in blood, to denote the sure efficacy of thine high office, and that thou ever livest to make intercession for sinners. Let me never open thy blessed scriptures at any part, read a page, or verse, of thy several servants ministering, without an eye to thee. Thou art the sum and substance of all their services. The whole law, and the whole priesthood, were but a shadow of good things to come. In thee the whole centers; and the whole is completed for the salvation of sinners, and the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ezra 9". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter