“Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, ‘We have trespassed[a] against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.’” Ezra 10:1-4 (NKJV)
At times, God appears to turn a deaf ear to prayer. Isaiah wrestled with this problem:
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you.” Isaiah 59:1-2 (NIV)
Sin was separating the Jews from God in the days of Ezra. It was, therefore, essential that Ezra’s prayer of confession in the previous chapter should be followed up with repentance, which took form in the separation from foreign wives.
It is hardly surprising that a large crowd gathered around Ezra when they saw him weeping and throwing himself down before the Lord. This was strange behavior for such a prominent leader, as it is strange for our generation’s otherwise dignified leaders. The cause of Ezra’s intense agitation was the marriage of God’s people to non-Jewish, idol-worshipping wives. It has been said that children live by rules and adults live by principles. With that in mind, the whole scenario of today’s chapter can be viewed, in principle, as a metaphor for any intimate relationship that believers may be considering, personal, social, or business. The apostle Paul knew this very well:
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NKJV)
As stated yesterday, it was not as much the nationality of the foreign wives as it was their idolatry that the Lord was opposed to. For the record, this specific instance of putting away foreign wives and children is one of those moments - like Peter’s suggestion to cast lots to choose another apostle after Judas committed suicide - where the Lord makes no comment as to His approval or disapproval. We are simply given the facts. According to the Torah, both the Israelite men and their foreign wives should have been removed from the community of Israel. We know from reading Nehemiah that it was still a problem in his day (Nehemiah 13:23-27). The questions that arise are: 1.) How strongly do we believe God’s Word, and 2.) Are we willing to put away those “foreign wives” (aka Worldly sins) that separate us from the Lord?
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