“Now, after all this has come upon us because of our evil deeds and our deep guilt – and even so, you, our God have punished us less than our sins deserve and have given us a surviving remnant – are we to break Your commands again by making marriage with the peoples who have these disgusting practices? Won’t You become so angry with us that You would destroy us completely, so that there would be no surviving remnant and no one escapes? The Lord, God of Israel! You are just; yet we have been left a surviving remnant that has escaped, as is the case today. Look, we are before You in our guilt; because of it, no one can stand in Your presence.” Ezra 9:13-15 (CJB)
A few years ago, I was in my living room, watching TV, when I heard my son Wyatt in his room, playing CDs on his stereo. This was usually not a problem, but on this occasion, he was only playing the intro to one of the songs over and over. Finally, I got irritated with the whole stop-start, so I busted into his room and told him to let the entire song play. That’s when I realized he wasn’t playing a CD. He was playing the song on his guitar. I was amazed because it sounded like a recording from the original artist. How quickly he had become a really good guitar player! I have never seen someone pick up an instrument and absorb it so quickly. When I asked how he had learned the song, he pointed to his computer: YouTube.
It helps to have an instructor, someone to sit right there and teach us. But, sometimes, the video instructor is better than a living, breathing person. The video is free; you can rewind, pause, and replay infinitum until you have mastered the course.
One of the values of books like Ezra and Nehemiah is that they let us observe how they petitioned and prayed to the Lord. Just like YouTube, we can read and reread their prayers. And every time we do, we learn a bit more. They are not parading their spirituality by including the text of their prayers for all to see. They are teaching us how to beseech our Heavenly Father, and today’s chapter is just that.
Ezra knew how to pray in times of crisis because he was familiar with the path to the throne of grace. He was on “speaking terms” with God at all times. In today’s chapter, the central theme of his prayer is confession. It was the condition of the nation which prompted him. The widespread moral failure of Christians and unbelievers should not result in paralyzing despair but in sincere supplication to Almighty God. Only He can heal our wounds, restore our standing with Him, and save us from inevitable judgment.
It is also important to note that many Christians and Jews alike have misinterpreted today’s passage to say that God is against people of different nationalities intermarrying. We know from the Bible that God is not against His children intermarrying the “peoples.” Otherwise, the book of Ruth would be tough to explain…as well as other Gentile women listed in the genealogy of Messiah Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife). If we read closely, it was not the “nationality” but the “morality” God was concerned with. He was against “making marriage with the peoples who have these disgusting practices.” (v. 14)
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